When you have to deal with changeable and unpredictable weather and you just don't know what to wear for a ride, you can do worse than slip into Sportful's Fiandre NoRain Team Bib Tights. They fend off rain, keep you warm, are very comfortable and decently priced too. As winter clothing investments go, these are a good 'un.
Sportful's Fiandre range was born for the changeable – but mostly moist and miserable if we're being honest – weather of Flanders in Belgium. Weather that also happens to be pretty much the same as we have to contend with. Mildly moist, frequent showers, strong winds, cooling temperatures, sometimes all in the same day.
The tights deal with this varied weather through the NoRain fabric. It repels water extremely well. Ride in a shower and the raindrops simply bead off the surface. You don't get saturated at the first hint of a downpour as you do with regular tights. What they are not is 100 per cent waterproof. Eventually, heavy and sustained rain will overcome the water repellency, but for most occasions, they'll deal with showers and unexpected rainfall.
They're not just good in the rain, but when it's cold and dry too. The brushed thermal fabric and weight are adequate at keeping you insulated on chilly morning and evening rides. They're claimed to be good down to about 5 degrees, but it's not been cold enough yet to put that to the test; I'll update this review when I get that opportunity. The thermal fabric also stops them feeling too cold when it does get wet. When it's warmer, into the teens, the fabric also breathes enough that your legs won't get clammy and sweaty. That all helps to give them a decent wide window of temperatures to ensure they are good in the autumn and many typical winter days.
The tights are well designed, nicely shaped around the legs and torso, with the shape of the panels and the seam placement ensuring there's little restriction at the knee joint. The single-layer design minimises the weight; they have quite a light feel to them.
Fit is generally very good. I tested a size medium and the shape is fine around the waist and upper legs. My only small gripe is that the legs seem a bit long. I had a few wrinkles of excess material that I had to shuffle down to the ankles. I am being really really picky, though. Maybe I've just got short legs for my height...
Up top is a meshy material for the wide bib straps, full back panel and the front that comes up a bit higher for extra coverage yet still allows reasonably easy comfort breaks.
There are no ankle zips but the openings are stretchy enough to easily pull over your feet. The hem is silicone lined to keep them in place.
A couple of reflective details help other road users spot you, but a few more wouldn't go amiss.
Construction is first class; they are well made and durability has thus far been excellent, enduring some foul weather and multiple trips through the washing machine. I've used them for off-road riding too, where mud and grit can accelerate the wear process.
Inside the shorts is a BodyFit Pro padded insert. It's not one of the company's really posh pads, but it's nicely cushioned with foam that provides long-distance comfort without an excessively bulky feeling. They are as good on five-hour rides as they are on lunchtime spins.
The price puts them in the same ballpark as the £100 dhb Aeron Rain Defence Bib Tights, though Stu commented that their water-repellent fabric does lead to a rather restrictive fit.
You can certainly spend more: Santini's Giove Bib Tights cost £170 and while there are a few issues – pad size and general sizing – they are comfortable and provide effective water resistance.
If you want to stay warm and dry in most typical winter riding conditions, the Fiandre NoRain Team tights are a good pick. They're affordable and a good investment for winter cycling, looking after you in about 95 per cent of the typical weather that can be reasonably expected in the months ahead. And if/when the weather is really bad, you could consider the Sportful Fiandre NoRain Pro Bib Tights, which feature a double-layer front panel as well as an extra panel over the bum for better protection on really wet days and in cold temperatures.
Top tights for unpredictable weather
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Fiandre NoRain Team Bib Tight
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
"WEATHER-BEATING BIBTIGHT: SIMPLE, RELIABLE WET-WEATHER PROTECTION THAT WILL KEEP YOU WARM AND COMFORTABLE WHATEVER THE WEATHER
"Brushed NoRain Thermal fabric has a proprietary nanotechnology treatment. This new version has stronger bibs that are now black. Highly breathable, this tight will keep you from overheating on dry days, and its water repellency will keep out light rain, wet snow and road spray. In the wettest conditions, it won't soak up water and will keep you warmer."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Sportful lists these details:
NoRain Thermal fabric for warmth and water repellency
Minimal seams to enhance water protection
BodyFit Pro seat pad
Mesh bib straps
Really good for mixed weather at this time of year.
So far so good. I'll update if anything changes on this front.
Fit is good for the most part, but I do find the legs a little long.
Long distance comfort in rain and cold weather is very good.
I think they're a decent price for the performance they deliver. They're a tenner more than the dhb Aeron Rain Defence Bib Tights but Stu reckoned those have a rather restrictive fit, and you could pay £170 for Santini's Giove Bib Tights.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No bother at all – they go in the regular wash cycle with your other kit and dry quickly so you can get more use out of them.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Keep you dry when it rains, and warm when it's cold.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Knowing that whatever the weather, you're wearing the right tights.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing much to really dislike.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Very good tights that deliver great performance and comfort in a wide range of weather conditions.
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.