Providing incredible protection against the wind, cold and rain, and with a new visibility boosting black and yellow colour option, Sportful's Fiandre Jacket is right up there with the best.
Sportful NoRain's clothing range, which use a proprietary fabric with a water repellent technology, features two jackets. The Fiandre Norain Jacket here is intended for the most motivationally-sapping weather conditions, and is more feature packed and insulating than the Fiandre Light.
Fiandre is Italian for Flanders. Though an Italian company, Sportful's have designed this jacket to withstand the cold winds and harsh rain that whip across the Belgian region through the winter months. The weather can get really bad in Belgium. It gets cold. It gets wet. Sounds a bit like the UK doesn't it?
It's a jacket, but one of the new breed of fitted race cut softshells that in use looks more like a winter jersey albeit a waterproof (although it will eventually give in in the most extreme conditions) and breathable one. You can though get two other layers underneath - it never got cold enough for me to want to wear more than a long sleeves baselayer with it.
Two varieties of Gore's Windstopper material are used in the construction, all treated with Sportful's water repellent finish. A fleece lined 4-Way Warm type is used in the front panels, around the neck and along the outer half of the arms. A lighter, more breathable 4-Way Light is used everywhere else. It's all then given an extra 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 new yellow colour option - white is also available - is bang on trend and should help you stand out on the roads. Visibility is further increased with thick reflective cuffs and reflective panels on the sides of the waistband. The reflective cuffs are a smart idea - when you're signalling a change of direction - except they get covered up with bigger winter gloves so lose their effectiveness.
Around the back it gets interesting. Instead of three pockets, there's one single large pocket - like a jacket rather than a jersey. It's of a smaller capacity overall than three regular pockets, but the waterproof zipper does mean anything you put in there will still be dry when you get home. Some of the other softshells available from the likes of Castelli and Mavic go with the jersey setup of three rear pockets - which personally I prefer particularly as I didn't bother with a jersey when using it. If you're a bit particular about how you load your three pockets (it's not just me is it?) then having everything jumbled together isn't ideal. It's also not so easy to reach for some food on longer rides as well. And another thing, because the pocket is mesh lined I found that sweat from a base layer could cause whatever is in there to get a little damp.
Below the pocket is a fold-down storm flap. Three popper buttons secure it out of the way when you don't need it. It's only 4-5in but makes a small difference when it's pouring with rain. With mudguards on your bike you're not going to really need it.
Other details worth mention including the tall collar. It reaches a bit higher around the back, and is completely fleece-lined.
I've been wearing this jacket now for a couple of months and have gone out of my way to ride in the rain, to really test it. Thankfully, its ability to keep the rain out is very impressive. Water visibly beads off the fabric, and for rides with frequent but short outbreaks of rain it manages just fine. The beauty of this is you don't need to stop and get your waterproof jacket on for just a short period of rain.
What it isn't is a fully waterproof jacket though, and has its limit. I found it on one 3.5 hour ride. The rain was heavy and sustained throughout and eventually the fabric in the arms was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of water. I didn't get soaked, but the long sleeve base layer underneath was showing the signs of water penetration when I got home.
It's far better than many other jackets, and when there's the chance of rain on a ride, I'll reach for the Sportful. It's breathability is sufficient that there's no problem wearing it even when there isn't the chance of rain. It's equally good in dry and windy weather.
Everything about this jacket marks it out as seriously top performer. I always find it a challenge to get cycle clothing that fits, there's so much discrepancy of sizing from brand to brand. Sportful is one of the few brands that fit my skinny frame perfectly. It's on the small size, it really is true to its Italian roots, so I can't stress enough the importance of trying it on before you part with your money.
My only gripe is the issue of keeping it clean. I've done a few rides that resulted in the arms being covered in mud and grime. Following the care instructions to machine wash cold left the arms stained. Two 30 degree washing cycles later and a dash of stain removal spray got the arms looking clean again. Not sure how long the white version would stay looking white on mucky British witner roads, or Belgian ones for that matter. So far washing it at 30 degrees hasn't impaired its performance as the jackets extra waterproofness is provided by that Norain coating there has got to be a chance that it will wear off over time however you wash it, but so far so it's given no indication of any reduction in its water repelling powers.
Pair with the Sportful NoRain Bibtights for a really capable winter riding combination.
A jacket designed by the Italians for Flandrian weather that excels in the British winter.
The Sportful Fiandre Norain is a technical marvel and its ability to shrug of the worst weather makes it my favourite winter jacket even with the cleaning and pocket gripes
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Make and model: Sportful Fiandre Norain Jacket
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product 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?
The Fiandre reaches new levels of wind protection and insulation coupled with breathability and stretch thanks to 2 new windstopper fabrics: 4-Way Warm and 4-Way light.
Waterproof YKK zips, an extra long snap-away tail and sportful's silicone treated No-Rain lycra fabric on the back make this the perfect jacket for serious training in the cold, wind and rain.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Windstopper® thermal stretch fabric protects the front, sleeves and lower back
Back in NoRain for water repellency without overheating
Extra long tail snaps away when not needed
Waterproof YKK® Vislon zippers on front and rear pocket
High collar with flap to prevent rain from entering
It's built to survive harsh weather and hard riding
Fantastic insulation and protection from the wind and rain.
The only area of concern is keeping the yellow clean. I had to wash the jacket several times after a ride that left the arms caked in mud
It feels more like a long sleeve jersey than a bulky jacket
The fit makes it a very comfortable jacket, and even a fully loaded pocket doesn't cause the back to sag down
You get a lot for your money - there's jackets costing £100 more that I don't think are all that much better
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed in the worst British weather very well
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The well designed features, the fit and the NoRain technology
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Keeping it clean. The pocket is limiting and I'm not sure about the storm flap really
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
If it was easier to keep the yellow clean and had better pockets, I'd be tempted to give it a top score
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
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, mtb,
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.