Scicon, best known as a purveyor of top end bike bags and travel luggage, has been branching into new areas lately and these new X-Over Bib Shorts show that the company isn't holding back on the design and use of top-end fabrics to create some of the most comfortable clothing available. As always, though, this level of development will cost you.
- Pros: Excellent multi-panel fit, comfortable pad
- Cons: There are softer fabrics out there, and it's a big outlay
Looking through the product description, Scicon has designed the X-Overs as real all-rounders, capable of tackling road riding, off-roading, long and short rides at varying efforts. Okay, most shorts can achieve this, but to be fair to the Scicons, they are very good at it thanks to the quality of the chamois.
For the pad Scicon has gone to one of the biggest names in the business, Elastic Interface Technology, whose chamois you'll find in a lot of the major brands' shorts like dhb and Rapha.
Here we've got its signature pad, which it makes using 100 per cent recycled Eco Carbonium Flash fabric. The overall design looks to be pretty simple. You won't find a network of channels criss-crossing the pad, dissecting varying thicknesses of foam in a bid to relive pressure and numbness. Nope, what you have is a simple groove down the centre separating the saddle shaped padding into two.
The padding itself isn't that thick but it is quite firm, which gives plenty of support with just enough squidge to take out the knocks from the road.
It is thicker at the back and gets thinner as it slopes gradually away until you are just left with a thin section at the front.
I really like it. It offers a really good balance of comfort without being overly soft, so you don't lose any of the feedback from the road, telling you what your rear tyre is up to; it just takes the edge off the worst vibration.
Out on the gravel trails I found it to work just as well. With the long, draggy climbs off-road I'd spend a longer duration of a ride in the saddle just tapping out a rhythm on the pedals but found the Scicons didn't cause any irritation or numbness on four or five-hour rides on varying sizes of aggregate.
The rest of the shorts offer similar levels of comfort thanks to the use of Mititech Power Italian fabric, which has four-way stretch and a decent level of compression.
To start with I found the material a little scratchy against the skin, although after a few washes it did become softer. Even now, though, it doesn't offer the same levels of smoothness as the Pro Transfer fabric of the Pearl Izumi Pros I was also testing.
The material does breathe well. Over the hot Easter weekend I did a couple of rides wearing the Scicons and felt reasonably cool when moving. The breeze blowing over the surface wicked sweat away to a decent degree, and I felt about as comfortable as I would expect considering the conditions.
The shorts are cut well and move with you regardless of your position on the bike; you won't find any bunching of the fabric anywhere.
They have been designed by ASG Bike Science, bike fitting experts and part of a group of companies that includes Scicon. They obviously know their stuff as the shorts provide a close fit without being restrictive, and should work well with a range of body shapes.
All of the seams are positioned out of the way of the saddle or anywhere else they might rub or cause irritation, so there are no issues on those longer rides.
To keep the legs in place Scicon has used material knitted in a kind of carbon fibre chequerboard effect rather than using silicone or similar. They are 75mm tall and although you're aware of the fabric for the first five or ten minutes, you soon stop noticing it, and after four to five hours in the saddle there were no noticeable pressure areas around the leg.
The bibs comprise highly elastic and wide straps that run from the base of your back right the way down to your stomach in one section, so no seams on the actual shoulders which is good to see.
The centre section is made of mesh which, just like the main material, is highly breathable.
The quality of the manufacturing is top notch throughout and the X-Overs' use of some excellent materials plus that chamois puts them up there with some of the best. However, a lot of the best come in much cheaper, and their rrp of £219 makes these one of the highest priced pairs that we've tested in a long time.
To soften that blow Scicon has included one of its shoe bags (£35) and a pair of limited edition espresso cups. There is also a voucher offering a discount off its Elan Power Ergo saddle, which I rather liked.
So, if you are into a package deal then the Scicons might not look too bad value.
However, I mentioned the Pearl Izumi Pros earlier, and those will set you back £180. The Neon Velo Pro Fit bib shorts come in at £170, and Liam thought that was quite a high price to pay. The Scicons do have excellent attention to detail, like those continuous straps, and the pad does sound better, but it's still a pretty steep outlay.
Also, good performance can be had for a lot less money: Sean was massively impressed with the Lusso DRS bibs, which are £120.
Overall, I'd say the Scicon X-Overs' price puts them at the top end of the market, but although they are a lovely pair of shorts – and the fabric softness is improving with every wash – they aren't quite the pinnacle of what you can buy; they aren't the best I've ever worn, but they are pretty close.
An impressive mixture of performance and comfort but it's a massive price tag
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Scicon X-Over Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Scicon says, "X-Over bibshorts are completely made by expert hands in SCICON laboratories in Italy, represents the pinnacle of technology and craftsmanship. Studied for road, mountain biking and spinning."
And more extensively: "The SCICON X-Over Bib shorts are designed with performance and comfort in mind, created to provide a race fit to the legs and torso. The innovative Power Mititech panels reduce fatigue through compression and have an anatomical Power Ergo Design™fit to your leg. World leading fabric technologies combined with an innovative EIT chamois result in your new endurance ride companion.
"Power Ergo Design™ fit developed by ASG Bike Science provides selective compression on key muscle groups through anatomic modeling and differentiated materials. The Italian EIT signature pad (Elastic Interface Technology) made from 100% recycled 'Eco Carbonium Flash' fabric, offers maximum performance, versatility and comfort in the saddle on medium and long rides as well as in more extreme situations.
"The 4 way compression Mititech Power Italian stretch fabric of Crossover bibs has unique characteristics in terms of performance, pleasant hand feel, high compression, quick drying, outstanding wicking properties and breathability, moisture management, durability and all day fitting. Breathable bi-elastic Carvico Spider net applications integrated into the elastic bibs adapts perfectly to different bodies shapes.
"The active-tension, soft, mono-elastic bibs have a minimal design for maximum freedom of movement, do not twist, avoid skin abrasion and are self adjustable - which all combine to make it a light and comfortable garment.
"The 75 mm carbon texture legs grippers, tested by professional riders, are silicone-free and have 4-way compression which guarantee a stable and comfortable position on the leg and ensures a thin effect on the skin.
"Long 3M reflective offers great visibility."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Scicon lists these features:
Italian EIT signature pad (Elastic Interface Technology)
4 way compression Mititech Power Italian stretch fabric
Breathable bi-elastic Carvico Spider net bibs
75 mm carbon texture legs grippers
The sizing isn't as small as some Italian brands and these mediums fitted me as its chart said they should. Sizing ranges from 2XS to 5XL so a good spread.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No issues with washing at all, the X-Overs aren't fragile at all like some expensive kit.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A great pair of shorts for use on a multitude of rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
A very good all-round pair of shorts that deliver highly on performance and fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The material isn't quite as soft against the skin as others I've worn.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Some of even the most expensive bib shorts we've tested over the last year or so come in around £40-£50 cheaper.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not, a little too pricey for me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Scicons are very well made, comfortable and offer an excellent fit, but I think they are priced a little too high against some of the top-end competition.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.