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Verdict: 
My new go-to jacket for cycling in horrible weather with a high chance of rain
Weight: 
325g
Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket
8 10

Tackling unpredictable but mostly bad weather is tricky at this time of year, but not so with the redesigned Sportful Fiandre Extreme jacket. It's become my go-to jacket for horrible weather because it keeps me protected when it's cold, windy and raining, manages heat well, and the bright yellow ensures I'm as visible to other road users as can be.

  • Pros: Waterproofing, breathability, fit
  • Cons: No zipped pocket, some stains remain after washing, and it ain't cheap

This is an update of the original Fiandre Extreme Neoshell jacket I tested a couple of years ago, which used Polartec's Neoshell. It's a phenomenal material, highly breathable and insulating, easy to layer and works well in a range of temperatures. It's ideal for UK cycling. The original jacket provided the rain protection of a hardshell waterproof jacket with the fit, warmth and breathability of a softshell, but with a few wrinkles. The new model irons these out.

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - riding.jpg

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - riding.jpg

The biggest improvement is the fit around the shoulders. The Neoshell material doesn't have that much stretch, so the shape of the panels and seam placement are really important. By changing the orientation of the bonded and taped seams around the shoulders and other key places, Sportful has radically improved the fit. It's more relaxed around the shoulders, there's less restriction when moving the arms about. It's far more comfortable than the previous jacket.

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - shoulder.jpg

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - shoulder.jpg

Sportful has also improved the cuff design. They're now elasticated and fit more comfortably, and they work well with a range of different types of gloves I tested the jacket with.

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - hem.jpg

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - hem.jpg

More critically, it has improved waterproofing around the three rear pockets, which was a weakness with the previous jacket. The taped seams have been positioned away from areas prone to leaking, and my testing has found no ingress of water around the pocket seams even when riding in really heavy rain.

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - taped seams.jpg

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - taped seams.jpg

It's not as waterproof as something like Sportful's Stelvio jacket, but it's not far off, and I reckon it's more than adequate for the sort of rain the majority of us have to deal with from time to time. Where it scores better than a dedicated rain jacket is in the impressive breathability and insulation. I've worn it for five-hour training rides over just a baselayer and been perfectly comfortable, even taking in lots of hills, and the insulation is ample for all but the chilliest sub-zero rides.

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - back.jpg

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - back.jpg

Other details include a generously tall collar for snuggling down into on cold morning rides. The body and sleeves are a good length, and the tail is slightly dropped but could perhaps scoop down a bit lower because it's a given you're going to be wearing this jacket in grotty conditions with loads of rain and surface water to contend with. There are some reflective details too.

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - collar.jpg

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - collar.jpg

One thing lacking, and it's my usual gripe (and I might be alone here), is a zipped pocket for storing house keys.

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - pockets.jpg

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket - pockets.jpg

The Fiandre Extreme commands a big price tag but it's not alone, just £5 more than Rapha's similar Classic Winter model, and if you want one jacket to rule all of the challenging British winter weather conditions, it really is one of the best. It doesn't have the zipped pockets of the Rapha, but I'd say the fit and cut are better, especially around the waist, and it's slightly warmer.

It's a lot of money, but if you aren't signing up to in indoor training plan and want to commit to big miles outside, then a jacket like this will really be a solid investment.

> Buyer's Guide: 14 of the best winter cycling jackets

It makes dressing for winter rides real easy: just throw it on over a baselayer whatever the weather and you'll be just fine. And I mean that. It keeps you dry in heavy and sustained rain, and for most typical UK rides that involve a bit of rain, it's enough protection to leave the dedicated waterproof jacket at home, or at least saved for the wet as an otter's pocket days.

Verdict

My new go-to jacket for cycling in horrible weather with a high chance of rain

road.cc test report

Make and model: Sportful Fiandre Extreme Jacket

Size tested: Small

Tell us what the jacket is for

Sportful says, "Second generation of our most extreme jacket, tested on the worst World Tour races where warmth and wet weather protection help detemine who finishes the race. Well adapted for the rest of us looking for a great combination of insulation and rain/ wet snow protection without sacrificing comfort or performance. Stretch construction for a tailored fit that is both comfortable and fast on the bike. Highly breathable NeoShell fabric offers a great weather barrier while letting your excess heat and sweat out."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?

From Sportful:

Polartec NeoShell is windproof, waterproof, highly breathable and elastic

Mid-weight fabric can be worn with a base layer or add a thermal layer for cold conditions

Strategically placed seams to maximize on the bike feel and fit and reduce exposure to the elements. Fully taped seams for full waterproofing

Waterproof YKK Vislon zipper

Reflective transfers on back

3 external rear pockets

Rate the jacket for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Very nicely made.

Rate the jacket for performance:
 
9/10

Excellent for dealing with whatever the British winter can throw your way. Wind, rain, cold temperatures, mud... it deals with it all.

Rate the jacket for durability:
 
7/10

I've tested it relentlessly over the past couple of months and it's stood up really well. My only small gripe is that snot/mud has stained the bright yellow arms a bit.

Rate the jacket for waterproofing
 
9/10

Very, very good; improved over the mk1 jacket, and it's comfortably adequate for typical British winter rain weather.

Rate the jacket for breathability
 
8/10

The Neoshell jacket combines that impressive waterproofing with superb breathability.

Rate the jacket for fit:
 
9/10

With the improved seams, the fit is now excellent, and it's a really comfortable jacket.

Rate the jacket for sizing:
 
8/10

Usual Sportful sizing here, nothing out of the ordinary.

Rate the jacket for weight:
 
8/10

It's not heavy.

Rate the jacket for comfort:
 
9/10

It's exceedingly comfortable.

Rate the jacket for value:
 
6/10

Yes it's expensive, but it's on par with what I'd consider its closest competitor, Rapha's Classic Winter jacket, but a little warmer and a better fit. If you're looking for one jacket to conquer just about all the bad winter weather you're likely to encounter, this might be it.

How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Pretty easy. It goes through a wash well, though it's worth washing it straight after a muddy ride so the dirt doesn't stain the bright yellow fabric.

Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Keeps rain, wind and the cold out.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket

Great fit, super all-weather capability and brightness.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket

No zipped pocket.

Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes

Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes

Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

It's a highly capable jacket that excels in really bad weather. The Polartec Neoshell is a superb material balancing the needs of protection and breathability for a cyclist really well. Just a shame it's so expensive.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

19 comments

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Disfunctional_T... [307 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

There are some odd claims in this review.

1. Why does the reviewer say this isn't a dedicated rain jacket? It's constructed 100% of Polartec Neoshell and is seam-taped and is thus a rain jacket.

2. > It's not as waterproof as something like Sportful's Stelvio jacket

Ummm, anything over 1,000 mm of hydrostatic head is waterproof. Neoshell has 10,000 mm of hydrostatic head. A jacket with fabric with 20,000 mm of hydrostatic head is not any more waterproof than a jacket with fabric with 10,000 mm of hydrostatic head. They are both waterproof, assuming they are taped properly.

3. > the insulation is ample for all but the chilliest sub-zero rides

Where did the reviewer get the idea that the jacket has insulation? The jacket is not insulated. It's constructed of a standard 3-layer rainshell material, Polartec Neoshell.

It's good that Sportful addressed the leaking rear pocket issue of the original iteration of the jacket.

Note that there is a short-sleeve version of this jacket.

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ktache [785 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

My goodness that thing is bright!

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Mark_1973_ [49 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

David,

In your previous review, you had this to say:

"It really is properly waterproof. We've had some stonking rain showers recently and so I've had plenty of wet rides to thoroughly test the jacket. Lucky me. On one ride it rained solid for the entire two hours I was out. The jacket kept me dry. Another ride saw about three of four short showers interspersed with sunshine and blue skies. Again, the jacket repelled the rain brilliantly, and dried out really quickly between each downpour. There are no weaknesses – all the seams around the arms and shoulders stand up to the rain just fine."

Strange that only now, two years later, do you mention the fact that the rear pocket seams wicked water around the jacket and left you soaking wet. TBH, the taping of the new jacket pocket seams don't fill me with confidence; Sportful tried this fix on the revised version of the original jacket and it was useless having the taping on the inside because of the way the fabric wicks moisture.

 

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Terence the Tractor [5 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
Disfunctional_Threshold wrote:

2. > It's not as waterproof as something like Sportful's Stelvio jacket Ummm, anything over 1,000 mm of hydrostatic head is waterproof. Neoshell has 10,000 mm of hydrostatic head. A jacket with fabric with 20,000 mm of hydrostatic head is not any more waterproof than a jacket with fabric with 10,000 mm of hydrostatic head. They are both waterproof, assuming they are taped properly.

 

Have to take issue with this, first of all 1200mm is the requirement for a waterproof, secondly, a waterproof which is able to withstand a higher hydrostatic head is by deffinition more waterproof,  it will withstand heavier rain, so is more waterproof, I think we have all been there when the rain got too heavy for the waterproof you have with you and you have been soaked, if it had a higher head than the rain you are in it wouldn't penetrate and you would be dry.

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tom_w [228 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I really like the colour of this jacket, but it seems from the reviews that Gore-Tex Active jackets are lighter and breath better - I guess this is designed to be worn instead of a jersey though, rather than over a jersey?

Avatar
StantheVoice [124 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

tom_w wrote:

I really like the colour of this jacket, but it seems from the reviews that Gore-Tex Active jackets are lighter and breath better - I guess this is designed to be worn instead of a jersey though, rather than over a jersey?

In the review he says "I've worn it for five-hour training rides over just a baselayer and been perfectly comfortable, even taking in lots of hills, and the insulation is ample for all but the chilliest sub-zero rides."

And

"It makes dressing for winter rides real easy: just throw it on over a baselayer whatever the weather and you'll be just fine. And I mean that. It keeps you dry in heavy and sustained rain, and for most typical UK rides that involve a bit of rain, it's enough protection to leave the dedicated waterproof jacket at home, or at least saved for the wet as an otter's pocket days."

Hope that helps if you don't have time to read the review yourself.

Avatar
Disfunctional_T... [307 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
Terence the Tractor wrote:

Have to take issue with this, first of all 1200mm is the requirement for a waterproof,

I'm not aware of any formal definition of waterproof in regards to hydrostatic head. It's considered to be around 1,000 mm to 1,200 mm of hydrostatic head. Wikipedia says 1,000 mm. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterproof_fabric

In any case, the 10,000 mm hydrostatic head of Polartec Neoshell is well beyond that.

Terence the Tractor wrote:

a waterproof which is able to withstand a higher hydrostatic head is by deffinition more waterproof,  it will withstand heavier rain, so is more waterproof, I think we have all been there when the rain got too heavy for the waterproof you have with you and you have been soaked, if it had a higher head than the rain you are in it wouldn't penetrate and you would be dry.

Ummm, no. It has a higher hydrostatic head. It's not more waterproof.

I own many waterproof shells and have never experienced a failure. Did you measure the hydrostatic head of the fabric afterwards? Did you return the garment for exchange under warranty? I'm aware of many jackets that have failed under heavy backpacking use... but the hydrostatic head of the fabrics had fallen below 1,000 mm under wear. In road cycling use, there should be almost no abrasion damage to fabric under normal use.

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Disfunctional_T... [307 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
Mark_1973_ wrote:

David,

Strange that only now, two years later, do you mention the fact that the rear pocket seams wicked water around the jacket and left you soaking wet.

Actually he did not say that he experienced it himself. He said that it was an issue with (some of) the jackets (which is common knowledge). Of course he may have experienced it himself, but until he comments, we don't know.

Personally, I would rather see just one larger pouch on the back, with an overlapping flap. That would reduce the number of extra seam tapings required for the pockets to zero. I'm usually wearing a regular jersey underneath, so I wouldn't mind the loss of pocket organization.

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Luv2ride [110 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I picked up a mk1 short sleeve version second hand.  In practice, whilst I do find it waterproof, for me it's not particularly breathable if I'm honest (but I do sweat a lot, so have yet to find any waterproof that has such good breathability that it doesn't get damp on the inside).

The insulation comes from the fact it has a waffle-effect lining that effectively traps air meaning you stay warmer.  So, yes, it is insulating and is very effective.  It's a good all rounder, though I'd agree enough the fit of the mk1 being off.  I had to go large for the shoulders chest to be comfy (I'd previously bought and returned medium long and short sleeve versions) but the body is slightly looser than I prefer.  Mine is in "fire red" and VERY visible.  I wear mine a lot in mizzly and rainy weather and it's a very good compromise, just not quite as breathable as I'd hoped. I can't see that the mk2 is much better in that respect but if they've fixed the fit I'd recommend one.

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Luv2ride [110 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Oops, double-post

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Cian McDermott [8 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I have this 2017 jacket in black. Have tested in moderate rain and it works great so far. Warm and breathable. I'm usually L but needed XL. Fits well when on the bike and not so bad off it

Wondering, can I wash it with NikWash or similar to recoat the DWR layer in time? That's what I do with my ski jackets. 

So far with this kit - thumbs up!

 

 

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tom_w [228 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
StantheVoice wrote:

Hope that helps if you don't have time to read the review yourself.

I worded my point badly, I was trying to ask whether the Gore Active was even more breathable, the question mark should have been after 'breath better' not 'over a jersey'

I'm not sure what you gained from your snarky comment, but if it works for you carry on.

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David Arthur @d... [859 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

tom_w wrote:

I really like the colour of this jacket, but it seems from the reviews that Gore-Tex Active jackets are lighter and breath better - I guess this is designed to be worn instead of a jersey though, rather than over a jersey?

 

The Gore One active is a lighter jacket but it doesn't offer any thermal insulation, so it imo needs to be worn over a jersey. I tend to only wear it when it's seriously chucking it down, but it's breathable enough to wear it for an entire ride.

The beauty of this Sportful jacket is that it can be worn over just a base layer, short or long sleeve, and provides adequate warmth for all but the coldest rides. It makes layering easier. I can wear it for entire rides quite happily, and find the breathability just fine. But everyone is different on the breathability front

 

Hope that helps

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Disfunctional_T... [307 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
Luv2ride wrote:

I picked up a mk1 short sleeve version second hand.  In practice, whilst I do find it waterproof, for me it's not particularly breathable

That is how waterproof breathable (WPB) fabrics are.
In fact, NeoShell is the most breathable of any WPB fabric, except perhaps the new Gore-Tex Shake-dry membrane. NeoShell has a air permeability of about 0.5 CFM, which is especially relevant on a bike since the fabric is constantly in wind.

Luv2ride wrote:

The insulation comes from the fact it has a waffle-effect lining that effectively traps air

The lining has a soft face, but the fibers are only about 0.5 mm long. There's no insulation to speak of. The effect you are perceiving is due to the fact that a "plasticy" membrane is not directly on your skin.

All these road.cc reviews suffer from the fact that the reviewers have little technical knowledge. That could be offset if road.cc did actual comparison tests with say a dozen or so jackets at once, testing them under identical conditions.

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Cian McDermott [8 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Update on Sportful Fiandre Neoshell Extreme 2017/ 2018 jacket

First real wet windy winter ride today - 2 hours in driving rain in West of Ireland

Here is how it performed

- arms - drenched and water squeezed out

- rear of jacket - wet through to inner jersey at the rear panel

- rest of jacket - damp patches throughout

I expected more from a jacket that seels for 275E. Am considering a return

What do others think of this jacket in the rain?

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Cian McDermott [8 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

More pics here

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Cian McDermott [8 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

And here....jacket is still soaking 2 hours later

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captain_slog [449 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

That does look pretty soggy. I wonder if water soaking into your shorts below the hem of the jacket crept up inside by capillary action. The comment by grantpet beneath this review of the Castelli Idro suggests this can happen.

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RR [45 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I also wore this for the first time yesterday... out in cold persistent rain for 3 hours. The jacket was comfortable and impressively breathable. Sometimes it felt warm, sometimes cool, but once I had got going I was always a good core temperature and never needed to open the zip. 

However when I got home I found the jacket was damp on the inside, mostly the lower parts of the jacket and sleeves, and around the internally taped seams on the pockets and neck. The shoulders, chest, back and upper arms were all dry. My merino baselayer felt dry apart from my wrists, though that is expected with overlapping neoprene gloves.

It appears, as mentioned in other posts, that the fabric wicks moisture along the inside surface. The external seam taped worked well but the internal seam tape doesn't, presumably once the external fabric has wetted out near the seam. And where there is wet clothing underneath - shorts and gloves - then the moisture will spread up from there.

I may consider a return. But it was certainly better than my Gabba long sleeve, and I would otherwise have needed to wear a hard shell jacket. I also have the Fiandre WS LRR short sleeve jacket: this has not leaked so far, but not as breathable and I don't fancy wearing arm warmers in 2 degree wet weather.