The Bike List

Altura Aero Drop Down Rack Pack £40

Tested by Jon Adams, tester for The Bike List

Altura's Aero Drop Down Rack Pack attaches to a standard rear rack and offers - at first glance - a handy, semi-rigid box with about 6 litres of space. It opens and closes with a double zip running lengthways along the top, and the flap at the end is secured by Velcro. A similar size to a medium bar bag, it's ruggedly built from durable P-Tec 600 fabric and gives enough room for tools, mini pump, a cable lock, lightweight waterproofs, some spare clothing and a bite to eat. It's nicely sized for day rides or commutes, and because the bag itself attaches with three side release buckles and two continuous Velcro strips, it's quick and easy to remove from the bike when you get to work or pull up outside the café.

The buckles snap onto Altura's Landing Strip, which is supplied with the pack but also available separately for £10 if you want to fit one to another bike and swap the bag between them. The Landing Strip attaches to a rear rack with two Velcro straps that thread through a buckle and double-back on themselves, and though there's a degree of adjustability from the hook-and-loop closure, the size of rack it'll fit is pretty much fixed. Measure the width of your rack, and if it's a standard 5in/13cm across, then it'll fit like a dream. Anything wider than this though, like a 6.25in/16cm rack, will present problems as the straps simply aren't long enough, and unless you resort to adaptations with a sewing machine or get creative with extra loops of nylon cord, your only real choice is to look elsewhere.

Zip-fastened pockets sit on both sides of the pack, and while these are useful for smaller bits and bobs like phones, keys or puncture kits, they also contain a big surprise, as they open out to reveal two mini panniers that offer a significant increase in load-carrying capacity. The actual volume isn't stated by Altura, but we reckon there's a good 2.5 litres of space each side, which nearly doubles the overall capacity of the pack. The panniers have a shockcorded hook on the bottom which can be clipped onto your rack to stabilize the load, and though the out-facing fabric isn't as beefy as the P-Tec 600 used elsewhere, it's still a heavyweight ripstop nylon so should stand up to a few scrapes. Their part-time nature indicates they're for occasional increases in load, though, so if you need 11 or 12 litres of capacity on a regular basis, it'd be smarter to buy a bag or pannier that offers this in its regular state, rather than use the Rack Pack in its extended guise on a daily basis.

Because the bag will obscure any lighting you have on your seatpost, there's an LED mount at the rear of the Landing Strip to complement the retro-reflective logos on the back and sides of the bag itself. The LED mount is no more than a slot in a piece of strong fabric, and it's not at all effective as its position simply forces a light to dangle downwards at an angle of about 45 degrees. This clearly isn't the best way to make other road users aware of your presence, but equally poor is the fact that your LED light swings free to clatter against the rack whenever you encounter the slightest bump in the road. We tried it with three different designs of rear LED lights from Smart and NiteRider, but had the same dangling and clattering from every one. A solid webbing tab mounted higher up would be a better solution, but as it stands, you'll need to avoid the bag's LED mount altogether and have your rear light mounted to the back of your rack or the back of your helmet (or both) to ride safely in the dark.

Another problem we found with the Rack Pack is although the fabric employed has a good degree of water resistance, the zips on top aren't waterproof, and a good downpour will see plenty of water ingress. Non-waterproof bike luggage isn't rare by any means, of course, but for light touring or commuting use, you do need a way to keep the rain at bay when it comes. A PU-coated nylon cover is normally the solution, but one isn't supplied, and isn't offered as an accessory, either. This omission is easy to resolve for less than a tenner with a small rucksack cover (try for low cost options), but on a £40 bag, it should be a custom fit that's part of the deal.

The final issue we noticed was the lack of a shoulder strap for when you remove the bag from the bike and wander off on foot. With the main compartment and both panniers loaded up, it's a fair size, but only a sewn-in hand carrying strap is included, and this is positioned at the front end of the bag. The thing is, with a bag this size sporting a dual-zip entry on its top, you really want a removable shoulder strap that clips onto the front and rear, and holds the bag at your hip, ready for use. Sadly, one isn't included, and there's no means of attaching one either.

Overall the Rack Pack is a well-made bag with a solid rack attachment and a convenient method of removal. The fold out panniers nearly double the capacity for days when you need to carry more, and the sturdy, high quality build is both attractive and reassuring. These are all major plus points, and make it worthy of consideration, but then the poor LED tab, lack of rain cover and missing shoulder strap make you think again. In the areas it's good, it's extremely good, but with regular use, the downsides start to irritate. With an all-weather cover, a shoulder strap and a functional LED tab, it'd be a 5-star piece of kit at this price, but as it stands, it's difficult to recommend.

At a glance

Verdict Generously sized and sturdily built rack-top bag with integral fold-down panniers that’s designed for longer day rides and commuting.

Altura says:

Neat fitting rack pack with easy access and expanding, drop-down side pockets, perfect for leisure, touring or commuting.

Key features;

  • 6 litre capacity not including side pockets (approx)
Hard wearing P-Tec 600 fabric
QR landing strip fitting with LED Loop

  • Drop-down expanding side panels

  • Reflective trim

Supplier: Zyro Ltd, +44 (0)1845 521 700,