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It's best to think of the Altura Nightvision Zephyr Men's Thermal Cycling Jacket as a normal winter coat with a few good tweaks for cycling, rather than a cycling jacket per se. It's warm, gives great protection against wind and rain, and offers a good slim fit that works well on a bike, but any real effort on the pedals soon sees it getting hot and sweaty. For easy commutes and trips into town, though, it's great.
Check out our guide to the best cycling clothes for commuting for more options for the ride to work.
We've reviewed a very similarly named Altura jacket before – the Nightvision Zephyr Men's Stretch Jacket – but don't go thinking this is a just the same thing with minor tweaks and new colours. It's pretty different; for a start, it's not a stretchy softshell but a more traditional tough fabric outer.
It's also lined, hiding insulation made from 'post consumer plastic' – the stuff you put in your recycling rather than the other kind, which is 'post process'. That happens purely in factories when offcuts, sprues and misshapes are recycled; that increases efficiency, obviously, but does nothing to tackle waste plastic out in the environment. Post-consumer is the kind that does us all more good.
This plastic insulation is effective at keeping you warm, though that can be a problem... Create too much heat of your own and the Zephyr struggles to expel it, despite having permanently-open vents on the back over a mesh section that sits against your shoulders, and zip-up ones on each arm.
These latter are slightly weird as they're under your biceps rather than in the armpits, but they do at least point down and can be safely left open in the rain. They have a small but noticeable effect, but the obvious issue for all of them is that hot air rises, and there's no inner or outer air flow that wants to drag it out. Wear a backpack and the rear vents struggle even more.
Altura mentions commuting in its description, and that's a good hint. I found this jacket really good for gentle and mostly flat rides, where it comfortably provides a little bit of instant warmth and great protection from cold wind and rain. The neatly stitched seams are all taped, the 10K waterproof rating means it can deal with serious rain, and water beads up perfectly well on the DWR coating.
There's even a hood. While it does fit over a helmet, it's not quite tall enough and doesn't sit well (or cover the entire lid to the front), but it works pretty well when worn underneath. The hood sides will bulge out, but can be cinched in with elastic pullers, while the tall 'collar' gives yet more protection.
I also liked this Zephyr for adding instant comfort at the end of a ride, such as when you get back to the car park and have to dismantle your bike to origami it into a tiny car, or when hosing a filthy bike off at home, or just when stopping to eat cake and think about your life choices and eat more cake.
In my recommended size (medium) this proved a good fit, if not quite as 'relaxed' as you might expect – it's reasonably narrow across the shoulders and the sleeves are on the slim side. Good for eliminating flappage, at least.
There's more room in the main body and it all still fits over a chunky jumper, though it gets a little tight in the arms and shoulders if you're not using bike kit beneath. It also leaves regular clothes (as you might wear on a commute) hanging quite far below the high front. Okay, it means the jacket doesn't crease and ruck up as you pedal, but given its non-performance intentions the hem could usefully be lower for better protection and better off-bike looks.
Alternatively, it could keep the higher cut and slim, flap-free fit and ditch the insulation – that would only improve its performance for harder riding. And while I'm on the missed opportunities, though the front pockets are useful, at least one internal pocket would be very welcome here. Especially if it were a map-sized one.
The drop in the tail, meanwhile, works very well, and as it's slightly cupped it sits well to protect your waistband and bum from spray. The whole silvery lower panel is very reflective, too.
At 489g it's easy to carry and worth its weight for the protection it brings, but it's not something to stuff in a jersey pocket. It's a jacket for a frame bag or Camelbak type rucksack.
At £165 this isn't exactly cheap, but it's still a fair bit less than many bike-specific jackets. For instance the Jack Wolfskin Bike Commute Mono Jkt M is £270, and not even insulated – though that probably helps it to its usefully superior 15K breathability rating. The Mono is also going to keep out heavy rain for much longer with a 20K waterproof rating. If your commute is long, fast or hilly, you're going to appreciate the extra performance.
For a properly casual look (and properly relaxed fit), the £260 Vulpine Men's Regents Mac is an excellent choice, and it has more pockets too. Okay, at 767g it's really not something to take off and pack away, but it too has superior stats at 20K/15K for waterproofing and breathability.
You could also look to Altura's own Grid Men's Parka Waterproof Jacket for a more 'street' style (and a usefully longer front), and while it has the same weird, not-really-armpit vents and low-ish 10K/10K ratings as the Zephyr, it's well priced (despite a £25 rise since our review) at £180.
Overall, so long as you're not working too hard – or wearing a big long jumper – this jacket is great. It's cosy, comfortable and doesn't flap, and it feels built to last. It even gives you loads of reflective area without looking dorky. While some will want either better ventilation for fast riding or greater coverage for easy riding and walking, if you're in between, where this jacket lives, it will serve you well.
Sturdy and protective while rocking great reflectives for town use, though the cut doesn't quite reflect the performance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Nightvision Zephyr Thermal jacket
Size tested: Medium
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?
Altura says: "The Altura Nightvision Zephyr Men's Cycling Jacket maintains its contemporary styling but now brings added warmth with the addition of a thermal torso and sleeves which are lined with recycled insulation made from post consumer plastic.
"Not only is this a great jacket for times when you want a more 'lifestyle' look when off the bike but it still offers excellent protection from the elements with 10k / 10k waterproof and breathability ratings, PFC-free DWR coating and a useful adjustable hood.
"Solid areas of reflectivity and reflective print help you to stay visible to others in low light whilst the adjustable underarm venting system enables you to control the air flow efficiently helping you stay feeling fresh and comfortable on the commute."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Altura lists these features:
-10K / 10K waterproof and breathability
-PFC-free DWR coating to repel water
-Recycled insulation made from post consumer plastic
-Thermal sleeves and torso with internal detailed stitching
-Integrated solid and roller print reflective in key areas
-Adjustable venting under arm
-Secure zipped hand pockets
Very neat and crisp.
For protection on short and/or gentle trips it's really good.
All good so far.
Altura claims a 10k breathability rating, which is the minimum for hard activity, but it feels like less. This gets hot and sweaty quite quickly if you're working hard, and doesn't cool down that fast. It's fine for gentle riding though – towpath ambles, short road commutes and the like.
It's slim but leaves room for warm layers beneath – though as it's insulated you won't necessarily want them. It's not quite as 'relaxed' as some relaxed-fit jackets, especially around the arms and shoulders.
It's good for a slim-ish and flap-free fit, but you could probably get away with sizing up for a little more room.
It's not trying to be superlight, but it's good for this kind of protection.
So long as you're not doing anything too strenuous, it's great.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Great reflectives, nice slim fit, good protection, reasonably casual looks.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
No inside pockets, slightly narrow in the shoulders.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At £165 this isn't exactly cheap, but many other 'casual' cycling jackets we test are considerably more.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Maybe
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a tough-feeling jacket with a slim but not tight fit, and it gives great protection from wind and rain. It combines fairly un-cycling looks with a useful amount of reflectivity. It gets warm pretty quickly if you're working hard, though, and is best suited to short or relatively steady rides; it could benefit from a slightly longer/looser cut still, in fact, given that its performance is as well suited to off-bike use as on.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,