Corporate Supporter Spotlight: Convertible Backpacks

September 30, 2013

This post is part of a series that spotlights Adventure Cycling's corporate supporters. These companies support our mission and programs and do some cool stuff of their own. We decided to ask them some questions and, as a result, have learned a few interesting things about our supporters that we'd like to share with you. The answers below are direct from the companies. We hope that this gives you the chance to get to know them a little better, too.

Convertible Backpacks, a bronze-level member, is one of our newer corporate members. Richard Jones, owner, took time to answer some of our questions and tell us more about his company.

Adventure Cycling: Tell us a little bit about your company.

Richard: My discovery of a trailhead for the famous Appalachian trail while on a 1,000 mile solo bike tour created a quandary: How could I hike a piece of this trail with a touring bike and panniers? And how could I pass up the opportunity? My hike was certainly not the path of least resistance, but it provided the inspiration for my Convertible Backpack design. Originally founded in 1981, we provide the ultimate in flexibility for adventuring cyclists world wide. We are small. All of our packs are made by one seamstress who manages each project from start to finish and has great pride in her work. This dedication shows in a beautiful pack that will stand up to years of touring. We are proud of each pack and the personal attention our customers receive.

Adventure Cycling: Can you tell us about the products and services you provide for bicycle tourists?

Richard: Our Convertible Backpack supersedes the constraints of traditional bicycle touring with panniers that convert to a comfortable internal-frame backpack. Whether one is riding around the world, would like to be able to plan trips that extend beyond a bike’s range (Wilderness areas, airports), or simply recognizes the economy of having one pack that serves well in both capacities, this versatile equipment extends your range. This innovative design can be seen at or

Until I designed and patented the Convertible Backpack, most dual-mode bags were panniers first, and the backpack was obviously an afterthought. With the Convertible, it’s hard to tell which function came first. It is entirely at home in both configurations, with the features you’d expect in the ‘best in class’ of either single product. These packs are used often and hard, and are built to take it. 1,000 denier Cordura fabric is urethane coated to shed rain, and features reversible rain flaps for the converted mode. Conversion can be quick, leaving the harness attached, or very clean, with the harness stowed for later use – a process that takes about five minutes.

Two separate but related designs are available. Our Classic model is a 2650 cubic inch rear pannier set that converts to the internal frame backpack. Our Elite model is 3975 cubic inches, and incorporates front panniers in addition to the Classic rear set, including built-in hardware on both for a solid connection to the backpack.

Adventure Cycling: Why do you support Adventure Cycling through corporate membership?

Richard: Adventure Cycling is an outstanding organization for the facilitation of and advocacy for bike touring. I first used your maps in 1977, and was immediately hooked. You were the original, with directions specific to the needs of cyclists. Your advocacy for new trails and bike lanes is creative and sustained, and is still producing the results every cyclist needs. While serving the needs of touring cyclists, you have created a place where we can all meet and share the joy of cycling!

Adventure Cycling: What are your five favorite cycling related things right now?


  1. Good bike trails and rail-to-trail conversions
  2. A growing adoption of safe routes in cities
  3. Connectivity with other cyclists
  4. A proliferation of new bikes and technology
  5. The ever-growing popularity of biking for sport and utility

Adventure Cycling: Where would you like to see cycling in America in five years?

Richard: The bicycle industry is one of the most dynamic industries in the U.S., with countless small entrepreneurs innovating and bringing great new things to market. In a world where consumer goods are often consolidated to a few huge companies, I’d like to see the continued proliferation of innovation, and know that somewhere, a long-haired, wild-eyed little crackpot in the basement is about to surprise the world yet again with a new advance for human-powered travel!

Adventure Cycling: What is your favorite service or program that Adventure Cycling offers?

Richard: Connectivity and maps! Adventure Cycling is the beehive for all people who are out there proving the viability of human-powered travel, and as such you connect us to the most interesting people on the planet no matter which beer they prefer. I first used your maps in 1977 to cross the Appalachians, still have the maps, and am still impressed by the detail you provide and the ease of use.

Adventure Cycling: If your headquarters staff could relocate to any place in the world, where would they choose?

Richard: Right here. Fort Collins is an awesome bike town! As a musician, I love the statement at Spokesbuzz describing the unique Fort Collins experience: “Bikes, Bands, and Beer!”

Adventure Cycling: As your company grows, have you had mainly tailwinds, headwinds, or crosswinds? 

Richard: If you are not experiencing a headwind, you’re not pedaling hard enough! I got a huge tailwind after you published a review of our pack in April '13. Maintaining momentum in this crosswind is my current challenge.

Adventure Cycling: Have any of your staff ridden Adventure Cycling's mapped routes? Which ones?

Richard: Charlottesville, Virginia, to Berea Kentucky on the TransAmerica Trail.

Adventure Cycling: What do you like best about Adventure Cyclist magazine (other than having your name appear)?

Richard: I enjoy people's stories about their touring experiences, including those from 100 years ago!

Adventure Cycling: What cycling related benefits do you offer your staff?

Richard: I am the only staff, and am just happy to live in an active hiking and cycling destination with a vibrant community of other small bicycle-industry manufacturers, including my very talented seamstress.

Adventure Cycling: Is there anything else about your company that you really want to share with our readers?

Richard: 32 years of hiking and biking have suggested refinements that make today’s Convertible the most comfortable on the back and the most stable on the bike, with built-in external capacity for the pile that inevitably appears on a touring cyclist's rack.

Panniers are not just for touring. The easy on/off makes them great for grocery runs. And the narrow backpack is great for day hikes. Even when I carry very little, the waist belt lets me keep the pack away from my back and I stay cooler.

Convertible Backpacks is currently offering a photo contest to Adventure Cycling members. The winner will recieve a free “Classic” Convertible Backpack, in the color of their choice. The winning photo will be that which best embodies the concept of “longing” – particularly in regards to wishing your panniers could be carried on that trail/train/airport or that your backpack could easily be put on a bike for a fabulous cycling tour. Contest closes on Thanksgiving, delivery in time for re-gifting by Christmas. Visit Convertible Backpack's website for details.

Photos courtesy of Richard Jones

MEMBERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS is typically posted every other Friday by Amy Corbin, Membership and Marketing Coordinator. Membership Highlights spotlights the various benefits of membership, our accomplishments thanks to member support, and even interviews with some of our most passionate and dedicated members, both individual and organizational.


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