The idea behind the Altura Meta Courier Bag is one of transformation; it works as either a messenger bag, or a pannier bag.
This is the sister bag to the Altura Morph Backpack (Meta and Morph – see what they did there?) which transforms from, you guessed it, a rucksack into a pannier bag. Part of their new Versas range, it’s designed with the commuter in mind.
It’s the kind of bag that’s perfect if you commute often by bike, but find yourself moving location during the day, or catching the train home sometimes. Smart, plain black and made of a durable coated tarpaulin fabric it can take some rough treatment.
At the back of the bag there’s a thick flap that conceals the pannier clasp mechanism. The flap is padded, so when the bag rests against your back or side, you don’t get poked by spiky plastic bits. I wore it numerous times for cycling and generally walking around, and it’s comfortable to use.
There are dire warnings on the packaging about making sure you’ve packed away any loose or trailing straps – and quite rightly! As well as warning you, though, Altura have made it easy to do, as the bag has clips that shorten the length of the shoulder strap and keep it in the bag as you ride.
A very useful feature is the D-lock carrier; a separate slot and strap on the front means you can attach lock to the bag. With my mid-weight D-lock I found this to be quick to fit and secure to ride with.
Bags tend to get thrown around a fair bit, or at least the ones I use to, so having something inside that protects your precious laptop or tablet when you unthinkingly drop it down on the ground or slam it on the table is good thinking. A padded pocket not only cushions your computer cargo; it’s suspended off the bottom on the bag, so it won’t bang onto the surface hard if you do drop the bag. It’s also got a lovely fleecy liner, which will keep scratches at bay too. I easily fitted in my 13″ laptop, and Altura say the Meta can take up to 15″.
There are pockets galore inside; zipped, mesh, and so on, so you can order your notebooks, pens, cables and phone easily. My favorite pocket though is on the bag flap. Not only is it easily accessible when wearing the bag or using it as a pannier, but there’s also a nifty little clip to attach your keys too.
One downside to the main flap is it’s velcro fastening. It’s not that it doesn’t stay shut because it does – it also has clips to keep it securely closed. It’s that the rough velcro patch is on the bag rather than the flap, and so it all too easy to catch on your clothes when you put the bag on. If you wear lycra, you’ll know this is bad news as it pulls the threads. This could be solved by swapping the patches over.
Versatility is one of the main draws of the bag, and when in use as a pannier you can fit it on either side of the rack. There are reflective details on it, and little hooks to hang lights. The bag itself isn’t waterproof, but comes with a hi viz yellow waterproof cover.
There are a few things that I found didn’t work quite so well in my experience. Firstly, when it’s attached the pannier rack, the padded flap that covers the pannier clasps isn’t covered by the waterproof cover. I was lucky enough to have a dry commute but I imagine that it would get pretty soggy if it did rain, which also might be uncomfortable if you were to then use it slung over your shoulder.
Secondly, again when on the rack, I found the width of the bag meant my leg rubbed against it when riding. It’s a small annoyance, and might just be a combination of the size of my bike and rack, but worth mentioning none the less.
Thirdly, and this is definitely a question of personal luggage habits, but I tend to carry quite a lot when commuting, including a change of clothes. I couldn’t fit everything I needed into the Meta bag, so if like me you take a lot of stuff with you, you might be better off going for the Morph Backpack.
The bag itself does clip really securely to the rack, and no amount of potholed roads loosened it. I even took it over some cobblestones to be really sure! If you’re a streamlined commuter and like a bag that’s really versatile, then this is it.
If you’re a fan of messenger bags, want something that works well off and on the bike and generally travel quite light, then is a certainly one to consider. As a messenger bag it was comfortable and practical to use. As a pannier it’s super secure on the bike, but sadly the width meant it caught my legs while riding.
– Suspended laptop pocket
– Well thought out features like the shoulder strap stow clips
– Hi viz waterproof cover
– Too long when used as pannier bag
– Waterproof cover doesn’t fit over fabric flap when in use as pannier bag
Price: RRP £69.99
More info: Altura
Dimensions: 440 x 340 x 180mm