Superb bib tights for winter, whether it's wet or dry
Regular readers will be familiar with Sportful’s Fiandre range – weatherproof kit inspired by the changeable conditions of Flanders (Fiandre is the Italian translation). I’ve ridden some of the Fiandre kit before and have been impressed so was looking forward to testing these Fiandre NoRain bib tights – and they lived up to every expectation, with only one minor issue.
There are two sets of tights in the Fiandre range: the more affordable Fiandre NoRain Team bib tights, which come in at £90, and the £120 Fiandre NoRain tights we have here, which step up the protection and, subsequently, the price.
The tights are made from the same water repellent, brushed back NoRain fabric as the cheaper tights, but add another layer of the material over the knees, thighs and back, for added warmth and protection in heavy weather.
While the Fiandre range is designed for changeable conditions, before we go any further it’s also worth noting here that these tights work really well in dry weather and are surprisingly breathable – as one ride that started at one degree and ended at 15 degrees showed. That said, the tights are best for cold conditions, with anything up to ten degree the sweet spot – above that and you will start to get very warm.
Sportful have ensured there are minimal seams across the whole tight, reducing any potential areas of weakness where moisture could creep in (seams are generally the initial point of entry for water). The NoRain fabric has had a nanotech water repellent finish applied, which helps water bead off, and the material is also both windproof and warm, thanks to the brushed fleece interior.
Testing consisted of both cold and dry rides, as well as rides in heavy, prolonged rain, with a lot of road spray, and I was warm and comfortable throughout – even when out on the road for up to four hours. The NoRain fabric isn’t waterproof – Sportful don’t claim it is – but the tights form an effective barrier against the elements, particularly compared to regular tights. Water beads up on the surface of the material and takes some time to penetrate the fabric – when it does get in, the tights do a good job at locking warmth in and the added windproofing is particularly welcome.
We’ve always been impressed by Sportful’s pads and that continues here with the TCPro (Total Comfort) chamois – it’s super-comfortable. The chamois shares a similar design to Sportful’s plush TotalComfort chamois but isn’t as thick, and instead aimed at ‘long rides by trained cyclists’.
The upper section of the tights, including the bib straps, are made from a mesh fabric, which breathes well. The straps themselves are well-shaped and sit comfortably over the shoulders. In fact, the overall fit is excellent. I found there to be little to no bunching on the back of the knees, and for a fairly thick fabric there is plenty of stretch and a great range of movement.
The overall construction is also solid and where there are seams they are well stitched, with no signs of wear to date. I like the zipper closure on the ankles as they provide a secure fit, and the NoRain fabric ensures there’s a good level of protection in conjunction with winter shoes or overshoes. It’s details like this that make a ride in bad weather bearable, if not enjoyable, as it keeps cold and moisture at bay for longer.
As well as additional NoRain fabric on the thighs and knees, the more expensive Fiandre tights have a flap of NoRain fabric which hangs directly where you’d by hit by spray from the rear wheel. It’s reasonably effective in keeping water out, staving off a soggy chamois longer than normal tights if not riding with mudguards, but it’s also the source of my only issue with the tights.
When seated and moving to stand up out of the saddle, the flap, which is open at the bottom but stitched onto the tights at the top, left and right, can occasionally hook on the back of some saddles. By leaving the bottom of the flap unstitched it helps ensure freedom of movement isn’t affected by the extra material and prevents a pocket of water potential building up, but the elasticated and hemmed seam could do with having a slight curve to it, rather than running straight across, as I think this might resolve things. It’s not a huge issue – and may not be an issue at all for some riders and saddles – but one I occasionally had to remind myself about when riding.
The Sportful Fiandre NoRain bib tights are absolutely brilliant for cold, wet riding. Don’t expect the tights to be waterproof but the additional warmth and water resistance provided by the double-layer NoRain fabric provides reliable protection, and other than the issue with the spray flap, which I can live with, these are perfect winter tights for winter riding.
Exceptionally warm in cold conditions
Effective water resistance
Excellent fit; very comfortable
Issues with rear spray flap hooking on some saddles
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