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review

Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts

6
£50.00

VERDICT:

6
10
Generally decent bib shorts for shorter distances but high-cut front could be an issue for some of us
Supportive leg sections
Pad very supportive for rides around two and a half hours
Solid construction
Higher-cut front makes roadside comfort breaks trickier
Pad limitations become quite apparent beyond three hours
Weight: 
185g

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The Altura Airstream Bib Shorts are designed for rides around the two-hour mark and deliver on this design brief nicely, thanks to the well-executed pad and supportive fit. This, coupled with their thin but sturdy perforated bib sections, does a decent job of holding on to and releasing heat, depending on context. The latter characteristic arguably lends them well to indoor training, too. However, while rest stops arguably wouldn't be frequent on shorter rides, I found them cut a little high at the front.

If you're in the market for new bib shorts this summer, do check out our best cycling bib shorts buyer's guide.

Materials/Specification

Nothing particularly exotic, but typical of the price point and generally well made. It's the time-honoured 80%/20% Polyester/Elastane mix. Flatlock seams and silicone grippers promise reliable, mark-free tenure and there's some reflective detailing along the thighs to boost presence in low light conditions. Very much a summer-tog weight, they feel thinner than several I've used long term and at various price points.

Again, this bodes well for hot days and indoor training, without feeling as if they'd shred on impact with tarmac. The bib sections are a mesh with a solid external frame around the straps, which again, suggests (all things being equal) they'll keep useful heat on a cool, early morning, or late evening ride while expelling unwanted rider-generated coolant when temperatures creep into the mid-twenties.

2023 Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts bibshorts - cuff gripper.jpg

The shorts have a very glossy, tactile outer, which is almost slippery to touch and made me wonder about grip with some saddles – particularly those covered in genuine leather. The Men's 3D Plus Pad is, as the name suggests, designed to fit male contours and features medium-density foam for support in key points, to ensure comfort in various riding positions. There's a wicking top layer, too.

2023 Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts bibshorts - legs back.jpg

There are many advantages to bib designs, hence their popularity. Aside from ensuring protection to the back and your lower organs, the more fluid fit theoretically keeps the pad and rider anatomy in best alignment.

Sizing/Fit

Now, Altura has a reputation for being quite generous in the sizing department, so medium has been my go-to for many years now. From the packet, our medium took a few wears and washes for the fabric to relax and essentially fit me as I'd expect. I'm not overly tall, but I'm proportionately short in the torso and much longer in the leg.

2023 Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts bibshorts - cuff back.jpg

They're also cut higher up front than I've come to expect from contemporary designs. Traditionally, it was common to assume curious angles to avoid undignified 'blowback' or peeing on shoes when discharging bladders by the road, or trailside.

2023 Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts bibshorts - straps front.jpg

However, these days most bib shorts and longs tend to be cut lower and have more give. The Airstreams have relaxed a little with washing and wearing and I've not felt the bibs pulling on my shoulders when riding but felt a little captive when walking around and yes, unburdening. This said, it would be worth trying for size if you're longer in the leg, or less evenly proportioned.

Comfort

For the most part, this was forgotten once I was riding and as the fabric relaxed. The outer fabric's slightly glossy texture worked best with satin-finish saddles regardless of whether these were tractional leather, leather covered or micro-matrix. No comparison with the almost comical slipperiness of some very shiny tights in my collection but I experienced some unexpected 'surf' with a long serving leather-covered SMP Strike Plus.

Otherwise, I've been able to shuffle around in the saddle without undue effort. Same story with the bib straps once I'd done a couple of rides and machine-washed the shorts.

2023 Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts bibshorts - straps back.jpg

Initially, I'd felt a slight tugging at the shoulders when alternating between hoods, drops and tri-bars but this eased out and seamless movement restored. Pad density was also very complimentary, regardless of whether I was nose down on my road bike, cruising on my fixed gear winter/training, or exploring dirt roads on my rough-stuff tourer.

2023 Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts bibshorts - chamois.jpg

In the latter context, rides around two and a half hours were well within their capabilities. Yes, I was seated for much of it, though the bike sports a suspension post. Three hours plus and the Airstream's pad was still doing its thing. Extending rides to three and a half hours and the shorts' limitations, specifically the pad's density, became apparent, typically at my buttocks and sit bones, rather than numbness or discomfort elsewhere. This is more of an observation, rather than a critique given their design criteria.

2023 Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts bibshorts - back.jpg

Flat seams and silicone grippers have done their thing without leaving tell-tale imprints and do a decent job of holding knee warmers in situ when the temperature's tanking. Talking of which, I've tested these for hours in temperatures between six and 25 degrees. Factors such as base layers obviously play their part, but with higher-end polyesters, I've been pleasantly surprised by how well the bibs has dispersed rider-generated heat.

At the warmer end of this scale, there's been a familiar misting and localised dampness given 20 minutes at 100rpm, perhaps a little faster when training indoors, but this quickly lifts. At the other extreme, I've felt perfectly temperate with a mesh, vest-type base layer and this Van Rysel Men's Mid-Season Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey.

Durability/Care

Several weeks and around 500 miles down the line, there's no signs of bobbling, or similar deterioration, despite some hostile encounters with thorns and other foliage. There are a couple of loose threads along the bib straps but nothing to worry about. For the most part, I've stuck to the 30-degree machine wash, minimal-detergent mantra more rigidly than I would with higher-end or heavier tog weight shorts.

2023 Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts bibshorts - cuff logo.jpg

That said, I accidentally put these in a 40°C wash on a couple of occasions with no ill effects. As an aside, being a thinner fabric, they also dry quite fast, which is welcome if you're looking for a designated pair for indoor training or are just in a hurry.

Value

Taking everything into account, I'd be hard-pressed to suggest that you were being short-changed. However, the Van Rysel Road Cycling Bib Shorts Racer2 that Ben reviewed are intended for more intense riding and are now just £49.99. However, he found they came up small, so scrutinise the sizing chart more carefully than usual, or try for size.

The Sundried Drop Men's Training Bib Shorts are arguably the closest rivals price- and design-wise. Again, these are designed for sub-three-hour outings, Steve reckoned they fitted well and were seemingly well executed. The lack of a plain black option may not be everyone's taste but equally, but not all of us want plain black...

Madison Sportive Bib Shorts do come in black and feature a 'gel cell' pad, pre-curved Lycra, and a limited lifetime warranty that covers manufacturing defects.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the Altura Airstream bib tights do what they promise and for a decent price. For general riding and less intense training, there's a lot in their favour. By the same token, those looking to get best bang for their buck might find a couple of similarly priced rivals a better fit.

Verdict

Generally decent bib shorts for shorter distances but high-cut front could be an issue for some of us

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Altura Airstream Men's Cycling Bib Shorts

Size tested: Medium

Tell us what the product is for

Altura Says: "High-performance cycling comfort doesn't have to mean a high price that hits your wallet. When you take to the saddle, the Airstream Bib Shorts provide a supportive and flexible fit that allows easy pedalling and mobility.

The upper body benefits from a mesh bib and straps construction. Together, they offer comfortable support and highly breathable performance to prevent excess sweat build-up when you're working hard. Reflective details are also there to keep you visible when riding in low-light conditions. " My feelings "Generally comfortable and competent bib shorts for shorter rides but cut a little high at the front for my tastes".

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

"Inside the Airstream, you'll find the supportive comfort of Altura's 3D Plus Pad. Anatomically shaped to reduce friction and featuring medium-density comfort foam in key pressure points, it soaks up shocks and offers sit-bone support for shorter bike rides.

The outer layer is made from Air Fabric, a highly breathable and soft material, minimising moisture build-up to boost comfort.

Top features

Altura Men's 3D Plus Pad - ideal for ride durations up to 2 hours

Breathable mesh upper body

Mesh shoulder straps

Reflective detailing

Fitted

80% Polyamide, 20% Elastane"

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
6/10

Wearing and washing well 500 miles or so down the line.

Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10

Comfortable in most contexts and for rides up to three hours – and a decent bet for indoor training by my reckoning.

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

Washing and wearing well 500 miles in, save for some minor internal fraying around the bib sections.

Rate the product for fit:
 
6/10

Generally good and the fabrics relax a little with regular use and washing. However, I found them cut higher at the front for my tastes, meaning 'comfort stops' were less seamless than ideal.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
6/10

I initially felt our mediums were a little small, particularly in the leg but this corrected itself with regular wear and washing.

Rate the product for weight:
 
7/10

Light but without feeling unduly thin.

Rate the product for comfort:
 
6/10

A reciprocal mix in the main and given the design brief.

Rate the product for value:
 
6/10

Reasonably priced but store-branded competition with an improved pad could give it a run for your hard-earned.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

30-degree, minimal detergent and line drying. Very simple and it washes well at this temperature.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Overall, the Altura Airstream is a comfortable and supportive bib short for rides to around the three-hour mark. The pad has offered good, evenly balanced support and has only been apparent in the most positive sense. The fabrics, the bib mesh in particular, offer efficient moisture management and permit natural movement – alternating between hoods, tops, and drops.

Silicone grippers are similarly effective without branding the thighs. Pads are very personal things. However, all things being equal, rides within the three-hour mark are well within their capability – much beyond this though and their limitations become apparent.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Lightweight and airy. Nice for summer and of course, indoor training.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Cut a little high at the front, requiring more calculated pee stops.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

The Van Rysel Road Cycling Bib Shorts Racer2 are intended for more intense riding and are now presently offered at £49.99. However, Ben found they came up small, so scrutinise the sizing chart more carefully than usual, or try for size.

The Sundried Drop Men's Training Bib Shorts are arguably the closest rivals price and design-wise. Again, these are designed for sub-three-hour outings, Steve reckoned they fitted well and were seemingly well executed. The lack of a plain black option may not be everyone's taste but equally, not all of us want plain black...

Madison's Sportive Bib Shorts do come in black and feature a 'gel cell' pad, pre-curved Lycra, and with a limited lifetime warranty that covers manufacturing defects.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? On balance, I'd look toward a pad capable of longer ride comfort.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they were looking for everyday, short-to-middle distance shorts, or for indoor training.

Use this box to explain your overall score

When all's said and done, there's a lot to like about the Airstream, and as a package they perform quite well. A lower cut front would've earned them a 7/10.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 49  Height: 1m 81cm  Weight: 70kg

I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset  My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)

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5 comments

Avatar
wtjs | 7 months ago
1 like

If I cycle for 2 hours without micturition, I am under-hydrated. Similarly, if I don't get up at night after the 7 hour trip pulling a trailer up to Coniston, I didn't drink enough. And I don't need to see a doctor.

Avatar
SimoninSpalding | 7 months ago
0 likes

If you can't cycle for a couple of hours without needing a pee, maybe you should see a doctor. Or perhaps follow your mum's advice and go before you set off?

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to SimoninSpalding | 7 months ago
1 like

Maybe age has got me - or perhaps I'm over-hydrating and drinking too much coffee?  Cav says that proper riders sometimes didn't bother stopping, though?

Avatar
Steve K replied to SimoninSpalding | 7 months ago
3 likes
SimoninSpalding wrote:

If you can't cycle for a couple of hours without needing a pee, maybe you should see a doctor. Or perhaps follow your mum's advice and go before you set off?

How old are you, Simon?

Avatar
Hirsute replied to Steve K | 7 months ago
3 likes

9 3/4

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