Altura’s Esker is a stretch fabric weatherproof jacket, with a promisingly sporty look and low bulk features that looks good on and off the bike. Things get wet and uncomfortable quickly compared to the best MTB jackets unless your work rate is leisurely and the weather isn’t being hard on you. Sleeve and body fit don’t match up either and the features added to try and offset the poor fabric performance add bulk and cost.
Design and performance
With a soft handle, high stretch, quiet, matt fabric, the Esker looks good enough for my teenage daughter to have stolen it for walking to school a couple of times which has never happened with a test jacket before and certainly proves it’s cool enough to be worn off the bike. The volume-adjustable, multi-panel hood pulls over the top of most helmets fine. The single chest pocket is more than big enough to swallow the whole jacket and although the zip isn’t reversible to make a sealed package there is an elasticated loop to keep it bundled up.
The cuffs are cowled and elasticated for a snug fit over the back of hands/gloves and the rear hem is dropped to cover your lower back when leaning forward on the bike, too. The fabric is DWR coated so it shrugs off light showers fine and the full seam sealing promises protection from heavier rain. Unfortunately with just a 5k hydrostatic head rating, it doesn’t take long for the jacket to start wetting out if the rain gets more serious. While you can shrink the helmet volume there’s no way to tighten the unlined collar or strap the hood down so it tends to parachute, pull open and let draughts in when riding fast. There’s no way to snug the open bottom hem down either so that can be naughty, too. In contrast to the generous body, the forearms are comparatively tight and together with a clammy interior fabric feel arms can soon cool down from compression if you run anything more than a thin base layer underneath. they’re tight enough to provoke arm pump on long off-road descents. While Altura’s website claims elbow protection compatibility we couldn’t even squeeze a medium volume pad into the sleeves and while Amy from Altura ensures us it should work with light pads “like the Alpine Stars Paragon Plus, or Paragon Lite which are a single layer of foam with no strapping” it’s still a very, very tight squeeze that cuts down on mobility and is likely to provoke arm pump.
Some air-con is added by vents under flaps around the mid-chest and below the shoulders and a mesh panel across the shoulder yoke to help spread out sweat. The open lower hem also helps add breeziness. The baseline fabric breathability of only 5k is very obvious if you put much pressure on the pedals for more than a few minutes though. The multi-panel cut means a lot of totally unbreathable seam tape adding to the sweatiness too, despite the fact the fabric isn’t really waterproof enough in a sustained sense to be worth taping anyway. Extra panels, mesh and taping also contribute to uncompetitive packing bulk and add cost if you’re assessing from a pure performance point of view, too. S-3XL (8-18 in the women’s version) sizing should cover larger riders but potentially leaves lighter riders out of options.
Altura’s Esker jacket looks great with a hooded sports casual cut and quiet stretchy fabric that looks smart downtown or cruising the lanes and trails. The fabric soon wets out even with a moderate work rate inside or light rain outside though and we regularly finished Eskar test rides uncomfortably damp and cold. The vents and seam tape aren’t enough to really help offset the fabric either but they add extra bulk, weight and cost if you’re looking for a packable performance shell. Even allowing for stretch the tight sleeve cut is at odds with the tubby body too so it’s definitely best for social ’adventures’, not serious ones.
Tech Specs: Altura Esker jacket
- Price: £100
- Weight: 305g (medium)
- Sizes S - 3XL
- Colors: Carbon or burnt orange