There’s been something of a shift in the way clothing manufacturers approach winter kit, thanks to the development of wind and water resistant fabrics which offer protection from dank and unpredictable weather, without succumbing to ‘boil in the bag’ effect associated with some winter jackets.
Sportful have been at the forefront of that move, along with the likes of sister-company Castelli, and the Italian firm expanded the Fiandre range of kit for the winter of 2014-15. Fiandre is Italian for Flanders and, as a result, it’s clothing designed for the cool, damp and windy conditions of Belgium. It’s ideal for the UK, too.
We covered the full Fiandre range from the launch but, in short, it’s made up of a jacket, a jersey and a ‘top’ (a bit like a gilet with long sleeves), alongside bib tights and bib shorts. What we have here is the Sportful Fiandre Light Wind Jersey, a piece which combines a water resistant and windproof Gore Windstopper 4-Way Light fabric on the front with Sportful’s NoRain water repellent fabric on the back.
It’s a top-notch combination which ensures the Fiandre Light Wind Jersey offers more protection from the wind and rain than a typical winter jersey with an open-weave fabric. It’s not a jersey for riding in heavy rain, but when there’s drizzle in the air, or an unexpected shower, both fabrics do a good job at keeping light rain out for a time, depending on the intensity of the rain – around an hour of riding in light but persistent rain by our reckoning, by which time it will start to soak through, so this is a jersey at it’s best in changeable, on-off weather.
If you look at the window before you head out on a ride and it’s bucketing down outside, then you’re not necessarily going to pull on this jersey – least not on its own, without an outer shell – but on those days when it’s a little bit damp, a little bit chilly, a little bit windy and a little bit sunny (which, let’s face it, just about sums the UK winter up in a nutshell) then the Fiandre Light Wind Jersey is likely to become one of your go-to pieces of kit and, in reality, it sits somewhere between a jersey and a jacket.
The Gore Windstopper 4-Way Light fabric (the blue sections on our test jersey) is unlined, but, while the material is pretty light, it does its job at keeping the wind out, without the bulk of a heavier fabric. The No-Rain fabric (the black sections) has a light fleece lining, which provides a bit of extra warmth to those areas not directly facing the wind (namely your back and the rear of the arms). That’s a combination which works well with a long sleeve base layer down to temperatures of around five degrees (that number may be a little higher or lower for you) providing you’re riding at a decent lick, while, at the other end of the scale, we’ve worn it into temperatures approaching the mid-teens with a short sleeve base layer.
It’s not outright the warmest winter jersey you’ll find but it offers an impressive temperature range which will cover a lot of occasions, save for the very coldest days. The Sportful Fiandre Light Windstopper Jacket, which sits at the top of the Fiandre range at £165, uses a Windstopper fabric on both the front and rear of the jacket (and the No-Rain fabric on the shoulders and arms), and so offers a little more protection as an outer layer or shell in really cold conditions. Back to this jersey, though, and when it is Baltic out then it will work just as well as a mid-layer, such is the close fit and level of breathability.
Speaking of which; what’s most impressive about the Sportful Fiandre Light Wind Jersey is that it offers that weatherproof protection, in terms of insulation and water resistance, without impacting on breathability. It is an exceptionally breathable jersey and one which does a great job at regulating body temperature, whether ticking along in the wheels on a club run, going into the red on a climb, or tucked into the drops on the subsequent descent.
Sportful is a company with a long racing heritage, and current clothing supplier to Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan’s Tinkoff-Saxo team, and that shines through with the cut. It’s a performance-focused fit, with a close and aero fit. Crucially, however, it’s close in all the right places, with slim arms and no tightness or bunching around the torso, providing, of course, you get the size right. The elasticated cuffs provide a close fit on the wrist and fit snugly over gloves, while the collar is high and well proportioned to ensure you can pull the full-length zip to the top without choking yourself. All in all, the cut is excellent and ensures the jersey goes about its business without causing any fuss or discomfort.
Other details include three well-sized rear pockets, which maintain their shape well when loaded with winter riding essentials, and there’s also a zipped pocket for valuables. That’s nothing new but Sportful have placed the generously-proportioned zipped pocket on the left hip, rather than at the back with the other pockets, and that’s a clever touch as it makes it easier to access those fiddly items (keys, coins and the like) which can be a bit of a fumble to otherwise get to. There are also two small bits of reflective piping on either side of the rear pockets, but that’s it as far as reflectivity goes, so there could be a little more if it were kept discreet. Finally, the jersey is available in three colours, with black and high-viz yellow options besides the blue of our test kit, which we think looks great.
The Sportful Fiandre Light Wind Jersey is a first-class piece which is hard to fault, striking a superb balance of insulation, breathability and fit, while retaining the low weight and comfort of a jersey and offering added water resistance for the iffy British climate.