Altura's Firestorm Waist Shorts are ideal for those new to cycling or who don't want the faff of bib shorts. They're comfortable, functional and practical – perfect for short spins in mild temperatures.
Bib shorts are not for everyone, particularly if you are new to the sport and are looking to combine cycle shorts with a T-shirt for a more casual look; a bib might seem unnecessary or even uncomfortable and, of course, toilet stops are a real faff.
The Firestorms tick a lot of the boxes if waist shorts are what you want, although I would say that they have their shortcomings for rides in excess of a couple of hours – possibly not an issue if 2020 is your first year in the saddle.
The fabric (82% nylon, 18% spandex) is soft against the skin and offers very little compression – perhaps a plus for those not chasing Strava segments or riding for performance. The multiple panels that Altura has used create a really comfortable fit; for me there was no bagginess or excess that often comes with waist shorts. They move well with the body and are in no way restrictive at any point.
The waist band is seriously comfortable. This is where bibless shorts can let themselves down. Altura has used a tapered band that drops at the front to create a snug, yoga-style fit. I never had problems with it digging in, or creating a sense of clamminess or overheating.
The leg grippers weren't quite as impressive. The single silicone strip does what it's designed to: it holds the shorts in place. In combination with leg warmers, I had no issues, but against bare skin they weren't great, particularly in very warm weather or for rides in excess of two and a half hours.
The solid strip doesn't allow the skin to breathe fully, and the build-up of heat over longer periods of time leaves a mark on the thighs. I did a 4.5-hour ride in them (20+ degrees) and was left with a red, irritated impression. It soon disappears but it's not up to the standard of many alternative grippers. It's a shame Altura didn't used the same elasticated bands that it has on its Firestorm Bib Shorts (£79.99, full review to come) rather than this sticky, solid strip.
Pay significantly more and you can get a highly breathable pair of shorts that the Firestorms won't be able to compete with for full-on, intense riding. However, for gentle spins in mild weather, these shorts offer decent levels of breathability and sweat evaporates relatively quickly. I don't think it would be unreasonable to make use of them for a spin class or indoor cycling session either, if you are into that kind of thing. Since the fabric isn't the thinnest, it also copes with cooler temperatures.
The pad offers decent protection. I found that it wasn't as comfortable as, for example, Santini's C3W Pad in its Legend Bib Shorts, particularly for rides over two hours, but those are £130. It took noticeably longer to dry after washing than pads in more expensive shorts, too, but I never felt uncomfortable while riding due to moisture build-up; the dimpled construction helps here.
It's not overly bulky either – it won't put off those wanting to try out padded shorts for the first time.
During testing these have been my go-to shorts for my weekly delivery job and short spins to isolated lunch spots. The fabric has taken quite a battering of wearing and washing, and it's showing a little on the pad area, though I have, admittedly, sat on benches and walls. I hasten to add it is simply pilling rather than full-on snags – perhaps testament to the fabric's longevity. Even if it isn't pristine after several weeks of wearing and washing, it's holding together just fine. And to be fair, most shorts don't handle brick walls so well.
Ample reflective detailing is a bonus with the Firestorm – many shorts at this price point overlook it.
Looking at alternatives, you could skip right in at the top end with Rapha's Cargo Shorts for £95. Sarah really rated these; the leg grippers look much more refined and the pocket is a practical bonus.
The Firestorms are currently on offer for £44.99 (see the 'buy it now' link at the top, or 'best deals' below) and with 25 per cent off they're a bargain really. If you buy via Altura direct, there is currently a 30 per cent discount for NHS workers too – it's great to see companies getting on board like this.
With the sudden uptake in cycling, Altura's Firestorm Waist Shorts could well be a hit with those wanting a faff-free, comfortable and affordable pair of shorts for leisurely spins out on the road. And if you're keen to improve your road riding, they'll serve you well on an indoor trainer too.
Exceptionally comfortable fit and a very good investment for those enjoying short to mid-length rides
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Firestorm Women's Waist Shorts
Size tested: 10
Tell us what the product is for
Altura says, "A waist short that offers a stylish tailored fit with the supreme comfort of our womens Stealth pad."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-Yoga style waistband
-Womens Stealth pad
-Silicone hem grippers
For the price range, it's very good. The tailoring achieved by panelling is good at this price.
Perform well on short to mid length rides.
Signs of piling but no snags, despite having been in contact with a variety of rough surfaces.
Perfectly acceptable for a garment that is not targeted at wannabe racers.
Silicone gripper tape is a little uncomfortable.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Standard 30 degrees, non-bio detergent and no softener. Chamois takes longer to thoroughly dry than some.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Personally, I didn't think the pad was up to the 'long days in the saddle' that Altura claims, and certainly not if this doesn't include copious coffee stops, but it is sufficiently breathable and very comfortable for short to mid-length rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfy yoga-style waist fitting and sufficient panels to create a good fit around the hips/groin/torso.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slightly uncomfortable leg grippers.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Competitively priced and close to unbeatable when on offer.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
A great option for entry-level riders or those who simply hate the faff of a bib. You won't be getting compression, exceptional breathability or state of the art leg grippers, but thanks to ample paneling and the yoga-like waist band, you get comfort that's often hard to find with waist shorts.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…