It took a number of rides in the Sportful Fiandre No-Rain Light Jacket and No-Rain Bib Tights for it to actually rain. Maybe they’re on to something, I thought.
But cyclists who ride regularly enough in the UK needn’t wait too long to feel pitter-patter of rain on their shoulders and the recent spell of wet weather provided the perfect ‘window of opportunity’, revealing two garments which are very well suited to the British winter.
Sportful Fiandre No-Rain Light Jacket (£135)
Sportful say the Fiandre No-Rain Light has the weight and fit of a jersey, but with the protection of a jacket – and that’s a fair summary. Pull the jacket out of its packaging, slip it on and and it reveals itself as a lightweight piece with a close fit.
That lightness is in part thanks to the Gore Windstopper 4-Way Light fabric used on the chest and the upper sleeves (the fluoro bits in the pictures). The fabric has a three-ply construction, which means it’s water resistant as well as windproof, and there’s a generous amount of stretch so, while the fabric sits close to the skin, it doesn’t feel tight.
Fiandre is the Italian word for Flanders and the jacket is designed for use in the cold and wet winters which fall upon northern Europe every year. Sportful’s No-Rain range uses the Italian firm’s proprietary No-Rain nanotechnology, which uses silicone particles in the fabric to repel water.
The No-Rain fabric is used on the lower arms and back (the black parts). It’s fleece-lined, has a generous amount of stretch and and is warmth without compromising breathability.
That’s all very well and good, but does it keep the rain out? Both the Windstopper and No-Rain parts of the jacket offer an good level of water resistance, with rain initially beading off the surface like it would on, say, a fully waterproof jacket.
And that continues to be the case when riding in the type of light rain showers and drizzle which is so common in the UK, although the No-Rain fabric begins to struggle a little in prolonged, heavy rain when the fabric slowly starts to soak up a little water – but, crucially, it takes a lot of rain to fully penetrate the jacket.
That’s the jacket’s biggest draw; that is has the warm and breathable properties of a regular Roubaix-lined winter jersey, good to use down to around five degrees, with enough water resistance to keep you dry in all but heavy rain, when a fully waterproof jacket would be required anyway. A thicker, warmer version of the No-Rain jacket is available for deep winter conditions and we’ll be testing that with Sportful’s Total Comfort Bib Tights in the new year.
The cut is well thought out and reflect’s Sportful’s pro heritage (they currently sponsor Alberto Contador’s SaxoBank-Tinkoff team), with a fit which is close without feeling restrictive thanks to the stretchy fabrics, although consider ordering up a size if you want a little more room. The arms taper quite dramatically, which can make them feel a little too close if you’re wearing a particularly thick base layer underneath, but that does result in a secure fit on the wrists, with the cuff wrapping itself over the top of your gloves to stop rain or a cold draft disappearing up the sleeve.
Otherwise, the three rear pockets are well sized and come with storm flaps to keep the rain out, but that does mean it’s harder to grab a gel or multi-tool than when riding with open pockets. Other details include a high collar, a full-length waterproof and reflective zip, a reflective tab on the rear, and a silicon gripper which runs around the inside of the hem.
The jacket comes in two colours; the optic yellow pictured and a white/black option. Our high-viz test kit is bang on-trend, with a number of high-end clothing brands going bold and bright for 2013.
All that makes for a piece which is excellent for the British winter, offering an impressive level of protection against light rain and cold temperatures, without the bulk of a softshell jacket or traditional waterproof.
Sportful No-Rain Bib Tights (£90)
While it’s perhaps easier to keep the top half of your body dry, thanks to an ever-growing range of waterproof jackets and, of course, the No-Rain Jacket reviewed above, there are fewer options for your legs.
Sportful have used the No-Rain fabric described above on these bib tights, and they do an excellent job of keeping water out. Once again, water beads right off the surface, kicking away light rain, showers and road spray, and the tights are also impressively breathable, so your legs don’t overheat when riding hard.
The bib tights are fleece-lined, so they’re soft next to the skin and offer plenty of warmth without the restriction of a windproof fabric. Crucially, Sportful have restricted the number of seams, thereby reducing the areas where water may be able to compromise the fabric and improving water resistance.
The fit is superb. While some brands use a number of panels, and a number of seams, to try and achieve the perfect fit, Sportful’s simplistic design follows the contours of the body like few other bib tights I’ve tested before. The BodyFit Pro chamois is also excellent. While quite thin, the pad remained comfortable on long rides and uses a tapered design to put more padding only where it’s needed.
Aesthetics are simple, thanks in part to the seamless design, but also the subtle black-on-black No-Rain logo on the left leg. Otherwise, two reflective tabs, one on each leg, improve low light visibility on what is a superb garment.
The Sportful Fiandre No-Rain Light Jacket and No-Rain Bib Tights offer an excellent level of protection against most conditions your likely to encounter this winter but don’t think they’re only good for when it’s raining – they work just as well in the dry and will get plenty of use as the cold weather continues.