Who'd ever have thought the Italians would have created a jacket that is so perfectly suited to the tricky demands of British autumn and winter seasons? But they have, and the Fiandre NoRain Jacket from Sportful is a splendid top for this time of year, combining as it does adequate insulation with decent rain protection.
I've tested a few items from the Fiandre range over the years, and always found them uncannily spot on for the constantly and rapidly changing conditions that can make dressing for a bike ride at this time of year very tricky. I've been known to spend a good hour over breakfast debating what outfit to wear. The beauty of this NoRain Jacket is that it almost complete removes all the indecision, and it tackles most extremes of weather really well.
Sportful has used a combination of Gore Windstopper 4 Way Mid and Warm fabrics. The Mid has a brushed inner face so it's soft next to the skin, and helps move moisture away to the exterior. It's also, according to Sportful, 25% lighter than the Warm, which uses a 300g fleece-backed four-way stretch fabric that is totally windproof and provides good rain resistance.
Those two fabrics are combined with the company's own No-Rain Thermal inserts to provide increased breathability. Testing breathability is a tricky one as it can depend on several factors, but with a short-sleeve baselayer underneath and riding at a brisk pace in temperatures up to about 12 degrees, it copes really well. It's rated by Sportful down to zero and up to 15, so plenty of scope really.
I went out for a ride the other day, one of those occasions when you're constantly checking the weather forecast in the days leading up to it and the Met Office clearly can't quite decide what it's going to do. You look up at the sky and the colour of the clouds suggest rain is coming your way, but you don't really want to plump for a hardshell rain jacket. This is where the Fiandre NoRain Jacket really comes into its own. It has the comfort of a jersey and the protection of a jacket.
There's a limit to how long it will keep you dry in persistent heavy rain, but mostly it simply copes with whatever the weather decides to do. It's ideal for intermittment rain conditions. On this ride, it was dry for the first hour, but a cold wind was blowing. The jacket provided decent insulation and prevented overheating on the first couple of leg-burning climbs. When the rain arrived, the jacket repelled it, the rain visibly beading off the surface. Even for a long stint in the wet, the jacket provided all the protection I needed without me having to pull on a dedicated rain jacket over the top. And when it is raining, you can extend the rear bum flap for extra protection.
All of which means you can wear it all the time, regardless of the weather, but safe in the knowledge that if it does rain you'll be well protected. It's not a fully waterproof jacket as there are no taped seams, but the fabric does a really good job of shielding you from the rain, much more than a regular long sleeve jersey or jacket, and for all but the heaviest and most prolonged downpours, it's all you really need.
The performance of the jacket impresses, and so do the fit and features. It's a really nice shape, fitted for quite a slim body but with a bit of stretch in the fabric, which helps articulation around the arms when manoeuvring the bike around the road and bends.
There's a tall collar you can hunker down into on a cold morning, comfortably shaped sleeves and cuffs that extend right up to your hands, no cold wrists, and three rear pockets for stuffing with malt loaf and jelly babies. The full-length YKK Vislon zipper is waterproof and I like all the reflective stripes around the cuffs and waistband. You also have the choice of three colours – this dashing yellow over black, or red and black options.
As for value, although £175 is a lot of money to spend on a jacket, the fact that its excellent performance means it's probably the only one you need to keep you riding through autumn, winter and well into spring goes a long way to justifying it.
The perfect jacket for changeable autumn and winter weather
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Fiandre NoRain Jacket
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the jacket is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Sportful says: An update on one of our most popular winter jackets. Proven in harsh and changing winter conditions with cold, wet and wind.
An all-conditions warm winter jacket that combines great thermal protection with wind and water resistance. Windstopper® 4 Way Mid & Warm for maximum warmth and extra weather protection where it's most needed. Brushed NoRain Thermal inserts for durable water repellency and exceptional breathability.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Gore® Windstopper® 4 Way Mid & Warm for warmth and protection
NoRain Thermal inserts for breathability
YKK® Vislon® waterproof zipper
Drop-down tail for spray protection that can be folded up
Lie-flat elastic on front hem
3 rear pockets
It's all the jacket you'll really need this winter. And autumn. And spring.
Durability has proved excellent so far. It washes out well but I did snag it on a close call with brambles the other day, so don't ride too close to hedgerows.
It's impressively water resistant – not waterproof, but deals with most showers well.
Very good breathability; you can ride at a brisk tempo and in the right temperature range you won't overheat.
Can't fault it.
Again, like the fit, it's perfect.
The inside of the jacket is soft next to the skin and it's a comfortable and well-shaped fit.
It's not cheap, but this is probably all the jacket you need to ride through autumn, winter and well into spring.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems going through the washing machine with other regular clothes.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Lives up to the expectations set for it by Sportful.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Keeps you warm and dry and deals with unexpected rain, but also works in the dry.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Nothing really to dislike.
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 score
Yes it's quite expensive, but it's excellent, and probably the only jacket you need to get you right through the winter, with good insulation, breathability and rain resistance.
About the tester
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.