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The Altura Progel 3 bib shorts sit at the more affordable end of the spectrum, but while the fabric and build feel impressively good, for me, the gel pad doesn't really beat a regular foam one for comfort, and their long legs mean fit can be an issue.
The well-shaped Progel 3D pad is flatlock stitched into the shorts and sits comfortably without rubbing anywhere. It does feel slightly liquid and squishy under the sit bones, especially for the first hour or so, though after that it seems to compress slightly into a harder-feeling, less supportive form.
It's not a huge drop-off in comfort, but it doesn't really outperform regular foam pads at similar prices. It wicks away sweat just as effectively and doesn't trap any more heat, but the gel is noticeably heavier, and at 224g for size Large, these are on the heavy side for summer shorts.
Another downside is that the outer fabric is free to slide across the smooth gel, leading to a slippery feeling in the saddle. I found it mildly annoying on flatter sections, where I had to brace slightly to stay in position and not slide down to the saddle nose. It only wastes a tiny bit of energy, but still.
If your thighs are long or average in length, fit and sizing is good, but these aren't the only bibs with fashionably long legs that limit my choice of sizes; on my 185cm tall, 89cm inside-legged frame (so relatively long torso), the size Large sit right on top of my kneecap when I first put them on. (It's not me in the photos.)
In use they slide up to the lower thigh, where the broad (5cm) elastic and almost full-width silicone gripper do a good job of keeping them in place. The cuff size is well judged for that location, which is where they should sit. However, with the XL's legs being 10mm longer and 5mm wider still, there's no real option for riders like me to size up for more room in the torso (a useful extra 2cm on the XL).
The good news is that the 80-20 nylon/spandex fabric is springy enough that, despite the legs riding up, you never end up with saggy material at the crotch. Consequently, there's no uncomfortable bunching or rubbing. If, like me, you're on the low-waisted side, the only thing you have to deal with are the strong elastic straps.
Happily, the broad mesh panels of the straps provide effective cooling, and they're wide enough not to dig in even under some stress. None of the overlocked seams between the 'ErgoFit' panels caused any discomfort either, again despite a pretty tight fit. Comfort is very good, even when rain-soaked, and they dry quickly too.
The fluorescent yellow stripe on one leg looks a little minimal for safety, but while the elastic cuffs look grey in daylight, they glow white under headlights thanks to Altura's 'Darkproof' retroreflective treatment. This works the same way as road signs, to very efficiently bounce light back towards its source with a minimum of scattering.
Overall value is good thanks to a strong but not bulky build and an impressive price – considerably less than the vast majority of our recent tests. It's not impossible to find some quality competitors, though: for just £5 more, Alé's £65 Corsa bib shorts are good looking, light and blessed with an excellent pad, while tightish grippers may help the short-of-thigh stay comfy.
Lusso's Pro Gel bib shorts also come in at £65, with a more classic look than the Alturas, while dhb's highly rated Aeron bibs were £65 when tested but officially £75 now – and discounted to £52.50 at the time of writing.
Well made and keenly priced, though the gel in the pad adds more weight than comfort, and fit won't suit all
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Progel 3 Bib Shorts
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Altura says, "Our most popular Darkproof ® bib shorts with a multi-density ProGel™ 3D pad delivering ultimate comfort in the saddle, keeping you riding longer."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Altura lists these features:
* 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 ProGel™ 3D mold construction pad. Featuring ProGel™ and Altura Dry™ technology
* Altura ErgoFit™ 3D patterning engineered for a more comfortable riding position
* Body mapping mesh zones for enhanced breathability
* Integrated silicon grip detailing delivers enhanced fit
Strong and tidy seams, well-shaped panels and good fabrics.
The pad's initial springiness fades after an hour or so; the gel doesn't beat foam padding at anything, and feels slippery. Shorts work well overall, though.
No reason to think they won't last well.
The elastic could be gentler in the bibs to accommodate longer backs. Otherwise, fit is good.
The shorts size up well, but while the Progel 3 bibs can accommodate long or regular-length lower halves, riders with relatively short thighs/long torsos will find themselves between sizes.
A little heavier than some; the gel padding is heavier than foam, for no meaningful advantage.
Good fabric and shaping make these shorts very comfortable, while the gel pad is no more – but no less – comfortable than many budget foam pads.
They're good value and well made for the price.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Wash up without issue.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I found these pretty comfortable despite the too-tight bib section, thanks to the stretchy fabric, good grippers, a well-shaped pad and large areas of cooling mesh.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit of the shorts themselves.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Stronger than necessary elastic in the bibs.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No – not unless I could have XL straps on them.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, so long as they were the right shape.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The pad is fine (if no better than a foam one) while the shorts' fabric, shaping and comfort are good for the price. If the bibs fit and they work for you, these are a strong 7.
About the tester
I usually ride: GT GTR Series 3 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mountain biking