X-Bionic describes its Biking Winter Spherewind Light jacket as "light and simple"; it's not either, especially. It is a really good quality outer layer, though, and performs well through a useful range of temperatures.
The jacket is mostly a wind and showerproof polyamide construction, the exception being the back panel which is X-Bionic's 3D-BionicSphere. This is a complex knitted fabric panel whose job is to both manage sweat, cooling you down, and also keep you warm when you stop. It features a series of outer and inner channels in a sort of concertina formation; they're designed to wick sweat away, channel air over evaporation surfaces when you're moving, and trap air and keep you warm when you stop.
They're effective, too. It's the same tech that's used in the excellent Energy Accumulator baselayer and if you run the Spherewind Light jacket as a single layer then the jacket regulates itself very well. The 3D-BionicSphere does its thing, and the internal surface of the rest of the jacket has a sort of waffle construction that's comfortable against the skin, as are the flatlocked seams. The underarm panels are a Roubaix-style fabric that's not windproof, so heat can escape there.
As a whole, it's effective enough that I've used the jacket on its own in temperatures well down into the single digits and up to about 13-14°C without either overheating or freezing to death. So in the South West, where we're based, that's a fair chunk of the year covered...
If it's colder than that you can layer up underneath. Paired with the aforementioned X-Bionic baselayer, the SphereWind Light is warm enough for pretty much any UK conditions, especially on faster rides where you're putting out more heat. It works with other baselayers just fine too; it's best with the X-Bionic one but that's probably more down to the fact that it's an exceptional baselayer, rather than any particular benefit you get from using the garments as a system. X-Bionic is (naturally) keen for you to layer up your 3D-BionicSpheres, but from what I read on its website about the system the main benefits come from when it's next to the skin.
If it rains, the Spherewind Light will shrug off a decent amount of water. It's not a taped-seam hardshell, but in drizzly conditions or when it's showery it's a good performer. It's pretty windproof at the front too, so even when it gets wet it remains warm to ride in.
In murky conditions our black and orange one, with bright orange panels on the sides and plenty of reflectives on the arms and body, is the pick of the three. At the back you get three elasticated pockets, of which the larger middle one is big enough to swallow the large Sticky Pod I tend to throw all my bits and bobs in. The smaller side pockets are ideal for gels and such, and there's a zippered (but not waterproofed) pocket too which will swallow a 5in smartphone.
X-Bionic pitches the jacket at both mountain biking and road biking, and the cut is somewhere between the two. It's a nice snug fit with no flappy bits and the tail is slightly dropped, but there's not quite enough length in the arms for a stretched-out road position; they could do with maybe another inch.
The other issue with the arms is the knitted cuff, which in the rain soaks up a lot of water. If you're wearing a long-sleeved baselayer that water can get transferred to your inner layer and you end up with damp arms. It's not a deal-breaker, but a longer arm and redesigned cuff would solve it. The cuffs, and the neck, feature X-Bionic's ribbed diffuser construction which creates air channels, allowing air and moisture to escape.
Overall I enjoyed wearing the Spherewind Light and I've done so a lot, in the varied riding conditions we've had. It'll still be a useful layer well into late spring and early summer round here, on those nondescript days when it's a bit wet and not especially warm. It's certainly a considerable investment, but it works and it's built to last. If you have shorter arms than me (I'm not unusually gangly), or you're in more of a touring position on the bike, the fit might be right for you as well.
Good quality outer layer that's a strong performer in UK conditions
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road.cc test report
Make and model: X-Bionic Biking Winter SphereWind Light Jacket
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the jacket is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
X-BIONIC® RUNNING SPHEREWIND® JACKET WINDPROOF AT THE FRONT, HIGH-TECH AT THE BACK. The jacket is light and simple, embodying protection and comfort with an unembellished design. The 3D Bionic Sphere® System on the back guarantees optimal temperature regulation on the jacket's interior. This makes the jacket not only highly functional, but also indispensable for tough training.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
3D-BionicSphere® System on the back
Guarantees effective ventilation so moisture is quickly wicked and transported away. No sweat means insulating air pockets in the wavelike structure protect against cold.
For good visibility and improved safety in night-time traffic.
Very nicely made.
Performs well over a useful range of temperatures.
Wearing and washing well.
It's not designed as a full waterproof but it's decent protection in the rain.
The 3D-BionicSphere system on the back works very well when it's next to the skin and helps to regulate the temperature.
Generally very good, though the arms are a bit short for a road position.
L fitted me very well.
A good mid-weight garment that'll get a lot of use in UK conditions.
Good levels of comfort even as a single layer.
It's not cheap but it's well made and will get a lot of use.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy, just bung in the wash.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, a good spring/autumn layer on its own and warm with a baselayer.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Maybe
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Overall the performance warrants an 8 but the minor issues with fit, and the cost, knock it down a peg.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.