X-Bionic makes all its stuff out of pure science, and The Trick Biking Pants – or bib tights as we like to say in English – are no exception: its website lists nine special features that you should take into account when you're making your buying decision. And at £203, it's not a cheap decision. But mostly you're probably wondering whether they're any good. Yes. Yes, they are.
Let's delve into the tech then. One of X-Bionic's innovations that you'll see in a lot of its cycling gear is an insulation zone on the spine called THE TRICK (you have to write it in capitals). The idea is that insulating this zone simulates your body overheating and boosts sweat production which allows your body to cool more effectively. This is coupled with sweat traps that wick away excess moisture, so you're left with a thin film of sweat that cools you.
The fabric is a fairly complex construction that introduces air channels next to the skin, so that the fabric can act as an insulation layer as well as transporting sweat effectively. So to recap: it heats you up, moves sweat away, and insulates you when you stop.
Does it work? It does, yes. Sometimes tech like this gets a big write-up on the box but once you're in the gear it's hard to tell whether anything's happening. The effect of the X-Bionic system is noticeable. You can feel the warming effect when you put them on, they never feel clammy even when you're working hard, and when you stop they manage to retain heat when you might expect to cool down more quickly. So yes: it does appear to do the things that X-Bionic says it'll do.
It goes on to say that the net result is you'll have more energy for performance, because your body has expended less energy upping its core temperature. That's logical, although I couldn't empirically say whether or not I experienced any improvement in performance as a result.
The other thing to note is that the technology is designed, so far as I can see, to work best in direct contact with the skin. So if you're wearing the bibs over a baselayer, the effectiveness of the system would be reduced. X-Bionic includes the tech in all layers from baselayer through to outers: does layering one on top of the other increase the effectiveness? More likely you're going to see any benefit with just one garment, with vastly diminishing returns after that.
The clever fabric requires a different construction method to most cycling gear: X-Bionic's garments are woven, and in complicated ways. The insulating section in the back panel is a complex three-dimensional weave, and X-Bionic uses other weaves in other areas to maximise performance.
Across the knees there's an accordion-style weave that allows the knee to articulate without strecthing the fabric thin and losing insulation. On the back of the knee there's a much thinner weave to allow sweat that builds up there to dissipate.
X-Bionic also uses a fabric it calls Neural Response Bandage, which is more compressive. It "exerts targeted pressure on the muscle attachment, prepares the receptors for action and improves the work of the muscles." Apparently. Then there's ISO-Pad, which is a thicker fabric that sits over important bits of your legs to retain more heat and keep your muscles working.
On the outside these different weaves meld together seamlessly; in fact there are very few seams in these bibs, and as such they offer a very comfortable fit. They're more compressive than Lycra, and also less elastic, so getting the right size is pretty crucial. I sized up to an XL from an L (I'm 1.89m and 92kg); they're just on the small side of average, sizing-wise.
On the inside of the bibs there's quite a lot of loose thread ends from the weaving process; it's not an issue for comfort or performance but it does mean you need to make sure you don't put your Velcro gloves in the same wash, as they'll surgically attach to all the fluffy bits.
The multi-thickness weave of the fabric does a good job of keeping your leg temperature well regulated from top to bottom, and insulating your main muscle groups. It's most noticeable when you stop for a coffee in cold weather and then have to get going again. I often find that my knees take a while to get going again, but wearing these tights I found that it was much less of an issue.
These bibs work in a pretty wide range of temperatures. I've worn them down to low single figures and up to the low teens and they've coped admirably right across that range, so they're a proper three-season piece of kit.
X-Bionic uses its own pad, the Endurance400FX, which sounds pretty sciency. It's anatomically formed with a variable thickness design, and instead of being sewn to the inside of the tights X-Bionic basically leaves a hole when weaving the tights and stitches the pad in. It does this so that "the fit and elasticity of the pad is not affected by the pant material"; not necessarily something I've had much of an issue with in the past but again, logical enough. The pad feels a bit cumbersome when you're off the bike but it's excellent once you're in a riding position and I've completed five to six-hour rides with no pad discomfort. So no issues there.
It's all good news then? Well, mostly. There's rain to consider. These are woven bibs and they don't incorporate any kind of water repellency, so if you ride in heavy rain they're going to get wet. In their defence they manage to retain a fair bit of their insulation, and dry more quickly than you might imagine, but if it was already raining by the time I set out I'd opt for something that had some water-shedding capability, such as Sportful's excellent NoRain bibs.
When all things are considered, there's a lot going on here and much of it is good. The fit and comfort of these tights is excellent, and the different weaves and technologies that X-Bionic uses in different areas aren't just there for show: you really do get some benefit here. Over £200 is top end: you can spend more, but there aren't that many options more expensive than this. Whether you think spending an extra £60-80 over a top-end, rain-ready pair of bibs from the likes of Sportful or Castelli is up to you.
Very good performance from a technical and uniquely constructed pair of bib tights
road.cc test report
Make and model: X-Bionic The Trick Biking Pants
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product 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 says: "Your circulation always directs your blood supply where it needs to go. X-BIONIC® THE TRICK® Bib Tight does that same thing with your sweat. For maximal thermoregulation while biking. Because whoever doesn't overheat has extra power for top performance."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Thorny Devil Technology
Sweat is energy – particularly when it evaporates where it has the maximum cooling effect. The only thing is – how does it get there? THE TRICK® does this. With an integral infrastructure programme. Patented Thorny Devil Technology collects and guides moisture through sweat collectors and sweat transporters to sweat distributors – precisely where athletes benefit most from the cooling effect of evaporation. Creating perfect conditions for maximum performance. Protected by Patent ZA 2011/01805
Endurance4000FX Bike Pad
The Endurance4000 FX Bike Pad is anatomically formed and fits the male anatomy perfectly. With it, pressure is removed from sensitive capillaries and nerves. It is not simply sewn onto the pant as traditional bike pads are. Instead, X-BIONIC® leaves off the chamois during the manufacturing of the pants and then sews it in separately by hand so the fit and elasticity of the pad is not affected by the pant material. This guarantees fit and comfort never before experienced.
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.
With THE TRICK®, the developers at X-BIONIC® have found a new and superior way to thermoregulate. Along an insulation zone on the spine, an overheating of the body is simulated, and the brain kicks in with early sweat production. Even before the body overheats, it's cooled by sweat effectively and more quickly. The strain on physical systems is relieved. RESULT: You have more energy for performance.
The accordion principle behind the ExpansionKnee™ improves its insulating character rather than losing it when the knee is bent. A highly flexible system of chambers and channels provide insulation by storing warm air inside.
The knee hollow perspires quickly and heavily. A fine, circular knitted fabric has been incorporated there. Perspiration dissipates and is pushed outward with the aid of body warmth without the risk of chilling.
Neural Response Bandage
The Neural Response Bandage exerts targeted pressure on the muscle attachment, prepares the receptors for action and improves the work of the muscles.
Trap perspiration before you start to feel it. Sweat is wicked away so it can evaporate using heat dynamics. A film of perspiration - too thin to be noticeable - is left behind to cool the skin.
Enables targeted insulation of individual body parts from a cold environment to protect the body from freezing in winter. This is how the optimised ISO-Pads® retain more body heat, which is necessary to guarantee internal organ function and protect body parts which are vulnerable to cooling.
Very nicely made, a complicated bit of kit well put together.
Overall the performance is very good, with the combination of the X-Bionic tech, materials and fit coming together very well.
No issues with durability during testing, the fabric is a bit easier to snag than Lycra but after multiple washes and heavy use they're still good as new.
Started with L and moved to XL; XL was a better fit. Compressive fabric means it's important to get the right size.
Just about right for a lot of UK riding.
They feel a bit odd when you're putting them on but that's all forgotten once you're on the bike and in a riding position.
They're not cheap. There's a lot going on though.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems, been through multiple washes with no issues.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. Comfortable, and the tech works like X-Bionic says it should.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfort, clever use of fabric.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not the best in the rain, expensive.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? If i had a Christmas bonus to blow, maybe?
Would you recommend the product to a friend? A well-heeled friend, yes.
Use this box to explain your score
A lot of money, these, but you're getting a lot of tech and it does seem to work. Really good dry weather performance, if you can afford it. Not so great in the rain, so a point off for that.
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, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.