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The Altura Sportive 97 short sleeve jersey is a special-edition top to mark the UK company's 20th anniversary, and adds a snazzy design to some already well-established features.
If there's one thing that hasn't particularly thrilled me about some of Altura's road tops it's the rather plain blocks of colour (usually red, blue, yellow or black), so it's nice to see a bit of flair added for this celebratory 2017 version. The two-blue zig zags look natty and help break up your outline if you are inclined to look bulgy in plainer garments. There's a red version, too, but sadly no ladies' edition.
I notice that manufacture has moved to China. This doesn't seem to have done anything for pricing as this is £5 over last year's Sportive top, but neither has it adversely affected the build quality. On the contrary, I compared it to the (EU made) 'Velo29' sportive edition tee I was wearing last summer and would say that the 97 is the better put together, with very tidy double-stitching.
Otherwise, if you've owned an Altura short sleeve in recent years you will find lots of familiar features in the Sportive 97. The fabric is stretchy, but only in width, which helps open up tiny venting 'slits' in the fabric and making it very comfortable to ride in on a warm day. Not that we had many of these during the test period, mind – I speak from memory – and can tell you that, when whistling downhill into a stiff northerly April wind, it is, erm.... well ventilated.
Even the wind baffle behind the zip wasn't enough to keep the draught at bay. The zip is full-length, for extra versatility, with a tab large enough to pull up with gloved hands. It sits in its own little port at the neck where it can't rub or irritate. The hem gripper runs all the way round and is very effective. The loose fit meant no unpleasant restrictions at the neck.
Speaking of fit, I was surprised to find this medium-sized top hang so loosely from me (it's not me in the pics). True, I am half a stone lighter than at the same stage last year, but there was room in there to park a second stomach and the sleeve cuffs didn't hug my arms. Altura calls this a 'semi-fitted' top. If you prefer a more fitted shape, as I do, it may not be for you. Perhaps this is an indication of the changing body shape of the average British male since 1997...
There are three pockets at the back, not overly deep and none has a zip, which might be nice. Altura claims the Sportive 97 contains 'Media Ready' technology in the form of 'an integrated pocket with internal sound port to hold phone/media device' and I searched in vain for this exciting-sounding development, before I found it meant a small buttonhole in the back of the right-hand pocket, through which you can thread a headphone lead. If you like to keep your phone waterproof and securely zipped, this is not likely to wow you.
The same stretch that makes this fabric well ventilated also introduces a quality to be wary of: the fine elasticated fibres woven through it can snag and pull. Keep it away from Velcro and thorns if you want it to keep its good looks.
All the same, it was a tip-top top to wear: 'fit and forget' sums it up, and on days when super-aero sculpting isn't required it will do very well. I expect to see plenty of these on sportives and general summer days-out when versatility and comfort are the main order, especially at a very good price of just under £50.
A versatile summer garment with a relaxed fit and a natty design for Altura's 20th anniversary
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Sportive 97 Short Sleeve Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product 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?
Says Altura: "Celebrating 20 years of performance cycling, Altura deliver comfort and styling in this performance engineered sportive short sleeve jersey."
It promises breathability, a cut designed to fit properly in the riding position and a "semi-fitted" shape.
On the whole, I think this hits the mark, but the fit is definitely more relaxed than most Altura tops I've tried.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
"Engineered fabrics for improved moisture management"
"Allows excess body heat to escape from inside the garment"
"Item is constructed in a way that offers enhanced stretch capabilities"
"Integrated pocket with internal sound port to hold phone/media device"
* Altura Dry™ technology is engineered to move excess moisture away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable
* Altura ErgoFit™ 3D patterning engineered for a more comfortable riding position
* Strategically located retroreflective trims for increased visibility in low light conditions
* Integrated silicon grip detailing delivers enhanced fit
* 3 rear pockets
Red or Blue
This has been put together in China. Compared to a previous Altura top I own which is EU made, it's actually rather tidier. The double-stitching is regular, though not flatlocked (has this gone out of favour?), except at the sleeve cuff and gripper hem, and along the bottom of the pockets. I noticed that if the seams were stretched, some white stitching became visible through the blue or black but that's a minor thing.
The name "Sportive" suggests the kind of riding Altura has in mind: long distance, summer rides where comfort and versatility in a range of conditions are important. Setting aside the fact that no summer conditions have been evident during the test period, I found this fulfilled those requirements very nicely. The full-length zip with draught baffle is a particularly useful tool.
Beware abrasive materials such as Velcro which might rough up the stretchy fabric. I found a snag on mine after a couple of wears, which suggests it might start to look lived-in quite quickly. Otherwise, this is strongly made from quality fabric, mid-weight so quite robust.
In keeping with my remarks below about sizing, the sleeve cuffs were loose around my arms. I do have thin arms but other Altura garments have fitted better here.
If you prefer a closer fit, consider the Podium Elite SS Jersey.
I was puzzled by this garment. I fall right into the middle of Altura's Medium size range, yet this felt like a large. I prefer a close fit so this marks it down for me, but riders of heavier build may be at home in it.
Aside from my remarks on sizing, in actual use it was very pleasant to wear. I especially liked it for pottering around on my winter/touring bike, where racier garments might look a bit daft. It's one of those tops you pull on and then more or less forget about, which is a good thing.
About a fiver more than last year's offering, perhaps for the exclusivity of the 20th anniversary design, but still very good for a quality garment that will get a lot of use.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
I recommend keeping it away from Velcro in the washing machine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
In spring conditions, with a baselayer and arm warmers, perhaps a gilet, it kept me comfortable on rides out into the chillier corners of the North Pennines. On its own it was definitely too well ventilated, but that will come into its own as summer goes on. In other words, it's versatile, which makes it ideal for UK summers. The looser fit is good for relaxed riding, perhaps even touring.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good looking, well made, comfortable to wear and a generally well-thought-out garment.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The pockets are a bit basic.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, for relaxed rides and maybe a bit of touring.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, to my chubby chums especially.
Use this box to explain your score
It's another well made and effective garment from Altura. To be picky, I think the pockets are a bit basic and I worry about the long-term durability of these stretchy fabrics as they do snag easily. The sizing is on the large side, even compared to other medium Altura tops which usually fit me well; but if you are a heavier build than me this won't be an issue.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking