If you're looking for a smart messenger-cum-pannier bag to get your stuff to the office and back the the Altura Meta should fit the bill, assuming you don't like to carry masses of stuff. It has a few niggles which I'd like to see ironed when it's up for a refresh but overall it's a solid bit of kit for day-to-day use.
Made from fairly heavy duty tarpaulin material the Meta is a weighty bag. It's well made, with a long front flap that keeps the elements out in all but the foulest weather, for which there's a rain cover. To the rear there's a laptop sleeve that'll swallow a 15-inch device, then there's a main compartment and a multi-pocketed organiser against the other face.
There's a pocket in the flap too, accessible via a waterproof zip on the outside face, which is handy for stashing stuff as you go or keeping bits you need to have easy access to. A big velcro patch keeps the flap closed and there's two buckled straps too.
Underneath the front flap in the tarpaulin there's a lock sleeve for transporting your U-lock, closed by a thick webbing strap and velcro. There's reflective detailing and an LED light loop too, which is situated on the outside face of the bag so it's usable whichever side of the bike you fit the bike to.
The rear of the bag has a flap made of a padded mesh material held in place by magnets. Underneath there's a set of pannier fittings: Rixen and Kaul Pressure Fit ones, that just clip onto the rail with a small locking toggle if you need it. You just flip the pad up and slap it on the rack; the pad sort of sits across the top of the rack. It's simple, and it works well.
When you're carrying the bag about there's a neoprene handle for short hops or a shoulder strap for longer stints. The mesh pad means the pannier fittings don't dig into your back. There's no sternum strap as the Meta isn't really designed to be worn while riding, although it's fine for short journeys.
Overall I've enjoyed using the Meta. It's a comfy bag to carry and a simple one to stick on your rack. It's not the biggest though, and although you can stack stuff up inside and pull the long flap over the top, the buckles don't have a long enough strap to be able to secure it and the two opposing velcro pads don't meet either. That's a shame as it would make the bag more versatile if the design let you overload it a bit.
The only other niggle is the pad that covers the pannier fittings. In the rain it soaks up plenty of water, which it then efficiently delivers to your clothes when you shoulder it. Ideally that section of the bag would also be made from tarpaulin; it's not as if you need the breathability of the mesh for the kind of use this bag is going to get.
Other than that though, I liked the Meta. If you want a smart bag that you can stick on a pannier and carry into the office, and you're not after a big capacity, it's certainly one to look at.
Durable and smart work bag for rack-equipped commuters
road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Meta Versa Messenger Bag and Pannier
Size tested: n/a
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Hardwearing tarpaulin fabric
* Rixen Kaul™ Pressure Fit fittings
* Concealed pannier fittings behind padded flap with magnetic closure
* Padded laptop & tablet sleeves
* Fits up to 15' laptops
* U-Lock pocket fits up to 230mm locks
* Internal zipped pocket
* Front flap zipped pocket
* Stationery organiser & key hook
* Fleece lined pockets
* Removable shoulder strap with grippy shoulder pad
* Shoulder strap can be stowed internally, held in place with buckles.
* LED attachment loop
* Reflective details
* Rain cover included
* Left or Right fit
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Well, with a couple of niggles.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Well made, easy to use, durable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
cover straps need to be longer, mesh pad soaks up rain.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium 853
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.