Riding in winter can often be a daunting and unattractive proposition. Getting cold and wet is not particularly fun, so wearing the correct clothing can be the difference between you out clocking up the miles or hiding indoors on the turbo trainer.
There are many manufacturers producing insulating or waterproof clothing for winter, but few combine both these elements successfully into one garment. Sportful hope to buck this trend with their Fiandre Extreme NeoShell Jacket.
Claimed to be fully waterproof, highly breathable and warm, could this be the ultimate winter jacket?
I am of a slight build, so opted for the small size. It is worth noting the jacket comes up rather on the race-fit side, so it may be worth going up a size, should you prefer a more relaxed fit. The sleeves, although not skin tight, were rather snug around the cuffs, this is designed to keep the cold air and water out. The whole Fiandre range has been designed with the help of the Tinkoff Saxo Professional Cycling Team, with fit, functionality and style being the main considerations.
First impressions as I pulled the jacket on was how well made it felt. Careful consideration has been taken on the jacket’s cuffs, hem and pockets. This high-quality finish is a feature I have found in many of Sportful’s garments.
The YKK® Vislon® zipper felt solid and made it easy to pull the jacket on; ready to get out on the road.
On the rear of the jacket, the three pockets were well proportioned, although not cavernous, and made carrying my pump, phone and wallet a simple task.
Riding in autumn and winter means you can often find yourself riding in low light or the dark, especially if you commute. Although not a highly reflective piece of kit, the Fiandre Extreme NeoShell does feature reflective transfers on the back to improve visibility. The jacket is available in an anthracite or a red and anthracite colour scheme, which are both attractive. A nice addition would be a fluo design, but the red and anthracite is more than eye-catching enough to keep you seen on the road.
Leaving at 6am for a ride before work, the temperature was hovering at a rather chilly 6 degrees. Opting to wear just a lightweight short sleeve base layer underneath I was immediately impressed with how warm the jacket felt. The cold headwind was simply being buffered by the jacket’s Polartec® and NeoShell® construction. As well as being windproof, this innovative material is also warm. This material also contributed to the jacket’s exceptional fit, as it has elastic qualities. The waterproof credentials were not put to the test on this ride, but I was sure it would only be a matter of time before I’d be riding in the wet.
Twenty minutes into the ride and I was starting to warm up. With some jackets this would be the time where I would start to overheat. Thankfully with the Fiandre Extreme NeoShell Winter Jacket this was not the case. It felt breathable and no moisture was building up.
Heading further into the countryside the temperature had dropped to 3 degrees and to my surprise the jacket felt even more comfortable at this temperature. Sportful suggest the jacket is for temperatures below 10 degrees and I could not agree more. I think if the temperature dropped below freezing, with a thicker winter base layer, you should have more than enough insulation to keep you warm.
The high collar was a welcome addition, keeping the cold out and as I thundered down a long descent I found the jacket sat perfectly in position on my body, yet heading over one of the many climbs in the Surrey Hills I found the mid-weight material to be light enough not to feel cumbersome.
The next test for the jacket, and not one I was particularly looking forward to, was to test its waterproof credentials. Thankfully in the UK you do not have to wait long to test kit in the rain!
Riding in the cold and the wet always fills me with dread but with the NeoShell’s claims of being ‘fully waterproof’ I was hoping for a comfortable and dry ride.
Put simply Sportful weren’t kidding! The Polartec® and NeoShell® construction provided a great barrier against the rain and the fully taped seams and waterproof YKK® Vislon® zipper both showed no signs of letting moisture in, even after riding for over an hour in a heavy downpour.
If you are only looking to use one jacket this winter, the Sportful Fiandre Extreme NeoShell Jacket is a good garment to choose. It is warm, waterproof, comfortable and stylish. This well made jacket may be on the high-end when it comes to price but it is a great investment if you are looking to ride lots whatever the weather through winter.