"They're very good, with an innovative alternative to two conventional bib straps and a non-restrictive, comfortable fit, all for a palatable price"
Altura's Women's Firestorm Bib Shorts won't compress your legs or make you feel like you're prepped to line up for a gruelling race in the midday sun, but they are extremely comfortable and perform perfectly well in warm weather. On top of that, they're good value and can't be knocked for quality.
Just like Altura's Firestorm Waist shorts, the bib version gives very little compression around the legs and hips. The material is soft against the skin and moves freely whether you are shifting about in the saddle or out of it for a climb. Multiple panels make for a snug but in no way constrictive fit. Flatlock seams finish it all off nicely. It's all good quality construction for the price tag.
The legs are held firmly in place with wide, elasticated bands that reach about two-thirds of the way round, with doubled-over, thick Lycra on the underside of the leg to complete the hem. There is no silicone element whatsoever, which I didn't miss in the slightest. They really are 'gentle' on the legs – no post-ride indentations whatsoever. The reflective detailing here is effective too, and hopefully won't deteriorate with time – some 'stick-on' detailing can start to peel off over time.
The bib element reflects what was used on Altura's Classic Thermal Bib Tights: a full-frontal mesh panel with a rear bra-style clasp. The mesh provides some support, though it certainly doesn't replace a sports bra. It is a decent alternative to an undervest, making the shorts perfect for warm weather riding – a sports bra and the mesh panel are all the layers you need under your jersey.
While undoing a rear clasp is fine, I struggle to fasten them, and had issues with the winter tights as the clasp really needed to be opened and closed to get the tights on and off. Happily, this is not the case with the shorts – I've hardly undone it over the last few weeks.
You could ride with it undone, but then you lose some of the support/tension that the mesh panel provides. The whole setup is much more convenient and comfortable than I was expecting. I imagine it does away with the whole 'where should the straps sit' dilemma if you aren't so flat chested.
The material feels more substantial than many shorts, but I was surprised at just how cool I could remain in the recent warm weather.
If you're looking for a comfortable pair of shorts with an alternative bib design to two straps resting over your boobs, you don't want your legs squeezed into skin-tight shorts that leave their mark after a ride, and you want a pad that doesn't feel like a nappy and will be sufficient for two or three hours of riding, all for a reasonable price, these Firestorms are well worth a look.
Good quality shorts with a comfortable pad and an appealing alternative bib design