Sportful's Fiandre Pro jacket commands a big price but it offers big performance for tackling horrible weather, protecting you from rain and wind well beyond the point other jackets would have succumbed to the elements, wrapped up with fit and comfort that has been refined over the years.
The key to the Fiandre Pro's performance when it's cold and wet is the use of Polartec Neoshell, a fabric Sportful first used in the Fiandre Extreme Neoshell jacket a few years ago, and updated last winter. Neoshell is a fabric that offers the protection of a rain jacket with the breathability and comfort of a softshell.
Neoshell really is very good. It is near-perfect for dealing with the sort of weather the UK is subjected to over the winter, constantly changing and wildly unpredictable. Rain, from drizzle through to thunderstorms, brisk winds, higher temperatures when the sun breaks through the clouds or you're putting in some effort – it tackles it all well. It keeps you dry, and breathes well enough to prevent overheating.
While the fabric is waterproof, not all the jacket's seams are taped. On its website Sportful states 'Fully taped seams for full waterproofing' but this is an error because they're only taped in the key areas susceptible to water ingress, particularly around the shoulders and pockets (and perhaps explains why Sportful scores it 4/5 for waterproofing).
In use I found the jacket more than able to cope with some pretty solid rain, returning home to find I was still completely dry underneath. It's not quite at the level that it replaces a proper hardshell rain jacket if you're heading out in torrential rain, but for intermittent rain the Fiandre Pro really excels. If it's not raining when you set off but there's a risk of a shower or two during your ride, it's ideal; it makes dressing really easy and removes all the worries you have about what to wear.
Even though I thought the breathability of the previous version was superb, the updated Polartec Neoshell fabric and new lining make this latest jacket noticeably better. When you build up some heat and start to get a sweat on, there's no tendency for the jacket to cling to this moisture; you feel noticeably drier.
You can tune the jacket to the conditions by selecting a different baselayer: a lightweight summer base on a warmer day with temperatures in the mid-teens, to a thicker merino base when the temperature is tumbling down to single digits.
The range of temperatures this jacket's suitable for before you feel under or overdressed is is really very good, but be warned that the lack of insulation compared to a softshell jacket does mean it might not offer adequate warmth on very cold days. You'll need to consider layering underneath for warmth on colder days or keeping it for rides where the temperature doesn't get too close to zero – or just keeping the intensity up: it's designed for tempo riding, given its pro race influence.
This third-generation Neoshell jacket has also nailed all of the small issues present in the previous two. The biggest improvement is in the fit – it's wonderfully comfortable with a lightness that makes it feel more like a jersey than a jacket. There's not a hint of restriction anywhere. This is largely down to the updated lining that has saved a heap of weight. The material feels noticeably thinner but there's no shortcoming in the protection it still provides.
Another key measure in getting the fit absolutely dialled is the shaping of the panels around the arms and shoulders and how they all come together, and the decision not to tape these seams which allows the stretch of the fabric to enhance the fit.
Sportful has also designed new cuffs that ensure a tapered fit around the wrist. It's a real success, providing lovely comfort in this area. It's amazing how many bad cuff designs are still out there despite the maturity of the cycle clothing market. The sleeves are also long enough to ensure no unwanted skin exposure and there's good overlap with gloves.
A wide waistband sits flush with the body, and around the back is a generously dropped tail, made from a lightweight stretchy material with two big stripes of silicone tape so it sits close to the body to protect your bum from road spray and stays in place.
This same material has also been used in the neck, inside the tall collar, to act as a sort of seal. It makes a big difference on cold rides, stopping cold air sneaking down the top of the jacket.
Three pockets take care of carrying the essentials you need on a typical ride. The two outer pockets are made from a mesh fabric to let water escape, and the middle pocket expands to hold bulkier items. I could add my usual complaint about the lack of a zipped pocket, but Sportful isn't alone here. I just like having my house keys locked away securely!
You get a reflective 'S' on the middle pocket but other than that, reflective details are few and far between – some more wouldn't be a bad thing.
Really, I'm finding it hard to find fault with the Fiandre Pro. Fully taped seams would perhaps be an improvement, though you might lose some stretch, and a zipped pocket would be good, as would some more reflectives. There's no longer the bright yellow colour option of last year, but I think the new colours are stylish.
It's an expensive jacket, which could be another criticism, but when you compare it with what else is out there I wouldn't say it's overpriced.
You can certainly spend less – the dhb Aeron Rain Defence Polartec Jacket is £130, for example, but it's made from Power Shell Pro which isn't waterproof like Polartec Neoshell, only water-resistant.
The dhb Aeron LAB All Winter Polartec Jacket is £180 and does use Polartec Neoshell, but only on the front, shoulders and outer arms, with a Power Shield Pro water-resistant fabric everywhere else.
It's £20 more than Castelli's Perfetto ROS Long Sleeve Jersey, which looks a natural rival for waterproofing, but I haven't tested it yet so can't comment on how it performs.
Overall, I'd say the Fiandre Pro is an improvement on the previous model, which was already very good, and ideal for meeting the tricky demands of autumn and winter cycling.
A top performing jacket for wet and windy weather
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Fiandre Pro Jacket
Size tested: Medium
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?
THE NEW GENERATION OF WEATHER-PROTECTIVE CLOTHING
IT'S THE SAME JACKET OUR BEST PRO RIDERS WEAR IN THEIR COLD AND WET RACES.
For a pro, weather conditions are no excuse. We developed and updated a jacket that fulfills every request from our teams. The same jacket is available to you, with no difference.The water and wind protection is outstanding, and Polartec® NeoShell® gives you high breathability at the same time, with a fit designed to match the rider's position on the bike.When you prepare for the worst, you need to expect the best.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Sportful lists these features:
Polartec® NeoShell® is windproof, waterproof, highly breathable and stretchy
Strategically placed seams optimize fit and feel on the bike while reducing exposure to elements
Fully taped seams for full waterproofing
Waterproof YKK® Vislon® zipper
Reflective transfers on back
3 external rear pockets
Construction is very good.
Performance is fantastic when dealing with changeable weather.
It's early days but so far it's proving very durable.
Neoshell is a waterproof fabric so it keeps you dry when it's raining, but the seams are only taped in key places to keep out the rain.
This is where the Neoshell fabric really excels, it keeps out rain but prevents overheating from moisture buildup.
Fit is nigh-on perfect.
Sizing for me is fine, but you might want to check because they often run a bit smaller so you may need to size up.
It doesn't weigh very much and feels light on your body.
It's really very comfortable indeed.
It's expensive, but it's big on performance and versatile for a wide range of conditions. There are cheaper rivals but they don't all have quite the same waterproofing.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problem at all, it goes through a regular wash just fine.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Deals with any sort of weather, and makings dressing for a ride easy.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Fit and comfort and deals with all sorts of weather.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Not a huge amount of insulation, and light on reflective details.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The dhb Aeron Rain Defence Polartec Jacket is £130, but it's made from Power Shell Pro which isn't waterproof like Polartec Neoshell, only water resistant, so that explains the difference in price.
The dhb Aeron LAB All Winter Polartec Jacket is £180 and does use Polartec Neoshell but only on the front, shoulders and outer arms, with a Power Shield Pro water resistant fabric everywhere else.
The £190 Castelli Perfetto ROS Long Sleeve Jersey sounds a natural rival for waterproofing but I haven't tested it. There's also the Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Shadow jacket at £200.
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
An excellent jacket for dealing with unpredictable wet and windy weather with great fit, comfort and some quality details.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.