What's Cool In Road Cycling

Gear Break: Sportful & Scicon

Today’s GearBreak focuses on a couple of proucts from Italian companies Sportful clothing and Scicon bags. Two products from each of these specialist manufacturer’s extensive ranges were put through the PEZ test: Sportful’s Super Total Comfort Bibshorts & AC Vuelta socks and Scicon’s Hippo 550 Saddle Bag and their endurance rider special’s, Phone Frame Bag.

Sportful Super Total Comfort BibShorts
First up on the Gear Break test bench today is Sportful’s amusingly named Super Total Comfort Bibshort.

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The Super Total Comfort Bibshort is Sportful’s follow up from last year’s extremely popular Total Comfort Bibshort that has been accepted by many cyclists as their most comfortable bibshorts ever – but Sportful think they’ve done even better this time lifting the level up to ‘Super’ status.

Let’s check out what you get for your money.

First up is the fabric of the short. It’s a thin material that from first looks seems like an ordinary bibshort fabric but when you touch it, it actually feels very different. That’s because it’s a woven fabric rather than a traditional knitted fabric and this combined with it’s Lycra content of 29% and its cut provide what almost feels like a compression garment at times.

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Yes, it’s a tight fit but not at all restrictive – in fact pedalling in this material almost feels like you’re in a high end skinsuit. It’s tight, it stays perfectly in place and you feel fast. Fast was not the princicple objective of this short but it’s certainly a direct result and let’s face it, when you’re comfortable you tend to perform better.

Around the thighs is always one of the most important areas for any bib short and Sportful have chosen a very wide silicone dot pattern flat leg gripper to keep the short from bunching up. After testing I can confirm that this gripper combined with the woven fabric of the short meant that there is zero bunching or movement happening and once again they have ticked the ‘comfort’ box in a big way here.

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An excellent fabric and a comfortable gripper that keeps everything in place is certainly a good start for a ‘Super Comfort’ but if the seat pad isn’t up to scratch it would all be for nought. Fortunately (and as they should at this price) Sportful have gone with the best of the best in terms of comfort for long distances – the Total Comfort seatpad.

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This is one thick pad – and is in fact Sportful’s thickest option but it’s not a diaper style one either. At a full 16mm thickness at the rear from the closed cell urethane foam padding it’s thickness then varies according to the region of the pad. This means that the 16mm part is at the back for the seatbones and then it thins down to 8mm at the business end to increase comfort around the family jewels and eliminate chafing on the inside of the leg by not having too much padding where there is a lot of movement.

In the past I have not been a fan of thick seat pads in shorts as I’ve felt like I was disconnected from the bike but I had no such sensations with the Total Comfort pad. Fortunately that has been the case too as I am currently training for a near 300km race with almost 6000m elevation change in the French mountains where I will be spending A LOT of time in the saddle. Consequently my training rides of late have been getting longer and longer and although I’ve been putting in the miles I haven’t been getting saddle sore.

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Topping off the package is an updated version of Sportful’s previous incarnations of their flat bib straps. Simple, light weight, breathable and unrestrictive they do everything they’re supposed to do. Personally I prefer a slightly narrower strap but I had no real complaints with them.

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The always awkward on the bike, ‘rear end’ selfie.

With a combination of a great seat pad, quality well cut & designed fabrics, updated flat bib straps, a new silicone dot flat leg gripper and flat-lock stitching throughout you’d be right to think that these shorts aren’t in your bargain basement bin at your local bike shop. $250 USD or €179.90 is the figure you’re looking at to achieve ‘Super Total Comfort’. Worth it? Your call but for my upcoming ultra endurance race/hell ride I won’t be hesitating for a moment before choosing these shorts. Find out more at sportful.com

Sportful AC Vuelta Socks
Still from Sportful and still on the comfort theme the next item up on the test bench is the AC Vuelta Sock.

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Designed for Alberto Contador (hence the AC in the name) these socks are portrayed as the most comfortable sock in the Sportful range and are specifically made with extra padding in the footbed to prevent hot spots on long mountain stages. With a lightweight polypropylene Meryl Skinlife yarn, they’re quick drying and although they feel quite warm and tight when you first put them on they are actually not hot at all when you use them. The Meryl Skinlife yarn probably has a lot to do with that feeling and it is also antibacterial and designed to keep your feet dry and keep foot odour at bay.

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Me climbing and suffering in the AC Vuelta socks at the recent Départemental Championship where I can assure you that everywhere was hurting – except my feet!

These socks do exactly what they’re designed for – increasing the comfort on long days with thicker feet padding whilst still keeping your feet dry and fresh. Through this test and the ever increasing temperatures of the South of France I’ve put these socks through many miles and many washes and they’re still in good condition. With a high collar height of 9cm and available in 4 different colors they conform to the modern look of the peloton and should match most kits. At $16.99 USD or €12.90 they’re worth a look for anybody searching for comfort on long hot rides this summer. Check them out at sportful.com

Scicon Hipo 550 RL 2.1 SaddleBag
Let’s step away from comfort orientated products now and head into the practicality field with a couple of bags from Scicon. First up from the Italian manufacturer is the Hipo 550 RL 2.1 Saddlebag.

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I first tested one of Scicon’s saddlebags last year, the Aeronaut and came away highly impressed so I had no hesitation to test the Hipo 550.

Like the Aeronaut it has a ‘no tools attachment’ meaning that putting it on and off the bike takes mere seconds. Sounds a little too easy, even fragile no? Well in writing maybe, but in real life this simple turn and click system is now used across a range of Scicon’s bags and is possibly the best and simplest system I’ve seen.

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Attach this clamp to the underside of your saddle using just your fingers and then you are ready to go.

Turn and click in the bag and you are away. It’s secure, it doesn’t move and there are no rattles or squeaks – exactly what you want from a bag. As a manufacturer of just bags the engineers at Scicon only have bags on their mind so instead of stopping with just the clever attachment system they’ve also upped the ante by adding built in tire levers to the bag. Yep, you’ll never forget your levers with this bag because two levers are included in the design!

One lever slides in just under the saddle bag’s attachment…

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And the other slides into the roof of the interior of the bag…

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Putting aside the clever engineering of the attachment and the tire levers, the bag itself is also a high quality item made with a sturdy cordura material that includes reflective piping and an easy sliding and effective zipper. With the tire levers already in the bag I was able to add a multi tool, a tube, some money and a patch kit before topping out the bag’s volume.

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Whilst not being a dream item that you go to the bikeshop to stare at or drool over pictures of in magazines or websites like ours – sometime I get to test products that just make sense and this is definitely one of them. You attach it and then forget about it. I have a very close to the saddle/top tube pedalling style and I experienced no chafing with the Hipo 550 RL 2.1 as it’s a well designed bag perfect for your training rides. If you’re after a decent saddlebag with a quality attachment I’d recommend having a close look at the Hipo 550 for $39 USD. Check them out at albabici.com

Scicon Phone Frame Bag
From an unobtrusive and discreet bag with the Hipo 550 we move on now to the, ‘Yes I’m carrying a lot of gear and no, I don’t care style’ of the Phone Frame Bag.

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This is one big unit and is designed as such to fit in your phone and a large number of items for those extra long distance rides where you need maximum carrying capacity. As I stated earlier I’ve been training for a near 300km race where the winners will complete the race in around 10 hours and as this race is totally unsupported it means that any food or tools I’m going to need I will have to take them myself. Hence this large Phone Frame Bag on the front of my bike.

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Gearing up for a big ride with the Phone Frame Bag. All these items fit in without squishing them in.

The bag is attached with 3 velcro straps that are rubber protetected to keep your paint work in perfect condition and are basic, yet effective in design.

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With the amount of gear that I wanted to put in the bag I was concerned about the bag swinging or moving around with the weight on the toptube but it actually stayed surprisingly stable as I rode. This bag is mostly about carrying your phone though and it does that admirably keeping the phone secure and perfectly in your line of vision. Through the bag’s clear touch window the phone’s screen is easy to see and I could still use the phone, scroll through Strava etc without having to take the phone out.

If you’re unlucky enough to get caught out in the rain during a big ride then you can also use the inbuilt rain protection system which thankfully I haven’t had to use yet. It tucks in at the back of the bag and folds out easily to protect your phone and valuables from the rain.

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Loaded up and heading off into the mountains behind…

There’s no getting around this – the Phone Frame Bag is a big bag. Slightly too wide for me and I think that I’ll be edging more towards the Piggy Frame Bag, narrower style for my upcoming race as I don’t need to see my phone all the time. If you do however need to see your phone and are after a frame bag with an excellent volume that attaches securely, at US$45 Scicon’s Phone Frame Bag could be right for you. Check them out at albabici.com

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