The sweat and moisture management of the Altura Firestorm shorts cannot be faulted and impress in warm conditions as too does the very comfortable Stealth seat pad. However the poor fit of the short means that there are too many detractions and distractions that make any riding experiences pretty underwhelming.
Short material does great job of wicking sweat
Stealth pad is comfortable
Reflective hems add safety
Hem gripper is too tight, inflexible and sweaty
Front panel fit is far too loose
Bib strap transition can dig in when worn under tight jersey
I've been a big fan of Altura clothing in the past and the brand has been responsible for some kit that punches way above its price bracket in terms of performance. With this in mind I was keen to try out the new Altura Firestorm bib shorts. These are designed for warm weather riding (chance would be fine thing) and promise to manage sweat build up better than any of Altura's other bib shorts - so possibly the ideal short for indoor training.
The construction is a little different to most bib shorts - there's a lot more mesh material around the torso rather than the normal continuation of the main short material.
The main short material itself is unspecified high wicking fabric that feels really soft and stretchy against the skin. Altura has stuck with a traditional six panel construction with flatlock stitching for the main part. The pad is also internally and externally flatlocked to the main panels. A separate hem gripper is attached at the end of the leg, this is made of a reflective material and has a silicon treatment on the inside to help keep the shorts in place when pedalling.
Slipping the Firestorm short on, disappointment followed. The fit has an awkward combination of some areas being too loose and other areas being too tight.
The front crotch and inside leg panels are far too loose and make the material here bunch up and in turn the front part of the pad isn't held firmly in place when riding. Now this on it's own might not have been too bad to deal with - I could have gone down a size - however the leg gripper material is the complete opposite and really constrictive (and I don't have particularly large thighs). Issues are further compounded by the lack of support through the torso panels of the short. There is simply not enough support to hold the short securely in place.
The upper bib section is on the whole comfortable and very breathable. A shortened section of wide and thick elasticated bib strap fits well across the top and fronts of the shoulders and chest and doesn't cause too much issue apart from feeling a little too restrictive for my stature (183cm tall) but this too is let down as the end section can dig in to your chest/stomach when wearing the shorts under a tight race jersey.
It's not all totally bad news with the Firestorm bibshorts.
I was impressed with the way the material deals with temperature and sweat build up especially when training indoors when I typically end up in a dripping hot mess. I still sweated but the shorts seemed to hold on to less water and kept me feeling a little more comfortable.
The Stealth pad is also very comfortable and cannot be faulted. One of my test sessions in these shorts was during the 25 hour Redbull Timelaps race and I can say that seat comfort was never an issue despite long stints in the saddle.
If Altura could just get the balance of the fit right then these shorts deserve a much better score but as they are I wouldn't choose to wear these again.
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James Bracey's career has seen him move from geography teacher, to MBR writer, to Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and video presenter. He possesses an in-depth knowledge of bicycle mechanics, as well as bike fit and coaching qualifications. Bracey enjoys all manner of cycling, from road to gravel and mountain biking.
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