Italian cycle clothing company Sportful have expanded their Fiandre range of autumn and winter clothing this year with new jackets and thermal bib shorts. Fiandre is Italian for Flanders and the clothing has been designed to deal with the typically harsh and unpredictable weather across this region of Belgium, and which, in many ways, is very similar to UK riding conditions.
The Fiandre range, a name in use on a couple of jackets for a few years now, grows with the addition of the Fiandre Light WS Jacket, Fiandre Light Wind Jersey, Fiandre Light Norain Top and Fiandre Norain Bibshorts. A key feature of the garments is Sportful’s NoRain technology, a water repellent treatment consisting of tiny nano-filaments of silicone integrated within the structure of the fabric preventing water from penetrating through to the inner layers.
The Fiandre clothing is designed to offer you a decent amount of protection from showers and light rain in the sort of unpredictable and rapidly changing weather that frequents the UK autumn, winter and spring. It prevents you getting caught in clothing that doesn’t offer any water resistance if the weather suddenly changes, and saves you being weighed down by loads of clothing just in case the weather does change. If you want a top that will deal with most likely weather scenarios, the new garments in Sportful’s Fiandre range could be right for you.
We went to Belgium last week to test the new clothing in the place that it is named after. Sportful place great emphasis on their partnership with Saxo-Tinkoff. The team are the perfect rolling testbed for the company to get feedback on new garments, they’ve got 30 guys riding 6 hours a day in all weathers, helping them develop the products with the focus on helping the team to race better. For the guys on the team, well they get some of the best clothing to help them train and race better in horrible conditions.
It’s fair to say cycle clothing has come on leaps and bounds in the last 30 years since the days when woolen jerseys and short shorts ruled the peloton. Advances in fabric technology are the main development but the racers also have a greater appreciation for the importance of clothing, especially when racing in bad conditions, and how high quality clothing can make racing in bad weather that little bit less unpleasant.
Nicki Sørensen, a rider with the Tinkoff-Saxo team who is retiring this season after 16 years as a professional, and who has seen cycle clothing change and develop in that time, told us how when he started racing “rain jackets were a plastic bag, the aerodynamics were terrible and you became so wet on the inside from sweat it was pretty pointless, you got so cold.”
He says of the new Fiandre clothing, which he has been involved in the development and testing of, “the Fiandre jackets are really excellent, you get the protection but you don’t get too warm and probably the most important thing when you are racing is that it’s still pretty aero.”
We’ve seen some races in truly appalling weather this season alone, both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia providing demanding stages for clothing to play its part. The new Fiandre Light WS Jacket was actually just a prototype when it was first raced on that Stelvio stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia which was run in atrocious weather.
So Sportful make full use of the team and it shows in the Fiandre range, which has been in development for the past couple of years, and stems from insights they had into developing fabrics and seeing a better way of developing clothing for cold and wet weather conditions. A typical day in Flanders (much the same in the UK too) can deliver the full gamut of weather, wind, rain, sun, the lot. Sportful have sought to design clothing that can cope with these conditions, providing you with more choice.
So let’s have a look at the new clothing Sportful have released.
First, the Fiandre Light WS Jacket. This one looks like the ideal jacket to wear right through the autumn and winter, over a base layer or with a jersey underneath for more insulation. It was this jacket that the Saxo-Tinkoff team actually used on that infamous stage featuring the Stelvio in the Giro d’Italia this summer.
It’s made with Windstopper LightStretch fabric in the front and rear panels to keep you warm and dry, with the NoRain treatment on the arms and shoulders, providing enough protection from light showers. Sportful tell us it should keep you dry for the first hour or so in the rain, and only then will it start soaking up some of the moisture. For a lot of rides, that is adequate rain protection.
I tried this jacket over a long sleeve base layer and in temperatures ranging between 6 and 8 degrees with a decent amount of wind, it kept me comfortably insulated when riding at a steady tempo. We didn’t get any rain during our two days in Belgium (what are the chances) but a ride back in showery rain the other day proved the NoRain treatment does a wonderful job of keeping you dry. I was in a shower lasting about 20 minutes and during that time there was no water ingress.
It’s available in three colours (black, blue or yellow) and sizes XS to XXXL.
Next up is my favourite item of the new Fiandre range, the Fiandre Light Wind Jersey. It’s a long sleeve thermal jersey that can be worn over a short or long sleeve base layer and provides about the same level of insulation as the Fiandre Light WS Jacket, but it’s a touch more breathable and is a good top for those that like to ride hard all of the time.
Sportful reckon it’s good for a temperature range roughly - and this depends on many factors such as intensity, weather, whether you run hot or cold - between 6 and 16 degrees. That’s a good deal of most of the autumn, winter and spring, save for the coldest days.
It’s made from Windstopper 4 Way Light fabric which is windproof and water resistant, and the rear panels are made from NoRain Thermal fabric. The fit is exceptional, it’s cut like a jersey really, but offers the sort of protection from the elements you’d expect of a bulkier jacket. The fit is slim, it contours closely to the body to minimise flappage, to make it as aero as possible to reduce energy drain.
It’s available in yellow, ideal for commuting, black and this stylish blue, echoing the blue of the Belgian national jersey.
The last jacket in the range is the Fiandre Light NoRain Top. It sits somewhere between the super minimal Hot Pack jacket and gilet and a full winter jacket, a good halfway house between the two, light enough to be easily packed into a jersey pocket, ideal when you don’t need a full winter jacket but a vest isn’t quite enough protection. It could easily be paired with either of the tops above to boost your protection in really adverse conditions.
It’s constructed from WindShield 3L windproof fabric on the front facing panels, shoulders and upper arms, NoRain Light used on the forearms and back panels. It offers the thermal insulation of a lightweight gilet, a 180g top, ideal for temperatures in the high teens and could be worn over a base layer, jersey and arm warmer combination. It has a very fitted aero shape.
It’s a very versatile top suitable for a range of conditions then. It’s also extremely lightweight and very well fitted. During testing, I found it ideal for the first chilly hour of ride, worn over a jersey and base layer, and once warmed up and the temperature had risen, could be taken off and stowed in a jersey pocket. It rolls up very small, fits inside a jersey pocket though it does take up most of that jersey pocket. I managed to squeeze it in alongside a minipump in the same pocket, so it’s pretty compact.
There are some nice details. The tall collar keeps your neck warm, the sleeves are a good length with elasticated cuffs, there’s plenty of reflective details to boost low-light visibility, and the full-length zipper has a windflap over the front. Around the back is a tall vertical zipped opening that lets you get at the contents of the jersey pocket worn underneath.
It’s available in this super bright yellow colour, black or black/blue.
Sportful have completely redesigned their Fiandre NoRain Bib Shorts. They’re a thermal bib short, fleece lined so offer more warmth than regular bib shorts, and the NoRain treatment ensures your stay dry. The main chance is in the leg opening, it’s a raw-cut elasticated opening with a silicone dot gripper on the inner surface. That’s so if you wear them with knee or leg warmers, which you’re most likely to do at this time of year, they’ll keep everything nicely in place.
These shorts are good in the rain, which I found out the other day with a ride peppered with short and sharp downpours. It’s not only downpours they cope with, they work really well when it’s dry out but the roads are scattered with puddles. Riding through puddles without mudguards can leave you with a soggy bottom as the spray permeates regular Lycra very quickly. The NoRain Therma fabric makes a big difference here, keeping your bum dry. there is also some reflective piping.
We’ve seen thermal bib shorts increase in popularity over the years and they really add a great deal of versatility to your clothing option through the autumn and winter. Inside they use the Bodyfit Pro pad which has been tested in other shorts previously on road.cc, it’s a well-shaped insert with good comfort on longer rides.
That’s the new Fiandre range then. We’ll be testing the new clothing over the following weeks so watch out for those reviews. In the meantime you can find out more at www.sportful.com and you can read more about the Fiandre range here http://blog.sportful.com/2014/10/10/fiandre/
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.