Altura's Esker Women's Trail Trousers are a lightweight and stretchy pair of pants with a tapered slim-fit design that performs well on the bike. However, if you choose to wear knee pads underneath, you may suffer from an unflattering case of muffin legs, and the thigh pocket is rather snug.
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As part of Altura's all-new trail collection, the Esker women's trail trousers are the only bottoms available for women. In contrast, men are offered the men's version of these pants along with waterproof trousers and trail shorts.
Altura Esker Women's Trail Trousers - The design
Constructed with a lightweight and durable fabric, these trousers offer plenty of stretch for you to move without restriction. The tapered leg design provides a slim-fit for a flattering shape, which helps keep water and dirt from working their way up the elasticated ankle cuffs.
The cut features articulated knees areas for total freedom of movement and the capacity for wearing knee protection if desired. There's a zipped pocket on the top of the thigh for storing small essentials, and the trousers are finished off with a DWR water-repellent finish to keep light drizzle and spray from penetrating through.
These trousers are available in sizes UK 8 to 18, accommodating waists from 25" to 36.5" and hips 33.5" - 45".
Altura Esker Women's Trail Trousers - on test
I have to say, the Esker Women's Trail Trousers are somewhat understated to look at. There's no fly, no buckles, buttons or fastenings of any type. These pants simply slip on at the waist with a small zipped thigh pocket on the right side. As for obvious features, that's pretty much it. However, when you look a little closer, you'll notice elastic sections on the hips and the ankle cuffs, which naturally adjust and flex with the body.
Fit-wise, these trousers are really nice and tapered. They're slim with little bag or sag in places you wouldn't want it. The articulated knees allow for freedom of movement when pedalling, and there is space for knee protection to be worn. Although, a word of caution when wearing knee pads...
These pants have a slim cut, so while there is enough room for some knee protection, you may have to consider your options. Bulky hardshell pads will be a struggle to slip underneath AND ride comfortably. I wore my Fox Enduro knee guards under these pants on occasion, which are a slip-on compression material guard with a layer of D30 protection. Now, due to the tapered fit, the lightweight stretchy fabric and the not-black colour, I suffered from a serious case of muffin leg. While this malady didn't affect my ability to ride or be comfortable, I did feel a little self-conscious about my bulging thigh muffins. Further to this, I don't wear compression knickers or chamois shorts, so I can't say whether muffin-ing would occur in this region also, but given the way the fabric hugs elsewhere, don't be surprised if you find visible shorts/pants lines, or indeed, muffin-ing.
The pocket on the thigh was a snug fit for my iPhone 13, but throughout riding and testing, that's where my phone stayed and remained intact. I'm not a huge fan of the pocket placement, however. I feel the pocket would have been better placed further around the side of the thigh, so it's more out of the way and doesn't force its contents to be stretched and pressed into your thigh when pedalling.
During one particularly slippery and relentless muddy ride in Madeira, I was really impressed by the durability of these pants. Butt-sliding and scrambling down over rocks, the fabric didn't tear, snag or deform in any way. Even the DWR water-repellent coating did well to keep the moisture at bay until the heavens really opened up where anything less than tarpaulin would have struggled.
Liam on the men's version
I've been running the men's Esker Trail Trouser solidly since they landed in the office about three months ago and overall, I've been pretty please with it. It's proven to be comfy, durable and it's shown no signs of staining.
The men's trouser differs from the women's as it gets a fly and button closure, probably to make dealing with nature's call a little more ergonomic. Everything else, is exactly the same as the ladies' specific model.
In terms of fit, I've found the Esker Trail trouser to be the best fitting pair of bottoms in Altura's Trail range. They're certainly comfy too thanks to the stretchy panels at either side, though the men's model seems to be a little more spacious than Jessica's. When worn without pads the thighs can get a little baggy, it's a niggle but it's rare that I ride without pads so it's hardly an issue.
While generally, I'm a pretty big fan of the Esker Trouser for its comfort and splash resistance, it's missing a couple of things, the unforgivable one being adjustment. It's great to not have to worry about adjusters or velcro snagging on your jersey but the trouser could really do with cinching up around the waist for a more secure feel. Something like the ratchet adjuster on the Leatt Pant MTB 4.0 would be really at home here.
Around the ankle, this is less of a concern but when wearing winter boots with high neoprene cuffs, they have a strong tendency to rise over the cuffs, so you'll have to tuck them in. Of course, rain could get into your shoe this way.
It would also be great if the trouser came with a second pocket to offer more options when riding without a pack.
Value and verdict
At £75, the Esker Women's Trail Trousers are reasonably priced for what they offer. This is compared against the £85 Five Ten TrailX pants, which are a little baggier in shape and has additional pockets. However, the Five Ten offering lacks the refinement of the Altura Eskers. Suppose you want two zipped pockets, a waist adjuster and a slightly tougher fabric. In that case, the Fox Women's Ranger pants are a comparable option at £90. And finally, Endura's Women's MT500 Spray pants at £115 offer a little more protection, adjustment and storage, for the extra cost. So in comparison with the above options, the Altura Esker pants are quite well-priced as the cheapest option for this style of riding pants.
For Altura's rejuvenated foray into trail wear, the Esker Women's Trail Trousers are a welcomed addition to the collection. I really like the slim fit, the freedom of movement and even the colourway is more interesting than the traditional black. However, I feel the fabric and style create unflattering muffin-like situations when wearing knee protection, which may put some people off. The lack of adjustability can be limiting as well, so be sure to check Altura's size guide before purchasing.