Altura's top-of-the-range NV2 Elite bib shorts are certainly comfortable to wear, if you like the pad, and their understated branding means they'll go well with anything in your wardrobe. Just beware of overstretching them at 'comfort stops'.
Firstly, I'd like to thank Altura for making a pair of shorts that don't have shouty graphics. While the leg grippers do carry the brand name, it's grey-on-grey in daylight (reflective at night) so pretty subtle and means these shorts will go with any top in your wardrobe.
You would expect a pair of shorts coming in at £100 to be well-thought out, well-constructed and comfortable, and the NV2s are all that, though with the odd qualification. I wasn't wild about the pad – it wasn't bad, but my sit bones started to make complaints around the 50-mile mark and on longer rides I was seeking to stand up at every opportunity. I'm well used to this, so don't be put off if you are not a martyr to soreness, but don't expect a miracle in comfort.
The first time I stopped for a toilet break, my sighs of relief were accompanied by an ominous 'pop' as the top hem on the front panel gave way. I was surprised at the seam giving, as every other Altura product I've ever owned has been pretty well indestructible to the point where I was sick of the sight of them and they were still like new. I'm sure if I'd been a regular punter and taken them back to the shop they would be replaced. Of course, I shouldn't be tugging them down so far at the front, it's asking for trouble, but in my defence they come a long way up toward the chest and getting undressed to wee isn't always a practical proposition.
It's pleasing to see most of the seams – where they matter at least – flatlock stitched and this may well contribute to the price premium. I think it's worth the trouble as the garment is smooth against the body in use. The ventilated bib sections are similarly carefully hemmed and sat wide and flat over my shoulders; the yoke at the back also did a good job of sweat transportation. I'd say these excel in summer conditions.
This makes me wonder why Altura makes such a big deal out of the reflective properties of the leg-grippers. 'Altura Darkproof® technology offers superior retroreflectivity. NV360° performance offers 360 degree reflectivity for maximum dark light visibility', it tells us. Setting aside what 'dark light' might be, I only ever wear bib shorts without anything over them in the summer and probably never at night, so it seems a bit redundant; every little helps, I suppose.
I do like the move towards raw-edge leg grippers, though – considerably better than the silicone grip they are replacing, especially when as well-constructed as these are.
Altura's product descriptions are littered with trade-marks and patented names: ProGel, Darkproof, NV360, Altura Dry, ErgoFit and so on. Whether a 'Pro 3D pad with full carving conch' is a better thing than a '3D Mold construction pad', especially as both include ProGel and Altura Dry technology, is hard to say as I have no idea what a 'full carving conch' is. All I can go by is whether my bum hurts more, less or about the same as other pads I use.
Will I reach for them for a 100-miler? In all conscience, I think not, but that doesn't mean I didn't like them.
There's much to like in Altura's range-topping bib shorts, but saddle-sufferers may want a denser pad
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura NV2 Bib Shorts
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Altura says: "Performance delivered in a competition bib short using clear reflective, an Altura Pro 3D pad and 3D ErgoFit™ patterning for superior ride comfort."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Altura Darkproof® technology offers superior retroreflectivity. NV360° performance offers 360 degree reflectivity for maximum dark light visibility
* Altura Dry™ technology is engineered to move excess moisture away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable
* Altura Pro 3D pad with full carving conch construction with breathable perforations. Featuring Altura ProGel™ and Altura Dry™ technology
* Altura ErgoFit™ 3D patterning engineered for a more comfortable riding position
* Body mapping mesh zones for enhanced breathability
* Rear tech pockets to store energy supplies
* Integrated silicon grip detailing delivers enhanced fit
Very tidy; good to see lots of flatlock-stitched seams – though I did manage to tear one of them (see 'durability').
In the warm summer conditions I've mainly been using them in, very good. The bib is well ventilated and the mesh panels around the upper stomach and back panels definitely help with breathability. All-round fit and comfort was very good. The pad was no great revelation in comfort but as good as many and better than some.
A slightly cautious review here as some stitching popped on the upper stomach hem. This was a result of pulling them down at the front to answer nature's call and probably counts as user abuse but we all do it, don't we guys? Plus the stomach panel comes a long way up.
Perfect for me in size L with my lean 6'2" frame. In the saddle, the leg grippers sit higher up the thigh than might appear the case when one is standing, but this isn't a case of them riding up or wrinkling.
Spot-on again. I would expect Altura's "Large" to fit me and it does.
Well, the fit was good all-round which is a major part of the comfort factor; the pad fitted well and didn't rub but just wasn't that comfortable over 75 miles or so. It seems for me the more expensive the pad, the less comfortable I find it! Also, that very tall front panel makes "comfort" stops either a strip-down operation or do as I did and risk popping the stitching.
A penny short of £100 is £40 more than Altura's own ProGel 3s. For that, you get an enhanced pad, some pockets and arguably a better-breathing bib, but I'm not sure that justifies the difference.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Following Altura's wise instructions, no problems. Dries quickly.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Good everyday shorts that are ideal for summer. They'll go with anything, fit well and are comfortable, and you may get on with the pad better than I did.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good fit and form, good leg grippers and understated branding which means you can wear them with anything.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe, in a sale.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? I'd point them at the ProGel 3, probably.
Use this box to explain your overall score
In pure performance terms, a good product and while I didn't particularly notice any step-up in pad comfort, it was adequate and better than some. However, I thought they don't offer much more than Altura's own ProGel3 for a considerably larger wedge of dosh and I managed to pop the stitching.
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