The Altura Women's Classic Thermal Bib Tights offer great protection from cold winds and low temperatures without compromising on breathability or comfort. However, despite the attractive price tag, the unusual fastening system will be a bit of a drawback for some, being rather faffy.
These thermal tights have been appreciated in recent weeks as we've seen the temperatures dip, with their soft, brushed inner. The material isn't thick, and there is no excessive tightness or clinging – don't expect to sense any compression with them. They do move well with the body, though, offering a really comfortable ride.
The Stealth chamois adds to the comfort, with the main bulk of padding being positioned just where you want it – support for the delicate areas and sit bones. It tapers out at the edges, with no sense of it being oversized or stiff.
The wide, stretchy bands at the leg ends hold their position fairly well but aren't the easiest to get over your foot. The material doggedly grips to the heel and its width means you have to prise it over and then adjust it to the position you want. A minor inconvenience, but annoying if you happen to be in a rush to get out of the door. It's worth noting that there is no silicone here, the elastic does the holding job on its own.
The upper mesh body is a form that I have never seen before, and I was sceptical – it looks a bit odd and unnecessarily complicated. It's actually really comfy. The shoulder straps are seriously stretchy and the whole setup is completely unnoticeable once on. Sadly, there's a 'but'. Not only does it look like a bra setup from the front, it actually is one at the rear, with clasps that slot into each other and click flat. This is all personal preference, and you might get on fine with it, but it really didn't suit me.
While I am happy to unclip a bra at the rear, I have never been one to fasten up at the back – I use the fasten-at-the-front-then-spin-it-round technique, so it's taken me a while to get used to the Altura's setup. I've certainly got better at it – and my flexibility has probably improved in the process! – but trying to deal with it on a pee stop is really inconvenient. In fact, there were occasions when I simply gave up trying to engage the clasps and rode on with them unfastened. I was aware it was undone, but the straps didn't slip down.
Also, while the system is comfortable enough, I didn't feel that there was any added 'support' from it. Personally, I'd rather rely on a sports bra for support and would never look to a bib to provide it.
I've used the tights for a variety of rides, from short commutes to 90-minute recovery rides and 4+ hour training rides. I have never once overheated, so I can't knock them for breathability, but when I ventured out for an early commute in 2°C I didn't feel cosy warm. Granted, I'm not exactly racing to work, but if you feel the cold or don't tend to work up a sweat on your spins, I'd say they have a lower limit of about 2-3°C. They certainly don't match Gore's C3 Thermo Bib Tights for leg protection in extreme temperatures.
Aside from the clasp, the bib design has some good features in terms of performance. The mesh helps with breathability around the torso – I didn't sense a build-up of heat here, which can happen with 'solid' fabric bibs. And the clasp setup does allow for a lower than normal cut at the back, so no excessive build-up of sweat/dampness there either (unlike whichever tights Tass wore to work before modelling these!).
The tights have absolutely no water repellency – even a light bit of road spray is straight through to the skin – but the thin fabric does mean they don't feel too weighty if you are caught in a downpour, and they don't take long to dry out.
Reflective detailing is minimal – they're black all over, apart from reflective ankles. Every little helps… although be aware that they might get covered up by overshoes.
The pad hasn't lost any of its support throughout the test period. It's great for long hours in the saddle. The bib setup would be too – it's very comfortable – except that a long ride invariably means a pee stop or two. Cue faff.
With the weather as it has been recently, the tights have really faced some grim conditions. They have washed well after every ride and are showing no signs of wear, even at the ankle where they've had a variety of overshoes dragged over and fastened against them. I'd say they are pretty sturdy. I have stopped short of falling off in them, but brushing against rough surfaces doesn't seem to affect them.
Many branded tights are going to set you back somewhere in the region of £100, so Altura's £75 price tag doesn't seem so steep, especially given that they do a decent job. I'd say their performance is comparable to Sportful's Luna Tight that I tested a couple of winters ago, but those aren't readily available now.
You can certainly still get cheaper: dhb offers several tights around the £50 mark, though I can't comment on performance.
If you're happy to spend more, and are looking for guaranteed protection against extreme cold and light rain, I'd say Gore's C3, mentioned above, are a brilliant investment at £100. And Ashia really rated Rapha's Core Winter Tights last year, which have come down a tenner since testing and are now £110.
The Altura Thermal Bib Tights are really comfortable, even for longer rides, and perform brilliantly where breathability and protection from the cold are concerned. The rather awkward bib-fastening setup is likely to put some women off, though, especially if they appreciate swift, hassle-free pee stops, or are simply averse to fastening a bra at the rear.
Great performance and comfort if you can cope with a rear bra-style fastening system... not so pee-stop-friendly though
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Women's Classic Thermal Bib Tights
Size tested: 12
Tell us what the product is for
Altura tells us that the Classic Thermal Bib Tights are: "Designed with thermal properties to keep you warm in the winter and cool on warmer rides"
And goes on:
"The Altura Classic Thermal Bib Tights is a women's specific winter weight bib tight designed to keep you warm in the colder months, while its breathability prevents overheating. A supportive closed mesh bib section has a low profile over shoulder design for support without pressure. The new Altura Stealth pad has been incorporated for day long comfort."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Altura lists these features:
*Altura Stealth chamois pad
*Low profile over shoulder elasticated bib
*Wrap across soft mesh front bib
*Rear closure clasp
*Thermal properties help to keep you warm in colder months
*Soft mesh wrap across bib section with closure clasp for comfort and breathability
*Women's specific design
Well made, no weak spots noted.
Do exactly what they promise: decent warmth without compromising on breathability.
Well proportioned all over.
Spot on for my normal medium. Stay true to size.
Pretty light for winter tights.
There are cheaper ones out there, but you can also pay significantly more. They're affordable, and you do get excellent performance and comfort, though I'm no fan of the bib-system, which seems unnecessarily complicated. Still reasonable when comparing performance vs price though.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well; keep you warm and offer good levels of breathability. A comfortable fit and supportive pad mean that long rides are no challenge. While the bib system is comfortable, I personally found it inconvenient and faffy.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Performance and breathability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? For short rides, yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No, the bib system isn't for me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Unlikely
Use this box to explain your overall score
A great bit of winter kit that does what you would expect on a cold day – keeps you warm, doesn't cause you to overheat and is comfortable for long hours in the saddle – but this is all a little overshadowed by a rear clasp that is impractical and faffy.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…