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  • How X-Bionic are reinventing team kit

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    Seamless with sewn-in logos, Gazprom-Rusvelo’s is a team kit with properties like no other. Morten Okbo finds an Italian factory where technology trumps tradition

    Photographs: Paolo Ciaberta
    X-Bionic

    Jump with me. Because I hate football. Nike and Adidas are billion dollar companies, and there is no brand in cycling that comes near them in scales of profit or turnover.

     

    I hate Cristiano Ronaldo more than I hate Lance Armstrong, because Ronaldo gets the hot models and Lance keeps dating his mother. The Portuguese megastar gets to keep his money, and the American has to give it back.

     

    The first – and real – Ronaldo was Nike’s ticket into football. Remember how they forced him to play the World Cup final even though he was sick. That was the rumour. That he was sick. But was he sick? And how sick was he? He wasn’t sick like Lance was sick. When cyclists are sick, they are dying. Ronaldo wasn’t dying. I mean. He was on the pitch and clearly not dying. And that’s why I hate football.

     

    Wait. It’s not what I meant.

     

    X-Bionic

     

    This is a story about cycling apparel. Thought I’d throw in how I hate football, because so do you, and so this is how I might get your attention, because we are about to venture into something that is cycling but not entirely sexy, which will be confusing, because cycling and sexy go together.

     

    We know that. Cycling is sexy, and I’d sleep with Fausto Coppi before I’d sleep with Cristiano Ronaldo, and so would you.

     

    Read: Isadore: the cycle clothing company run by professional cyclists

     

    Let’s jump again.

     

    X-Bionic is a branch under X-Technology, which is a scientific research and development company in Switzerland, a kind of think tank, if you will, owned by German Prof. Dr. Bodo W. Lambertz. They have more patents and innovation design awards than anyone can count, but you probably know them by their socks: X-Socks.

     

    X-Bionic

     

    Twenty years ago, the professor met Marco Redini of Trerè Innovation, an Italian manufacturer specialising in functional clothing with a high technical content. So the relationship between the two men began with an idea to produce technical socks.

     

    The professor is – we’ll assume – a good old mad and wealthy scientist who sits in his Swiss castle and comes up with ideas that the Italian factory in Asola can help him realise.

     

    Also. I’d sleep with Fausto Coppi before Monica Bellucci.

     

    X-Bionic

     

    In Italy, when you go to a factory of either apparel or bike manufacturers, the story is often that of family tradition. The old patron sitting behind his desk like his father before him, and so forth.

     

    Read Fausto Pinarello: buon gusto and beautiful bikes

     

    Walls are covered with photos of cycling heroes together with the first generation of the family. Look. This is Bartali on our first build road bike. See that photo? Gimondi is wearing our wool sweater. That’s the story.

     

    X-Bionic

     

    The people in Asola are doing the opposite of your usual Italian family-run business. They don’t sell tradition. They sell innovation. X-Bionic is not lycra.

     

    Trerè Innovation receive ideas from X-Technology. The design team will then translate the information to a programme, feed it to the machines and a single seamless tube of apparel comes out. This is their thing.

     

    X-Bionic is seamless.

    X-Bionic

     

    X-Bionic is the new brand in professional cycling, but it’s not new. For years, cyclists – both pro and amateur – have been using their underwear and socks, but this year the brand went  visible. They are now official team-kit sponsor for Pro Continental cycling team Gazprom-Rusvelo.

     

    “We provided the team with underwear and socks. And they liked the products. So they pushed for outerwear,” explains Giuseppe Bovo.

     

    At the time of Rouleur’s visit, Bovo was European brand manager. He has since left the company.

     

    X-Bionic

     

    “Finally, after eight years we produced this product for a cycling team. It was a miracle for us. We wanted to be involved but with no compromise. The goal is to show our product which is completely different from lycra, and the only reason we weren’t there earlier was because of our limitations.

     

    “With seamless you cannot easily reach the same level of artwork and design. Because you cannot print on the product. Look. The sponsor logos are sewn on.

     

    “And this is why we wanted a big team from the beginning. With a strong sponsor. Because sponsors are in and out of professional cycling which would mean…”

     

    “A lot of sewing?”

     

    “Exactly. So we have a four-year contract. We wanted a team that was willing to let us keep our technology on the kit.

     

     

    “You see the back of this jersey? There is a big percentage that you cannot use for sponsors because of our design. We need to push our technology, so everybody can see our product. Our ambition is to create a small revolution. Every team is using lycra. And we think our product matches this.”

     

    Read: Katusha Sports – the homegrown clothing range tested by WorldTour stars

     

    So what is it X-Bionic do?

     

    They do not waste your sweat. They channel it through high-tech 3D designed apparel that essentially cools you when you sweat, and it warms you when you’re cold.

     

    X-Bionic

     

    Simply put, they run with nature. It seems almost too logical, and the best way to illustrate it comes the following week, when I sit in the Gazprom-Rusvelo team car for the final mountainous week of the Giro d’Italia and none of their riders – but many from other teams – ask for gilets for the descents.

     

    I’ll write that again. The Gazprom Rusvelo riders did not ask for gilets for the descents.

     

    The full version of this article was published in Rouleur 17.6

     

    Chpt./// J/J – Jersey/Jacket 1.31