ALTURA PODIUM ELITE THERMO BIB TIGHTS
£119.99 269g (medium as tested)
The Altura Podium Elite Thermo Bib Tights are mid-thickness, thermal longs. Traditionally, I’ve found thermal models just that little too toasty but the podium elite have remained comfortable, whether it’s struggling to zero, or crept into double figures during the course of a ride.
These are made in the EU from the time-honoured polyamide, polyester and elastane mix. 3D design has become a big trend in the last couple of years. When used properly, garments genuinely fit better and freedom of movement. The Podium Elite are no exception.
The outer layer doesn’t feature Altura Shield, a water, or indeed, wind repelling component, or similar, which is creeping in at this price point. Endura offer something very similar in their Windchill Biblong, which give change from a ton.
Looking inside, we’ve flat seams and a thin pile fleecy lining, known as “Thermosuede”. Tactile against the skin, this is designed to retain and ambient temperature, locking warmth in, while theoretically allowing unwanted, rider generated stuff to escape.
There are no ankle zippers, or similar encumbrances to chafe/snag either, just grippy, yet gentle, silicone cuffs. White logos accentuate presence, even at a moderate tempo. There are also some small, retro-reflective pin stripes along the backs, which work in much the same fashion, even at a modest 60-85rpm.
Otherwise, it’s black, which goes with everything and hides the dirt beautifully.
Talking of comfort, roadside pee-stops have always been slightly undignified in bib models. Altura (along with several other brands), has cut the front panel slightly lower and engineered some additional give, which has proven very welcome - for males.
Bibs are designed to protect the lower back and vital organs from chill. Most do this job extremely well but they can also feel clammy and uncomfortable. Stretchy “breather mesh” perforated bib and braces continue this fast wicking theme, while optimising movement, say when alternating between hoods, drops, or indeed tri-bars.
The bibs themselves are white, a second perforated layer also features diagonal stash pockets, designed to capture energy bars and similar mid-ride essentials. I’m not completely sold on these.
True, they’re very unobtrusive but in real terms, they’re not the most practical either, since most of us will be reaching in a jacket, or jersey pocket, rather than wanting to rummage under yet another layer. On the flip side, some rides can extend themselves, calling for an emergency stash when the shops have shut.
Pads have got so much better over the years but the 3D trend has pushed things along, too, so I’ve found comfort less of a lottery. Now, the pro 3D pad is gender specific, although made from the same fast wicking, anti-bacterial fabric.
While relatively thick, the five layer design is far from feeling like a loaf of bread and it works to the same basic science as everyone else’s. The cooolmax sweat away from the crotch area, keeping us comfortable and hygienic.
Altura has a reputation for being generous, although their sizing chart is extremely accurate, removing the guesswork from online purchases. Our medium were perfect for my 1m81, 70 kilo frame. I’m also blessed with a 85cm (33.5 inch) inside leg measurement and am delighted to report ours fitted like the proverbial, hugging my ankles perfectly too.
Overall, the podium elite have delivered. The anatomical 3D fit is anything but marketing speak and they’ve hugged every contour handsomely, without any hint of gathering, or uncomfortable bunching.
The bib straps initially compressed my shoulders but this quickly eased over the course of a few rides, whereupon I appreciated their width and support.
More surprising was just how temperate I’ve remained, whether the mercury has slid into minus figures, or unexpectedly crept past 12 degrees on some milder afternoons. Sure, some clamminess was apparent, especially at 95rpm but the fibres kicked in before it became obtrusive, let alone uncomfortable.
Despite the apparent lack of any wind/water repelling coating, thanks to the thermal lining, I’ve remained temperate, battling icy coastal blasts. I can well believe claims that other riders have remained comfortable at minus 4.
Initially, I was a little perturbed by the speed at which showery rain infiltrated the fibres, though I was more or less dry again, given 20minutes and a moderate breeze. Right royally sodden, they feel it and need a good 90 minutes at room temperature, but in the saddle, I’ve always remained temperate. At room temperature and following a machine wash, bargain on them being dry in around an hour.
I do a fair bit of mixed terrain riding on my rough stuff tourer during the darker months. Regular trail/bridle path deviations have made negligible impression upon the fabric. Not so much as a bobble in six weeks and roughly 60 0miles-all told, bodes well for cyclo-cross, gravel and similar, seasonal fun.
On the subject of longer rides and I’m talking 2 hour plus here, I found the pad good, rather than great. There’s plenty of support around the rear (sometimes these can gather, inducing soreness and chafing, given enough miles) Though the density was right for me up front, a little more length would’ve been welcomed, especially when hunkering low on the drops.
The podium Elite are an excellent cold weather tight and ideally suited to those, like yours truly, who dislike bulk. Moisture management and less obvious detailing is also of a very high, considered standard.
Even when thoroughly soaked, I’ve never felt chill, or uncomfortable, so they’ve met their cold weather brief handsomely. Nonetheless, there are models coming in at £20 cheaper, offering water repellent coatings. These have a definite edge in wetter conditions, especially riding bikes without full-length mudguards.