Italian company Sportful’s Fiandre clothing is designed for the cold and rain of winter riding, and the range has been expanding over the years. This time last year we flew to Belgium to try out some of its clothing on the cobbles around Oudenaarde, and last week flew to Italy to try out the latest additions to the Fiandre range on the roads around Lake Como, following a day of spectating at the Lombardia pro race.
The Fiandre range is Sportful’s attempt at providing clothing that will keep you warm on cold days and dry when it’s raining, without compromising fit and performance. You might think the Italians don’t have to worry about bad weather, but in actual fact Fonzaso, where Sportful is based, in the heart of the Dolomites, means they get their fair share of grubby weather. That means they face similar challenges to British cyclists, of trying to deal with unpredictable weather that can throw all sorts of challenges your way.
What Sportful strives to offer is clothing that offers the right level of protection from the elements while still allowing a good deal of breathability and fit, so you don’t overheat or feel restrictive. It has rolled out its NoRain water repellant technology to an increasing number of garments, and there’s now more choice so you can pick the right product for your particular requirements.
Flexibility has been one of the most appealing benefits of the Fiandre garments that we’ve tested so far. It provides a good level of rain protection to keep you dry if you’re caught in a sudden and unexpected downpour and makes dressing for those days when the weather clearly can’t make up its mind. It’s not just about keeping you dry either, insulation and wind protection is also a key component of the Fiandre approach.
All of the Fiandre clothing has been developed from feedback from the racers with the Tinkoff-Saxo professional cycling team. Many of the garments are a direct response to their requirements when racing in horrible weather, and the clothing is race tested before being released to the public. So all of these garments have been tested in actual races, and we witnessed that much at Lombardia.
So what has Sportful released for this winter then? There are three four key new garments we were shown in Italy, the Fiandre Extreme Neoshell jacket, Fiandre No-Rain Bib Tights, Fiandre Light Short Sleeve top and Fiandre Gloves.
The new Fiandre Extreme Neoshell is a feature-packed jacket that looks like a serious investment for any cyclist looking for the ultimate all-weather protection jacket. It’s constructed from Polartec Neoshell fabric, and Sportful has worked with the fabric technology company to adapt this material for cycling.
Neoshell is the latest fabric from Polartec. A few outdoor clothing brands have been using it already, and Sugoi used it in a jacket last winter, but Sportful has worked with Polartec to adapt the fabric for its requirements, the main change being extra stretch. It's exclusive to Sportful so you won't find anyone else using it.
And just what is Neoshell all about? Well, it’s claimed to be able to provide the rain protection of a waterproof hardshell jacket, but the warmth and breathability of a softshell. The fabric actually allows a small amount of air to pass through from the outside, which provides the necessary breathability you need when cycling.
It is put together with taped seams everywhere and is intended to be fully waterproof, providing the protection of a traditional hardshell jacket, but with the insulation and breathability to work well on dry and cold days. The idea is that it’s a jacket that’ll work well in the dry and rain. If it lives up to those claims, it could make dressing for winter rides quite a bit easier.
Sportful tell us it’s designed to be worn with just a single base layer and it’ll still keep you warm. The company has worked really hard on the fit to ensure it’s not restrictive, because although the fabric has a bit of stretch, it isn’t what you’d describe as stretchy.
You can choose from a regular long sleeve version (pictured) or a short sleeve version, which is supplied with arm warmers, for a potentially more flexible setup.
Sportful has attempted to add its NoRain technology to bib tights with varying levels of success over the years, and these are the latest version. What Sportful has done is simply a second layer of NoRain material over the top of the knee and up the side of the leg, so it shouldn’t prove restrictive when pedalling.
Perhaps the most ingenious addition is the extra flap of NoRain material over the bum. It’s there to provide extra protection from rear wheel spray. It’ll be interesting to see how that works in the rain. All other features carry over from other Sportful bib tights including the TC Pro padded insert and generous reflective details.
A gilet (or vest) is a really good extra layer for riding through the autumn and winter, providing an extra layer of defence against the cold and wind, and can be easily stashed in a jersey pocket when not needed.
The Fiandre Light Short Sleeve top is basically a souped-up gilet, offering more protection than a gilet but less than a jacket. I quite often use gilets for an entire ride, never warming up enough to take it off, and the Fiandre Light Short Sleeve top looks ideal for that sort of riding.
Windshield 3L front-facing material keeps the wind out and NoRain Light back panels keep the rain out and your back protected from rear wheel spray. Rather than add any pockets, there’s a large zipped access port on the back so you can get to the contents of the jersey pockets being worn underneath. It’s light, a claimed weight of 160g, and comes in three colours (black, red and yellow) and loads of sizes.
Lastly, there’s the new Fiandre Glove, and this is the product I’m most looking forward to testing. I really struggle with poor circulation and there’s nothing much worse than cold hands to ruin a bicycle ride.
Sportful has used OutDry technology, with a waterproof membrane bonded directly to the outer shell of the glove. That should stop the gloves getting all soggy and there’s a fleece lining to provide insulation. The palm has a generous silicone gripper material to aid grip on the handlebars in adverse conditions, and neoprene cuffs help to provide a tight seal around the wrist.
All of these products are available now and you can find out more at www.sportful.com
Photos by Augustus Farmer
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.