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The Altura Twister Women's Insulated Jacket lives up to its insulation claims. Scottish and Norweigian commuter cyclists may enjoy its toasty nature as it is genuinely like cycling in a duvet for temperatures below zero.
As someone known for feeling the cold, I was looking forward to testing the mother of all insulated jackets. With a 9.5 tog rating, the Altura Twister is positioned in the same ballpark as my autumn duvet. Of course, when using a duvet, I'm not exercising, and this was the key issue I had with the jacket.
Even over winter, it was mostly too warm to use when cycling. I only really felt comfortable when on an e-bike (so with almost zero exertion on my part) at temperatures of -2 to 0°C. Any warmer and even on the e-bike I was needing to open the zip and only have a T-shirt on underneath.
I'm no stranger to padded thermal jackets for cycling, having loved the now out-of-manufacture Vulpine thermal jacket. But unlike the Vulpine, the Twister was just too warm to wear in anything but mid-winter temperatures.
The jacket is clearly designed for commuter use rather than road cycling per se, and with that in mind, I trialled it on trips into town on an e-bike. This is probably where the jacket was most useful – for situations when I was putting in a minimum of cycling effort, yet whizzing along at up to the speed limit of 15.5mph. As soon as I needed to do any physical work, the jacket became too hot to wear, even at air temperatures of between 3 and 5°C.
On the plus side, the warm filling is made from recycled water bottles, giving this jacket some eco credentials.
The length is a key difference between the men's and women's versions of the Twister, with the women's cut at mid-thigh length. Altura justifies this as being a "more modern look", but even when using the two-way zip to enable my legs to have room to pedal, I found the length irritating. It's a perfect length for getting caught on the saddle but not long enough to tuck away under my bottom as you can with some cycling raincoats. The men's version stops at the waist so doesn't incur this problem.
Sleeve length is good, allowing for a reach to the handlebar from an upright position. Altura has also reduced the amount of fabric at the front of the underarm to prevent uncomfortable bunching.
I wasn't overly impressed with the two very deep pockets either. They were too deep to realistically enable me to fish something out of my pocket when riding, so although they were useful for day-to-day use, on a bike they just didn't suit.
Their zips did mean that nothing fell out while on the bike, but realistically their depth meant this wasn't a likely option anyway. Altura bills the pockets as handwarmer pockets, and although this meets the 'off the bike' aspect of its aims for this jacket, the lack of a smaller back pocket means that on the bike you can't easily stash a tissue, snack or phone. The men's version of this jacket has pockets that stop at waist level not at mid-thigh, so again negates this issue.
I struggled with the hood on the Twister jacket, too, as there was no cord to tighten it and so it sat several inches above my head when up, and blew off when riding into any headwind. It was only later, looking at the publicity shots, that I realised it was a great height to accommodate a helmet.
As a non-helmet-wearer, for me the hood simply didn't work as it had too much excess material and no way to tighten it around my face other than by doing the zip all the way up (it hides away in a garage, so it's comfy to do that).
Looking at the reflective elements – key in a winter jacket in a grey fabric – these are found on the sleeve and the lower side panels, but not on the back of the jacket. This means there is no additional visibility when looking from a car directly behind the rider, but when signalling or from the side some highlights are visible for safety. Be aware that if you routinely strap a light on your seatpost, the jacket length might cover the light, so careful positioning is essential.
As with the rest of this year's Altura range, this jacket comes in carbon and navy. The grey version I tested has a dark pink lining, in case you forget you are female (the men's version has a lime lining for this colourway). The sizing availability is good, ranging from 8-18.
In terms of value, there aren’t many similar cycling-specific jackets for women to compare it with.
It is cheaper than Endura’s Women’s Hummvee Flipjak, made with Primaloft insulation – a shorter option designed ‘for town or trails’, which costs £139.99 – but given the Altura’s shortcomings, and looking at Oli’s thoughts on the men’s Flipjak he tested a few years ago, the Twister doesn’t sound like better value.
Overall, the Altura Twister women's jacket isn't hugely cycling-friendly, and the changes from the men's version seem to have forgotten the original intention of it being a cycling jacket.
• We put Caroline's criticisms to Altura, who replied:
The level of recycled insulation has been designed for both e-bike riders and low level non-e-bike riders; for people who are not heavily exerting themselves on a slow paced ride to and from A-B, and definitely not a training ride. The concept came from watching many commuters throughout the UK in Newcastle, Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds and London who were wearing insulated jackets on their commute but the cut wasn't right for riding a bike, so we engineered an insulated jacket that looks great but allows for arms to be comfortably forward, longer length sleeves, lower at the back, and reduced fabric between the underarm at the front to prevent uncomfortable bunching.
We have also studied commuters in France, Germany and Amsterdam where we have seen many commuters wearing a longer length jacket style, especially women. We feel we've created a jacket that can be worn on a bike to get from A-B, but also easily worn off the bike too as a casual jacket. We also didn't want to apply the usual 'shrink it and pink it' analogy to a lot of womens product on the market, but understand the individual needs of a female specific jacket. We gained this insight from our own design team, as well as focus groups, and the commuter studies mentioned above. Until now, the feedback that we've received from testers of the final product has been really positive; it is a multi-use jacket that can be worn both on and off the bike negating the need to buy two jackets which is much better for the environment as well as their bank balance!
As the womens jacket is designed to sit on the seat in a fairly upright position we kept the subtle coloured reflective print to the end of the sleeves which would get most attention when signalling, and also on the lower sides as most cyclists have a light at the back, but not at the side.
I hope this helps explain the concept and consideration behind the unique design of the jacket, we appreciate this is not normally seen as a cycling jacket which we hope also provides a reason to engage more users who wouldn't describe themselves as 'a cyclist' but would still want to get on a bike and ride to work, the park, or the shops.
Super-warm jacket that might be useful for cold e-bike users, but the overall design has some cycling-specific flaws
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Twister Women's Insulated Jacket
Size tested: 18
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 Altura Twister Women's Insulated Jacket is "a casual insulated jacket, offering warmth, comfort and reflectivity". Altura says: "The Twister Jacket is designed for use both on or off the bike. The snug recycled insulation offers a cosy 9.5 Tog warmth rating and a nylon ripstop outer shell with a durable water-repellent coating that will help to keep you dry in changeable weather conditions.
"Subtle tonal reflective details help you stay visible in low light conditions and the articulated stitch design increases your ease of movement making this a "go to" jacket for the spring, autumn and winter seasons. This women's specific version has a longer length for an even more modern look."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
- Durable water-repellent coating
- Insulation 100% made from recycled bottles
- Warmth rating of 9.5 Tog
- Tonal reflective detailing in key areas
- Articulated stitch design
- Two zipped hand warmer pockets
- Waterproof front zip
- Relaxed fit
No loose threads and quality stitching leave no room for complaint about the solid construction.
The jacket worked well in terms of insulation, but otherwise wasn't ideally suited to other aspects of riding.
No issues noted. The lowest back panel of the jacket was made of a thicker material which should help prevent tears or snags.
The jacket is meant to be water-repellant (rather than waterproof) and meets this criteria, withstanding rain, although not prolonged downpours.
This is not a breathable jacket and the manufacturer makes no claims on this feature. Two polyamide layers filled with polyester is not set up to aid breathability.
Altura calls it a relaxed fit and this is justified.
I tested a size 18 which was broadly accurate (possibly a tad on the large size) compared with my street size.
The size of the jacket adds to the weight, but the polyester filling is lighter than down equivalents and the jacket certainly doesn't feel heavy in use.
The lack of details like a zip hood and cord to tighten the hood, combined with the lack of breathability, lower the overall comfort rating.
The jacket is commensurate with non-branded high street padded jackets in the same style.
The overall style means it can be worn as a street jacket which could be money-saving. However the low-temperature range it could be used for cycling in limits its value in the UK.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The jacket washed well at 30 degrees and dried quickly.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The jacket worked well – too well – at keeping me warm, as the lack of breathability meant it wasn't that suited to time on the bike. If you commute in consistently very low temperatures, or on an e-bike where you are putting in less effort, it may serve you well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
I liked the 'off-road' use I got out of the jacket, for dog walks and rambling. I also lent it to my daughter for hill walking in the Peak district in January and in those temperatures it worked a treat!
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
It was just too warm and too long to work well on the bike, unless you are using it specifically for e-bike riding.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There aren't many similar cycling-specific jackets for women. Endura's Women's Hummvee Flipjak, with Primaloft insulation, is a shorter option designed 'for town or trails' and costs £139.99. Galibier's Colombiere is a padded winter jacket at a cheaper price, but it's not available in a women-specific cut. Rapha offers a down jacket for nearly double the price, but it is down not polyester fill and in a different quality league.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Not on the bike.
Would you consider buying the jacket? Not for cycling, but for other day to day use.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Not for cycling.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Twister jacket is billed at working on and off the bike. However, I only found that the latter was true. The change in length from the men's to the women's jacket opened up some cycling-specific issues with pocket placement and catching on the saddle which don't exist in the men's version of the jacket.
About the tester
I usually ride: Trek 7.5 WSD My best bike is: Turquoise Cruiser
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Novice
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, Leisure