Fiandre range designed to cope with the changeable conditions of Flanders
Just as bikes have become ever more specialist with aerodynamic, super-light, endurance, winter, cyclo-cross, gravel and commuter machines battling for space on the shop floor, almost the opposite has happened in winter clothing.
Sportful’s Fiandre range is named after the Flanders region of Belgium: an area blessed as the spiritual home of cycling but where the weather is often anything but divine in winter, when wind, rain, sleet and snow can often be wrapped up into one ice cold package. It's something which will resonate with UK riders – and it’s for that reason the Italian firm’s Fiandre clothing is so well suited to these shores.
The Fiandre range is designed to cope with those variable conditions typical in northern Europe - not to be heavily insulated but as waterproof as a sponge, or 100 per cent waterproof and as breathable as a bin liner. Instead, clothing which does a bit of everything to protect against conditions and keep the rider comfortable.
And that’s exemplified by a new arrival in Sportful’s Fiandre collection for the winter of 2015/16: the Fiandre Extreme Neoshell Jacket. One winter jacket to do it all? That was Sportful’s aim with the Fiandre Extreme Neoshell and it’s a piece which takes the difficulty out of dressing for winter.
The Fiandre Extreme Neoshell Jacket offers genuinely superb protection against a range of winter weather
The key to the success of the jacket is Sportful’s use of Polartec’s Neoshell fabric. It’s an innovative windproof fabric which offers the same protection from the rain as a hardshell waterproof, but while significantly improving breathability. Sportful worked with Polartec to improve the stretch of the fabric to offer those qualities in a jacket without compromising on a close, race-ready fit which, while it may not suit every body shape and size, is dialled in for the on-bike position.
The jacket offers genuinely superb protection against a range of winter weather. It is genuinely waterproof, with fully-taped seams, but also has the breathability to cope on clear, dry days – more waterproof than a softshell and more breathable than a rain jacket, and capable of coping with temperatures from around 12 degrees down to close to freezing by tweaking the base layer beneath. It’s a genuinely superb jacket.
The Fiandre range has grown significantly in recent years and covers a range of jackets, jerseys, tights and accessories. The Fiandre No-Rain Bib Tights were another new addition for winter 2015/16 and look to offer additional wet weather protection, compared to regular tights.
The legs often get forgotten about when it comes to wet weather gear, with the focus usually on the upper body, hands and feet, but there is some logic behind that: quite simply, it’s near impossible to make a set of waterproof bib tights, given the range of movement required.
- Pricing: Fiandre Extreme Neoshell Jacket - £250
Fiandre No-Rain Bib Tights - £125
Fiandre Glove - £69.99
WS Bootie Reflex - £45
BodyFit Pro Base Layer - £40
- Website: Sportful
Still, there is a middle ground and that’s a position the Fiandre No-Rain Bib Tights attempt to fill, using an extra layer of Sportful’s water-repellent, brushed fleece No-Rain fabric on thighs, knees and back, reducing the number of seams and, therefore, obvious entry points for water, and adding a flap on the rear of the tights, also made from No-Rain fabric, to protect against rear wheel spray.
Of course, the best way to do that is to use mudguards in winter, but the flap does delay water ingress and delay the dread soggy chamois, as well as keeping other muck from working its way into the tights– a smart feature, if not a game-changer. The same goes for water repellency, too, with the No-Rain fabric working to keep out light rain and road spray, and holding back heavier, prolonged downpours. Sportful’s TC Pro pad is also one of the most comfortable we’ve used.
The Fiandre range also includes the Fiandre Glove, which has an OutDry waterproof membrane, fleece lining, and neoprene cuff to provide a triple-pronged defence against cold, wet hands.
Away from the Flanders-inspired collection, the WS Bootie Reflex overshoes are among our favourites, made from a warm, windproof Gore Windstopper 4-Way Warm fabric combined with neoprene panels and a snug fit to help retain plenty of warmth and keep most rain out unless it’s tipping it down.
Finally, completing this ensemble is the BodyFit Pro Base Layer. Sportful's BodyFit range is based on the kit used day in, day out by the Tinkoff-Saxo squad of Alberto Contador and world champion Peter Sagan. This one's for winter riding duties and uses a knit which gives the base layer extra loft, helping to improve insulation while reducing bulk.