Travel through any British city at night and chances are you’ll spot at least one cyclist in an Altura Night Vision jacket. Why are they so popular? They combine a high level of visibility with a relaxed cut that doesn’t look too out of place off the bike, at a reasonable price.
The Evo is a step up from the standard waterproof Night Vision jacket (£69.99), made of a pricier fabric and with some updated features. In fact, Altura bill it as “the ultimate commuting jacket”. So how does it fare?
It certainly has all the features you’d expect of a jacket at this price – a mesh lining, fleece-lined collar, long pit-zips under the arms for temperature regulation and a plethora of zipped pockets (although the front ones are a little small for warming your hands off the bike).
Press studs are hidden in a little recess at the back of the collar in case you want to fit a hood (available separately for £10), and there’s even a Velcro tab for a flashing LED light that attaches to the back of the jacket.
As the name suggests, the Night Vision Evo is highly visible at night, with more reflective logos, strips, trim and piping than you can shake a stick at. The black option obviously doesn’t fare so well in daylight, so we’d recommend the alternative red and yellow colour options for anyone looking for a year-round jacket.
However, for winter commuting use, when you’re likely to be riding in darkness for both parts of your journey, we can see the attraction of a jacket that’ll still get you seen but is more acceptable down the pub.
The soft-touch polyester fabric, combined with sealed seams and waterproof zips, keeps out the worst the elements can throw at you. However, as with almost all waterproof jackets, really exert yourself on the bike and, despite reasonable breathability and the generous venting, you’ll start to feel damp due to the build-up of sweat.
If you ride fast and hard, you’re probably better off with a windproof shell (Altura do a Night Vision one). But then if you ride fast and hard, you’ll also probably want a jacket with a tighter-fitting, more performance-orientated cut, like Altura’s Night Vision Flite or Reflex Ergo Fit.
In fact, the cut is the only area where the Evo falls down. The baggy fit will be attractive to, ahem, less athletically proportioned riders and isn’t excessively sail-like in wind, and the drop tail is a welcome feature.
However, we felt the jacket could do with more stretch under the arms and across the top of the back – it feels a little restrictive, although this is less of an issue on a drop-bar bike than a hybrid or mountain bike – and taller riders will find the sleeves on the short side.
The collar is a little high at the front and has a tendency to dig into your chin (although a zip garage improves comfort, along with the fleece lining), and while the raised front of the jacket works well with tights, riders who favour waterproof trousers or baggy shorts may find themselves with chilly midriffs.
One of our taller (6ft 2in) test riders found that every time he raised an arm to signal, the lack of underarm stretch meant the front of the jacket pulled up almost to belly button height. Bear in mind that our sample jacket was a size medium, though.
These are small niggles, however. The Evo is aimed at commuters, not racers, and at the mid- to low-speeds of rush hour traffic, on average-sized riders, it performs extremely well, with a good combination of warmth and weatherproofing, and an impossible-to-miss level of reflectivity.