The Altura Icon Men’s Bib shorts are a good set of shorts for the price. The distribution of the chamois padding provides support in the right places, both when in an aggressive aerodynamic position and a more relaxed all-day position. It actually manages this better than some much more expensive shorts. But for long rides – those above four hours – the chamois didn’t offer the same level of cushioning as more expensive models and the wicking wasn’t quite as fast. If you’re looking for top performance in these areas, you may need to go up a price band – as it is, the performance for the price was quite reasonable.
Well distributed chamois padding
Wide and stretchy bib straps
Effective leg grippers
Chamois not as fast wicking as more expensive models
Padding best suited to rides under 4 hours
Reflective detailing a little flakey
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Altura’s bib short range spans four models with prices ranging from £50 to £89.99. These Icon shorts sit second from top and although their price is a modest £69.99, Altura bills them as both stylish and high performing.
The construction: Altura Icon Men’s Bib shorts
The standout feature of these shorts has got to be the chamois. Although it’s manufactured by performance padding specialist, Elastic Interface, Altura has worked in close collaboration to come up with an exclusive pad design which incorporates denser foam in the larger sizes to better accommodate heavier riders.
Regarding the rest of the construction, the bib straps are wide and flat to better distribute their pressure over a greater area and come with perforations to aid breathability. These then attach to a mesh rear panel which is designed to further assist with cooling.
The main fabric used on the legs isn’t quite as soft as what’s being specced on some of the latest crop of top-end shorts – but it still feels perfectly nice against the skin and offers some light compression.
There’s a large degree of reflective detailing on the side panels of the legs and at the back of the shorts, which is always good to see. The legs grippers are wide and utilise an array of silicon dots to keep themselves in place.
This design might be pretty ubiquitous now, but it’s not long ago that many shorts incorporated a narrow silicon strip to keep the shorts in place – which almost invariably would dig in unpleasantly.
I really got on very well with this chamois’s padding distribution. Some brands spec chamois which have far too much padding at the front, where – no matter how much you might rotate your hips forward – you’re never going to be putting any weight. Or, at least that's my experience when riding a road bike. The undesirable consequence of this is a rather cramped feeling in an area you’d much rather not.
But with Altura Icon Men’s Bib shorts, I had no such problems – even when slammed in the drops and riding hard. The padding was simply exactly where it needed to be, supporting my sit bones but with minimal bulk elsewhere – even some much more expensive shorts aren’t quite as well balanced.
Although, that’s not to limit these shorts just to aggressive positions. I found the padding remained in the right place, even in the much more upright riding style that gravel bikes lend themselves to.
However, there were two elements in which the chamois didn’t shine quite so brightly. When it comes to the speed of the wicking, how quickly the material can move sweat away from the body, it is noticeably slower and does feel a bit more damp than higher end shorts from around £100 upwards. Not necessarily a deal breaker, given the price, but something to be aware of.
The second thing is that on longer rides (those nudging four hours), I found that the chamois didn’t offer quite the same cushioning and isolation from road vibrations as more expensive shorts. Again, this is something that is more an effect of the price point, rather than any flaws in the construction. But as with the wicking, it is worth being aware of the trade offs that are being made
The material of the main body of the shorts could benefit from being a little more compressive, but I didn’t have any issues with bagginess in any areas and breathability wasn’t an issue. Leg length is a good compromise between modesty and not being excessively long as some of the more ‘trendy’ shorts we’re seeing are. But the reflective detailing on the side panels has provided to be a little fragile and some decals have started to peel.
Perhaps the Altura Icon Men’s Bib shorts greatest rivals are the offerings from dhb and Decathlon. These are solid performers and come at very competitive prices.
The dhb Classic bib shorts come in at £60 and impressed with their comfort and the chamois also being an Elastic Interface item. However, the leg length is what we might call ‘fashionably long’, which might not suit those who prefer a gap between the knee and the shorts.
We were very impressed by Decathlon’s range topping shorts when we had them on test, finding essentially no flaws. There has since been an update and Decathlon’s top-end shorts are now the RCR Ultralight Road Bib Shorts at £64.99. We’ve yet to review this model, but if they do have a similar performance to the previous shorts, they would certainly be a good choice.
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