I generally subscribe to the view that bikes should play packhorse. The Altura Morph Versa gives you the option of carrying gear on your back or the bike, so you can choose according to the length of your trip and more easily carry the bag when you get there.
The Altura Morph is a reversible pannier-cum-rucksack. It looks like a conventional rucksack but unclip the front panel and hey presto - carrier mounts!
The 16-litre capacity is spread over three compartments, the first featuring two sleeves for laptop or tablet computers, leaving room for A4 pad, diary etc. I've been inclined to pop patch kit, multi-tools, CO2 inflator, mini pump et al inside a pencil case in this section with a spare tube or two riding shotgun either side since the third features pen ports and key hook. A generously padded and relatively spacious fleece pocket for smart phones/glasses is thoughtfully sandwiched inbetween.
Intelligent loading between first and third compartments will just permit a change of carefully folded clothes, thin-soled street shoes and long-shackle U lock. There's a further two mesh 'hammocks' sewn into another thin zippered sleeve, adjacent to the external wall. Frankly, the latter smacks of afterthought since the aluminium mounting hardware 'shares' this space but it proved useful parking for its elasticated hi-viz rain cover and some A5 letters/envelopes.
In pannier mode the bag mounts on Rixen & Kaul hardware. It's intuitive to use and rock steady, especially on thicker 6mm, 8mm or even 10mm rack tubing. Compact and semi-compact geometry bikes with bigger luggage can create heel clearance headaches, so Altura have altered the mounting kit slightly. Successfully too, if my Univega RTB (mid 90s cross country mtb frameset with frisky, 16 inch chainstays) couldn't create mischief.
The phthalate-free tarpaulin fabric appears both tough and weather repellent, resisting provocative close range blasts from the garden hose and rain of biblical proportions. That said, its rain cover comes in handy for misty conditions and just protecting the fabric from generic spatter.
Load distribution is pretty good when rider mounted on account of broad shoulder and two little chest straps minimising sway. However, it weighs close to 2 kilos unladen, so even with 'airmesh' panels. Everyday payloads quickly become intrusive leading to a decidedly sweaty back on commutes exceeding six miles.
Want to see how it switches between modes? Here's a video from distributor Zyro showing just that.
Largely successful interpretation of convertible luggage but a bit heavy as a rucksack
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Make and model: Altura Morph Versa Backpack and Pannier
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"Versa is an innovative and unique range of multi-function cycle luggage.
With hardwearing fabrics, tried and tested Rixen & Kaul components and commuter focussed features: they look inconspicuous yet stylish off the bike but quickly convert to panniers.
Many brands have tried to combine a backpack with a pannier before, but to perform both functions the bag ends up being a compromise of both where it isn't an ideal pannier on the bike and it isn't a comfortable backpack off the bike.
Our solution was to separate the pannier and backpack functions - one side of the bag is a well-padded backpack, the other side a dedicated pannier. We've got the best of both worlds with a design that quickly and easily converts to and from a pannier without the need for additional brackets.
Innovative 2 in 1 design concept that combines a backpack and pannier for the modern commuter".
Certainly innovative and largely competent convertible system.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Hardwearing tarpaulin fabric
* Rixen Kaul™ Pressure Fit fittings
* Angled pannier mounting for extra heel clearance - right side fitting
* Concealed pannier fittings behind front panel
* Main compartment with padded laptop & tablet sleeves
* Fits up to 15' laptops
* Front compartment with stationery organiser & key hook
* Fleece lined pocket for phone / glasses
* Side compression straps
* Comfortable shoulder straps with airmesh padding
* LED attachment loop
* Reflective details
* Rain cover included
Fabric: Phthalate-free Tarpaulin
Dimensions: 510 x 320 x 145mm
Weight: 1.9 kg
Certainly sturdy and should offer many seasons' faithful service but relative heft can also become intrusive in rucksack mode.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Morph Versa is a very well executed piece of commuter luggage. However,I found it worked best as a pannier that converted to a rucksack having reached my intended destination, since the overall weight can become intrusive after a few miles moderate paced riding.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
High quality materials and innovative design.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Quite heavy as a rucksack and hardware ate into some storage space.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they were planning to use in pannier mode on the bike.
Age: 40 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)