Another high tech bit of kit from X-Bionic that doesn't disappoint
The first question for most people when they see a set of bib tights called ‘The Trick’ would be ‘whats the trick?’. Well, I’m glad you asked. As with everything X-Bionic, The Trick is a tech feature in the tights, although they also use it in their jerseys as well. Basically, it’s a layer of spine insulation that creates a localised centre of warmth.
The point of this is to raise the temperature of that area, and ‘trick’ the body into starting to sweat earlier than usual. While you might think that early sweating is a bad thing, it actually means that the body starts to regulate its own temperature far earlier than usual, so it’s already starting to cool itself before you get to that horrible, sweaty point when you’re overheating.
Starting the cooling process before you overheat supposedly saves energy which will then be available to improve performance, and it’s also more comfortable, stopping you from reaching the point of overheating and keeping your body temperature on an even level. There’s also an important differentiation to make here: the bibs don’t make you sweat more, they make you sweat earlier. These tights are all about temperature regulation, they’re not the cycling equivalent of going for a jog with bin bags under your clothes to sweat out a heavy weekend.
You should actually find that you’re sweating a little less with this kit on, hard as that is to quantify through testing. The idea is that the more consistent body temperature allows for better regulation and thus less need to sweat profusely.
As tricks go, it’s a pretty damn effective one. Sat in my house pre-ride getting ready to go out I could feel my back heating up and beginning to sweat before I’d even swung a leg over the top tube. It’s actually quite disconcerting as I’m definitely not used to sweating when I’m putting my bike shoes on. That’s the sort of thing you expect from the unfortunate subjects of Channel Five documentaries, not regular cyclists.
What’s surprising is how noticeable it was. With most tech features on clothing it can be hard to quantify the effects, but every time I’ve used these bib tights I notice that I’m warmer before I get on the bike than wearing my regular kit.
And similar to X-Bionic’s Energizer MK2 base layer we tested recently, the bib tights have the 3D BionicSphere sweat management system on the back. This is designed to move excess sweat away from the body efficiently, while maintaining a thin layer of sweat on the body to discourage excess sweating. Because the body only recognises that it’s damp and uncomfortable when sweat builds up and begins to bead, moving it away like this means you feel comparatively dry even when working really hard. ‘SweatTraps’ transport the excess sweat away, but the system also functions as insulation when you’re cooling down, meaning you won’t get cold when recovering after hard efforts.
The ‘ISO Pads’ all over the tights are another insulation feature designed to keep you warm. You’ll notice them as they’re the fairly obvious differently coloured sections on the thighs and calves. In short, these are designed to provide localised insulation where it’s needed and being above the large muscles means that it keeps a lot of the heat muscles generate in, making sure your legs don’t cool down when the temperature’s low. It’s like X-Bionic’s equivalent of fleecy Roubaix lining, in a way, because it serves the same purpose (keeping the heat it) but does its job just as well with the added bonus of managing sweat far better. These pads are the reason why the tights are so good at keeping you warm despite the fact that, on first glance, they look like they might not be as warm as the equivalent Roubaix winter tights that many other brands offer.
Fit-wise, the tights are mildly compressive. It’s not full on compression but enough to provide a really snug fit and ensure there’s no extraneous movement or bunching while you ride. Fit is obviously very personal, and to achieve the compressive feeling you need to make sure you get your sizing right as if these were baggy you wouldn’t achieve half of the benefits.
The articulated ‘ExpansionRibs’ on the knees are excellent as well, helping the tights to move with you rather than simply pulling the material tight to accommodate the pedaling action. They also provide an insulating effect, pooling the warm air and making sure you don’t begin to freeze. And on that note, even though X-Bionic classify these as ‘light’ in insulation terms, I’ve been out riding in high single figure temperatures with these and they do the job very well. I can imagine that you might want something a bit more substantial when the weather really begins to dive, but the tech combined with the warmer material used mean they’re certainly not just for early autumn.
The pad is X-Bionic’s own ‘Endurance4000FX’. It’s not the thickest I’ve ever used, but having ridden in these tights on long and short rides, there are no issues about comfort at all. X-Bionic sew the chamois into the tights once they’re fully formed as they say that it means that pad fit isn’t affected by the material used – basically, it isn’t stretched or deformed by the compressive material. You’ll also notice that the outside of the pad closely resembles the inside which might look a little odd, but has no negative effect on the way the and feels when you’re in the saddle.
One thing I was interested in is how these tights would perform in the rain. To be totally fair to X-Bionic, they make absolutely no claims that these are waterproof or even water resistant so this was purely to satisfy my own curiosity. Plus, given the British weather, it’s always useful to know exactly how water resistant – or not – any cold weather clothing is. The material has quite a fleecy texture to it and, frankly, seems like something that might act like a sponge when the rain turns heavy. It turns out that my worries were only partially founded. Basically, when it rains they do get wet pretty quickly, but the insulating qualities of the tights mean that you don’t immediately being to freeze, and they’re certainly no worse than regular tights. But ultimately there’s pretty much no water resistance so while you won’t be in trouble if the weather turns bad on a ride, I wouldn’t choose them if it were raining before I left the house.
Just like their Energizer MK2 base layer, X-Bionic’s ‘The Trick’ bib tights are full of fancy sounding tech but, just like the base layer, it all works. They’re comfortable, move very well with your body and ‘the trick’ really is a very smart trick indeed. X-Bionic’s kit might be expensive, but it’s genuinely top notch and you know when you choose it that you’re buying something backed up with a seriously high level of research. And they’re honestly good enough that you’ll want to ride in them all the time.
Warm enough for high single figure temperatures
‘The Trick’ is a very impressive sweat management feature
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