There's no reason why a field jacket with the classic four front pockets shouldn't work for cycle commuting, but your bike ideally needs to be the upright type so that they don't get in the way. The longer cuffs and dropped tail are nicely designed for extra protection on the bike, and the DWR coating does its job on the heavy cotton fabric as you'd expect, but rain water does breach the jacket through the untaped seams if you're out in it for too long (Altura doesn't claim it's waterproof to be fair). Overall, the Grid Field Jacket seems to be an everyday jacket with a couple of cycling-specific features rather than a cycling jacket with a couple of everyday features.
Classic field jacket styling
Made from 'responsibly sourced' cotton
Good cuff length for cycling
Seams let in water
Doesn't have the 'ergonomically engineered' fit that's claimed
Only one colour option
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Altura could be the first cycling brand to have produced a version of the US military M65 field jacket. It might not seem like the most obvious type of jacket to wear on the bike, but cycling in heavy traffic among Insta-checking drivers can feel like a warzone, so why not get suitably attired?
In any case, the style has already been appropriated by the waxed jacket brigade - Belstaff and Barbour - and other fashion brands, and it is very familiar, so why not turn it into a jacket that Altura says has a "classic cycling style with off-the-bike looks and on-the-bike features?"
We take a look at how it compares to the best commuter cycling jackets.
Altura Grid Field Jacket: construction
The Altura Grid Field Jacket is made in China from reasonably heavyweight cotton (the jacket weighs 695g), which the brand says is responsibly sourced. Like many of the best waterproof cycling jackets (opens in new tab) it has a DWR coating (durable water resistant) that Altura says “will help to keep the rain off in a shower.” There’s no lining - it’s a single layer of cotton.
The stand-up collar zips right to the chin and there’s a press-studded flap over the two-way zip all the way up. The pocket flaps also have press-studs, and if you want to cinch the cuffs in tighter there are press-studs there too.
Altura says the jacket has an “ergonomically engineered design [that] fits perfectly when active on the bike,” but the only evidence I can find of that is in the longer tail, which is designed to protect against spray from the rear wheel, and in the longer cuffs that don’t ride up when you’re reaching forward to the handlebars.
It seems to be cut to fit in the ‘standing up’ position rather than bending over the bike, but since it’s designed for commuting you’re more likely to be riding a bike with an upright position anyway - or that’s the assumption.
The cycling features that can’t be disputed are the reflectives on the elbow patches, the back of the collar and the bottom of the rear hem.
The sizing is on the generous side - the size medium is for a 38-40in chest and 34-36in waist and Altura’s size guide is accurate. I’m 5ft 10in/178cm, I have a slightly smaller waist and chest than that and probably needed the size small, as you can end up with too much loose fabric at the rear (as I did).
Altura Grid Field Jacket: the ride
The Altura Grid Field Jacket is, as I mentioned, designed for more upright bikes rather than drop-bar ones - or for riding on the tops at least. Since the cotton has no stretch at all, this is non-negotiable. It feels a little restrictive over the shoulders/upper arms with corresponding bagging at the chest if you go too ‘Ganna’.
The other issue with a more bent-over position is that the capacious lower two pockets - if you put anything in them - can get in the way of your thighs when you’re pedalling. Which is why dedicated cycling jackets have pockets on the back rather than on the front.
However, the long cuffs worked well, covering the dreaded wrist gap, and I didn’t need to test the dropped tail because the bikes I ride in winter or bad weather always have mudguards (he says preachily).
In rain I found that after around 30 minutes water entered through the seams at the shoulders and also onto my upper back through the seams there. The DWR coating did its job of “helping” keep out the water but without taped seams the jacket can never be very effective in a downpour. Altura’s own website doesn’t claim it’s waterproof or even water resistant, but some retailer websites do.
As for warmth, I found that for winter I needed to add a couple of layers underneath - a regular T-shirt and sweatshirt - since it lacks any internal padding at all. That means having it a size bigger than Altura’s guide recommends, which does allow you to keep warm, but you sacrifice that smart tailored look.
Altura says the Grid Field Jacket delivers the best of both worlds on and off the bike, and indeed I did find it great for walking the dog.
You can’t have too many pockets, as any dog person knows - one for a ball, another for the lead when it comes off, another for treats, another for poo bags (sorry) and so on - and the Altura jacket was perfect.
Additionally, when you’re not cycling and rain water isn’t hitting you at speed and being forced into the seams, the jacket performs better.
As for its looks, you can see what it looks like and can make up your own mind but my wife, who has impeccable taste (she married me, remember?), said she wasn’t too sure about the bright blue flashes.
What I would like to see is the Grid Field Jacket coming in another colour than just navy with bright blue flashes. Since it’s hardly high viz anyway, what about an earthy-tones option?
Altura Grid Field Jacket: value and conclusion
Prcied at £130, it’s not easy to find an equivalent jacket from other cycling brands to compare for value, but it’s certainly a lot cheaper than anything from Barbour or Belstaff. The Castelli Commuter Reflex (opens in new tab) is also much more expensive at $239.99 / £280, but that’s fully waterproof and windproof. The Chrome Industries Storm Salute (opens in new tab), at $190.00 / £189.00, is also waterproof.
The Altura Grid Field Jacket is nicely made, has a good quality feel about it, looks great as long as you get the right size for the right time of year and is not ridiculously expensive.
However, although it sounds strange to say this about a cycling jacket, it performs - and looks - better off the bike than on it.
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Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor following an MA in online journalism. In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends most of his time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
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