This year's amateur Ronde van Vlaanderen presented hardly ideal riding conditions with incessant rain, 7°C (45°F) temperatures and a nasty wind – but it did prove to be ideal final testing ground for our Giordana FR-C Lightweight Jacket on top of a seemingly never-ending Colorado late winter.
As it turns out, Giordana's multi-layer Versatect fabric provides superb protection from both wind and water – nary a cold breeze gets through the embedded membrane and even after a full morning of riding through persistently wet conditions, we stayed comfortably dry. Openings at the neck, waist and asymmetrically cut cuffs are suitably tight, too,
That we also stayed dry on the inside is a good testament to the jacket's breathability. Our underlying jersey and arm warmers weren't even remotely damp after tackling several of Belgium's steep, cobbled climbs with the full front zipper fully closed the whole time to help retain warmth.
The road-oriented fit is appropriately snug with just enough room for a long-sleeved jersey but nothing else unless you're especially skinny. Still, Giordana have done a good job of creating a cycling-specific cut and the material is impressively stretchy so that it's all quite comfortable while you're on the hoods or in the drops and there isn't much excess fabric fluttering in the wind.
The slightly dropped tail provides decent protection for your bum, though if you anticipate regularly riding in truly horrific conditions, you might want to consider something a little heavier-duty with more coverage and fully taped seams. Storage is plentiful, with three standard-sized rear pockets plus an additional zippered pocket for valuables.
Thanks to the excellent breathability, we've comfortably worn the FR-C Lightweight Jacket in temperatures upwards of 16°C (61°F) without cooking ourselves and its reasonably compact volume stuffs into a standard jersey pocket with a bit of effort – although this reinforces the notion that it's not all that insulative. It's a great piece for variable spring conditions but unless you can squeeze a few extra layers underneath, it's best to crack out a proper winter jacket if it's really cold.
Commuters will want more reflective fabric, too, but aside from that, the Giordana FR-C Lightweight Jacket is a very good cool-weather shell that should satisfy even the most discerning roadies out there – at least ones with sufficiently deep pockets. You should get good return on your investment as we've been machine washing and drying our test sample almost weekly since mid-January with no signs of wear.