This short-sleeved version of Sportful's Fiandre Pro Jacket uses the same excellent material as its full armed brother and brings with it even more three-season versatility by giving you the option to wear arm warmers or not. It's a fair chunk of money, but take its performance into account and it's well justified.
Pros: NeoShell fabric is great at stopping wind and rain; well cut for fast riding
Cons: No zipped valuables pocket; high price
David Arthur recently tested the long sleeved version of the Fiandre Pro Jacket and was very impressed, reckoning it's the best version yet. While I haven't worn any of the previous iterations, I totally agree with him that these are impressive jackets.
The majority of the Fiandre Pro on test is constructed from Polartec's NeoShell fabric, which is waterproof and windproof but has the supple finish of a softshell, which makes it more comfortable to wear than a hardshell rain jacket.
If you are out in the rain, water just beads off the surface, and thanks to its 10,000mm hydrostatic head rating (meaning it could hold a 10,000mm-tall column of water before it would leak through the weave), it will resist heavy showers and prolonged rain for hours before it is finally breached.
Technically, the Fiandre Pro isn't fully waterproof because not all the seams are taped on the inside – those running down the sides from under the arms, for instance – but to be honest it makes little difference as they tend not to be taking the full assault of the rain as you are riding into it.
The main seams are taped over the shoulders, which take the brunt of the weather, as are the seams between the pockets where road spray could otherwise get through.
Being waterproof can mean sacrificing breathability, but Polartec has taken care of that by way of its sub-micron membrane structure at the core of the NeoShell fabric. Tiny little holes or pores allow heat and moisture to be released without high pressure build-up, according to Polartec, and it really does work.
I tend to run pretty warm and only ever wear two layers unless it is sub-zero, so pairing the Sportful with whichever baselayer I deemed necessary for the conditions saw me remain dry and fresh. On a few occasions like when climbing hard you can build up a bit of a sweat, but it never gets uncomfortable, and once you back the pace off a bit you soon dry out.
Being such a thin fabric there isn't a huge amount of insulation, but that is only really an issue if you get cold in the first place. The windproof qualities of NeoShell mean that all the while you are riding and working you remain warm; it was only if I was stopped at the side of the road fixing a mechanical or whatever that I begin to get a bit chilly.
The Neoshell works well across a range of temperatures and having short sleeves makes it even more versatile for three-season use.
With a summer baselayer beneath, I was comfortable up to about the mid-teens, and it was ideal to wear on those days when showers or rain were forecast – so much better than having to go for a jersey and rain jacket over the top.
Dropping into single figures I'd go for a thicker baselayer and pair it with some arm warmers, ideally some with rain shedding properties like Sportful's NoRain or the Lusso Repel Corsa option that I was using to match the properties of the jacket.
With this setup I was easily comfortable down to about -3°C on a foggy early morning ride.
When it comes to fit and sizing the Fiandre Pro is definitely aimed at those who like to ride fast. It's shaped to fit close, with no excess fabric flapping about, and is much more comfortable on the bike than when off it.
It does come up a little small compared to other brands, but it fits with what Sportful's size chart suggests, so it's worth checking that out first. I'm a medium in most clothing and although the Fiandre fitted me it was a little more snug than I like to wear; going up to the recommended large would give just that little bit of extra room.
The tail is dropped much longer than normal to give plenty of lower back and rear coverage against road spray. The material has two vertical silicone strips in line with the pocket seams which keep the jacket in place even when you're in the drops.
The neck is tall and also has an inner close-fitting liner that provides a good shield against cold draughts whipping down inside.
The zip is quite a chunky affair, but that makes it easy to undo with bulky winter gloves on.
Round the back you'll find three pockets in a traditional layout. The two outside ones are made from a firm mesh to stop water collecting in them, while the central one is made from NeoShell. It is also stitched in a way that it actually has a flat bottom should you put bulky items in there – a neat touch.
I would like a zipped pocket, though. Nearly every other jacket and jersey has them these days, and I've got used to storing my keys and debit card securely.
Overall quality is very high – which it needs to be at £190 for a short-sleeved jacket. The finish throughout is spot on, with al lthe differing panels and fabrics being stitched together neatly and without stray thread ends which can really cheapen the look of a piece of clothing.
Competition-wise, there are some decent options out there, most notably the Castelli Gabba. We haven't tested the Gabba since its second generation, but last year Ash did test the Perfetto, a third generation of the Gabba with long sleeves.
The Gabba RoS is the fourth generation and has a change of fabric to Gore's Gore-Tex Infinium, a water-resistant and windproof fabric (as used in the Gore Thermo, tested by Dave). The Gabba will set you back £170.
I've used this fabric in many pieces of clothing and while it is very good, it can't compete with the waterproofing of the Sportful. The Fiandre has that excellent breathability as well, so the extra £15 is well spent if you ask me.
> Buyer's Guide: 11 wet weather racing jerseys
Another contender is the Lusso Repel Corsa Jersey V2 which, when I tested it, offered very good waterproofing and breathability; it still does now, to be honest, and is a staple of my autumn to spring wardrobe. It can't compete on performance with the Sportful, though, the Fiandre Pro has taken the level up a notch, but it is now just £99.99. If you can't quite stretch to the price of the Sportful and you're happy with 90 per cent of the performance, the Lusso is a viable option.
On the whole, the Sportful Fiandre Pro Short-Sleeve jacket really is a brilliant investment if you like to get out there whatever the weather. It's a big initial outlay, but you will get so much use out of it that the cost per mile will more than make up for it.
Excellent jacket in all kinds of rubbish weather and hugely versatile too
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Make and model: Sportful Fiandre Pro Jacket Short Sleeve
Tell us what the jacket is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Sportful says, "SHORT SLEEVES FOR YOUR PRO-LEVEL JACKET
"Pro-level protection against the elements is also available in a short-sleeve version.|This piece is more versatile than any other Fiandre Pro jacket, with no compromises in performance or protection. That's exactly why our pro riders love this jacket so much."
It is very good at dealing with the elements, and the short sleeves mean it is very versatile.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Polartec® NeoShell® is windproof, waterproof, highly breathable and stretchy
Strategically placed seams optimize fit and feel on the bike while reducing exposure to the elements
Fully taped seams for full waterproofing
Waterproof YKK® Vislon® zipper
Reflective transfers on back
3 external rear pockets
Rate the jacket for quality of construction:
Rate the jacket for performance:
Rate the jacket for durability:
Rate the jacket for waterproofing based on the manufacturer's rating:
Rate the jacket for breathability based on the manufacturer's rating:
Rate the jacket for fit:
Rate the jacket for sizing:
The sizing is a little smaller than most brands, like for like, but it does correspond with Sportful's size chart.
Rate the jacket for weight:
Rate the jacket for comfort:
Rate the jacket for value:
It is pricier than most, but it does deliver. Castelli's Gabba is very good but even with its fabric upgrade it can't compete on waterproofing. The Lusso Repel is nearly half the price, though, and offers decent performance for the money.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Even with such a technical fabric there are no different washing instructions compared to most other cycling kit, so I had no issues at all.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's great for riding in a range of weather conditions and temperatures.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Great waterproofing versus breathability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
No zipped valuables pocket.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's brilliant at standing up to the elements, and while there are cheaper options they don't deliver the level of waterproofing that you get here.
Age: 41 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
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