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The Altura NV2 Waterproof Jacket is a lightweight, packable and slim-fitting shell type, much better suited to faster-paced training than its iconic commuter sibling (NV standing for Night Vision).
Altura's Shield system is essentially a two-layer polyester which offers excellent performance at this price point. The seams are taped and welded, but a good quality garment also needs to breathe, otherwise you'll be drenched on the inside.
The NV2 has a waterproof and breathability rating of 15,000mm. To put that into context, your typical budget technical jacket comes in at 10,000 and a sophisticated model at 20,000. In layman's terms, garments with 10,000 ratings will evict rider-generated moisture at a moderate rate and resist showery rain/sleet/snow for 30-45 minutes or so. From 15k and upwards we're talking protection from heavy, persistent rain/sleet/snow for a good deal longer, with similar improvement in breathability – all things being equal.
Worn with short-sleeve jerseys for much of our relatively mild test period, the fabric didn't feel overly synthetic against bare skin. With the mercury around 15 degrees and me powering along at 90rpm, a faint mistiness crept in after 35 minutes before pretty much vanishing for the remainder of rides of up to five hours.
Sure there's some faint catch-up, if you've been stopped for 15 minutes or so, say tending a flat or shooting the breeze over a coffee, but it's soon dismissed. Some of this will depend on the quality of your base and mid layers but it's been equal to, if not better than, something like the Polaris Hexon.
I've felt just the right side of snug – some might say smug – when battling some breezy coastal winds. You can feel it whistling around the fibres without penetrating. The collar is longer than it looks, too, so no danger of wet/cold creeping in there either.
Perisistent, showery spells just see the water bead up and roll away as you'd expect, and although I've had soggy legs, taking in some waterlogged lanes, the tail has ensured my buttocks and lower back have remained bone dry.
There have only been a few really heavy downpours in my locales recently. Given 90 minutes or so of incessant stuff, I remained very dry – allowing for the fibres' need to breathe and my own efforts.
Most jackets, especially at the mid-range, tend to be pretty well configured for visibility, but I've been particularly impressed by Altura's deployment of its in-house retro-reflective Darkproof technology. Slate grey during daylight, it turns brilliant white under street/vehicle lighting, so it's practical without standing out like a sore thumb in brighter conditions.
Admittedly, most approaching riders spotted my bike-mounted lighting first, but the general consensus suggests the Darkproof strips were visible at 150 metres, from all angles. Friends out in their cars reckoned two or three times that along pitch black open roads. There's no accounting for drivers who don't look, but the vast majority emerging from concealed junctions stopped in their tracks and there was more notable restraint at some roundabouts too.
I liked the red base colour of our test jacket, but black or fluoro yellow are alternatives.
Altura describes this as a semi-fitted design, which by my reckoning is snug yet still allowing sufficient room for a baselayer and long-sleeve jersey. Its 'ergo-fit' is essentially describing the use of 3D patterning to achieve an unrestricted, gender-specific, comfortable fit on the bike.
Sizing is pretty comprehensive too. I've found the medium bang on for my frame – roomy in the shoulders and long enough in the sleeves and tail to prevent gathering (it's not me in the photos, by the way).
I also like the elasticated cuffs – I find them less fiddly than Velcro-types – and a thick silicone gripper strip means the tail stays put, even on some slippery Lycra tights.
A single, very square rear pocket with a smaller integral compartment is your lot in terms of storage, but it caters for the essentials. Operating the zipper in gloved hands was something of an acquired art, though, especially mid-ride, as is the front zipper. Both became more intuitive with time, although some tweaks here would be welcome.
I've taken ours on some forest detours on my cyclo-cross and mountain bikes, with the usual prickly foliage encounters, and there have been no signs of bobbling let alone anything more serious. To date, I've only washed it the once, just to see how it responded to a quick, 30 degree tour de Miele. Aside from some trace, residual soap flakes, it emerged pristine and nigh-on ready to wear given an hour or so.
Although technically it's packable, it's not in the 'condom jacket in a jersey pocket' sense. Think small pannier/bike packing size. And if it's sodden, try to allow it to dry before folding and shoving away.
For the money, I reckon Altura is on to a winner here. This slimmer-fitting incarnation of the Night Vision performs to a very high standard in every respect. Yes I would like another pocket, ideally a breast one, and would welcome bigger zipper tags, but otherwise this is well worth closer scrutiny if you're seeking a performance-orientated shell type for less than a ton.
A great all-rounder for the money, just the zipper and pocket meriting minor revision
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura NV2 Waterproof Jacket
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the jacket 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?
Altura says: "Waterproof, windproof and highly breathable with 360˚NV™ Technology. Targeted at the rider who needs guaranteed protection in a jacket that packs light and tight."
I'd say it's a very capable jacket, well suited to more strenuous commuting and general riding.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Altura Shield™ technology is engineered to provide protection from wind and water, whilst still offering high levels of breathability
* Altura Darkproof® technology offers superior retroreflectivity. NV360° performance offers 360 degree reflectivity for maximum dark light visibility
* Altura ErgoFit™ 3D patterning engineered for a more comfortable riding position
* Waterproof/ Breathability rating: 15k/15k
Very good, even faced with heavy, persistent rainfall. Nothing has found its way inside, to date.
Very good – there's some dampness after concerted effort, especially in milder temperatures, but I've felt noticeably drier compared with technical jackets boasting the typical 10,000 rating.
Specification and detailing is generally above par.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to live with. Usual drill, 30 degree machine wash.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, this incarnation of Altura's Night Vision range is much better suited to longer/faster commutes, general riding and training than its venerable commuter siblings, breathability and waterproofing being the two most obvious improvements. That said, the large rear 'poacher' style pocket isn't the easiest to access while riding, and I'd prefer bigger zipper tags, especially when I'm wearing full-finger gloves.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Fabric's waterproofing/breathability ratio, nice cut, great fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Zipper tags could be larger, and single rear pocket is tricky to access, especially on the fly.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Definitely a contender.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
This is a really nice jacket for general riding; with bigger zipper tags and a more accessible rear pocket I'd have upped the score.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)