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Altura Vortex front roll bag review

31 Jul 2020

The Altura Vortex is the ideal alternative to the saddlebag in these times of self-sufficiency

Cyclist Rating: 
Genuinely waterproof • Plenty of storage space • Pretty neat
Sides could roll tighter • Strap for headtube could be bigger

The Altura Vortex waterproof front roll bag has become an ever-present of my riding this summer.

When the days got longer, the weather improved and my desire to ride the bike more took hold, I found my rides getting longer, further from home and more explorative.

However, this happened in a unique period in all of our lives in which we juggled living in a global pandemic that has seen the UK, where I am based, in some form or another of lockdown since March.

So while long, meandering summer rides of the past were once plenty of coffee stops, petrol station dashes and that sense of security I could always just hop on a train if it went Pete Tong, these days they are more planned out, self-sufficient affairs.

More out of courtesy really, I have been taking more food on every ride, an extra spare, more tools, a rain jacket, my tyre levers and now a mask and to keep all that neatly packed in one place, I have been using Altura’s Vortex front roll.

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Altura claims it has 5 litres of storing capacity and while I’m yet to test those claims with two and a half family-sized coke bottles, I can attest that there is all the room and more for literally everything I needed to take riding with me this summer.

Yes, I do realise cycling pockets are designed to carry things like spare tubes, OS maps, cake and the rest but I cannot bare pocket sag. And yes, saddlebags exist to also carry these things but when big enough to stow all of the above, they look a bit ‘pony’, for want of a better phrase.

The bar bag looks neater on the bike by a mile, even the slightly bigger ones like Altura’s Vortex have a more elegant appeal than a large saddlebag.

Admittedly, there are more compact bar bags on the market, Evoc, Rapha and Restrap are a few brands off the top of my head. In reality, the Altura Vortex front roll is a bag designed for bike packing, a bit bigger, more robust but I like that.

I like the fact there’s enough room for half a jambon buerre baguette to sit alongside my rain jacket, multitool, spare tubes and a copy of the King James Bible because it means I can keep my pockets nice and clear.

And best of all, there is even a smaller front pocket that is accessible on the move, perfectly sized for even the biggest smartphone and also, importantly, completely waterproof.

Riding in Britain during summer allowed me plenty of opportunities to also test the waterproofness of Altura’s front roll bag.

Altura claims to have used a ‘powerful waterproofing protection coming from polyester 210D material with TPU coating that's certified to IPX6, combined with welded seam construction for disaster-free dryness.’ In simpler terms, Altura believes this bag to be almost impermeable which from my testing it proved to be.

The material used by Altura has the feel and the sound of tarp and does an equal job of keeping water at bay. The rolls on either side of the bag fold enough times to make leakage practically impossible and the zip on the small, front pocket was not troubled regardless of how hard it rained. A big thumb’s up here.

The aforementioned rolls also close pretty neatly although there is a nack to it. To get the folds compact, you ideally need to roll the side closures when the bag is off of the bike. When I rerolled the bag on the bike, I found I could never get the folds as neat to the point in which they would begin to splay out towards the drops of my handlebar.

I guess this is proof that patience is a virtue and that instead of hastily rerolling the bag on the bike, I should just take the time to do it properly off of it.

One small gripe I also found with the bike is that the velcro strap which fixes the bag to your headtube was a little short for a few of the bikes I tested the front roll on, especially more modern, carbon frames with chunkier front ends.

Buy now from Wiggle for £40

For example, when testing on a Cervelo R3, the strap just about met and routinely threatened to undo. As for when I used the bag on a bamboo gravel bike for an upcoming feature (exciting!) the strap didn’t meet and it did come undone. So Altura, longer frame strap next time, ok?

That aside, I think Altura’s Vortex front roll really is an indispensable piece of gear for me, regardless of how many people tweet their disdain for south London-based riders using handlebar bags for an hour-long evening ride.

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