Here’s a review of a multi-purpose Arkel pannier that can solve a lot of problems for bike commuters.
Combining the athleticism of cycling to work with the need to show up on time with everything you need for a working day can be a tricky balancing act.
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For a while now, I have been finding this especially challenging. Since I moved to a new home, my cycle commute has doubled in length, so I have to combine cycling with transit until I get fitter. This combination really increased my organizational challenges. Using a pannier for cycling and a backpack for transit meant that I was constantly transferring keys, gloves, wallet, cycling clothes, bike lights, socks … you name it … from one bag to the other.
But STILL I would get to my bike and find I had left my gloves in my OTHER bag, so I had to bike in sub-zero temperatures with bare hands. Or get to work with no dress pants, so I had to spend the day in Lycra (unpleasant for me and no doubt extremely unpleasant for my co-workers!) Plus my office was littered with backpacks and panniers, looking as if I was about to go off on a 10-week camping trip. It was all incredibly annoying.
There has to be a better way, I thought. Then I discovered that there is. Arkel is a Canadian company that specializes in bike panniers, providing high quality bike panniers designed by cyclists, for cyclists.
Arkel makes products that convert easily from bike pannier to backpack, making life dramatically easier for bike commuters. They have a range of bike panniers, and I chose the large and striking-looking Arkel Bug Pannier – shown attached to a bike in the photo at the top of this post – and no, that’s not me, that’s my daughter, Emily. Above is the bike pannier all on its own.
My first impression when I unpacked my brand new Arkel Bug Pannier was “AWESOME!”
The Arkel bike pannier has the look and heft of a quality product, with an impressive amount of reflective stripes and patches. It has a solid, no-nonsense look that proudly proclaims you are going to do something impressive, such as climb Mount Everest – or help to save the world by cycling to work. Finally, it has a cheerful tag that says “Made in Canada,” which is always good to see. Arkel is based in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
The Arkel pannier comes with a book of instructions that mainly tell you how to adjust the bike pannier to fit on different racks. However, mine was a perfect fit right off the bat. I can easily pop the bike pannier on and off with one hand.
What I like about the Arkel Bug Pannier
First, my life is much easier now that I have an Arkel Pannier – all my essential stuff stays in one pannier. I don’t find myself at work without dress pants, or on a bike without gloves. And I don’t waste ages every day transferring stuff from bike panniers to backpack.
Second, my office is now much tidier, with just one pannier against the wall! The same applies to my bedroom – so my wife no longer complains about tripping over piles of bike panniers and backpacks. Happy wife, happy life …
Third, the on-bike/off-bike mechanism is fluid and efficient, so I can be on my bike and pedaling very quickly – and off my bike and rushing up to my office just as fast.
Fourth, the Arkel Bug Pannier has lots of pockets – absolutely essential for a bike commuter. There’s a small zippered pocket near the top for wallet and keys to be accessible. There’s another small pocket on the front for less essential things that you still want to have handy, such as bike tools and spare lights. There’s a spacious cup holder on each side, so for the first time ever, I can take bike with my coffee in a travel mug! I now regularly use the side pockets for my coffee traveler, with the result that I no longer leave my coffee at home – it’s safely on my bike, instead of standing on the book shelf next to the door, where I can conveniently forget it.
The interior of the Arkel Pannier is divided into two zippered compartments, one large and one huge. The huge one has two side flaps. I like this because I can keep things separate, and not have to dig around to find things. This Arkel Pannier is more spacious and versatile than my other two single-compartment pannier bags put together, so now I can use one bike pannier instead of two. In fact, it’s a bit like like Dr. Who’s Tardis – it seems to be bigger on the inside! I can fit tons of stuff inside, and my laptop fits easily. In fact, because it is little it slips into one of the side flaps of the larger compartment. In this picture, it’s the tiny silver sliver below my red cycling jacket.
Fifth, the Arkel Bug Pannier converts quickly and easily from bike pannier to backpack. To convert to a backpack, you just unzip the flap that conceals the shoulder straps, fold the flap and secure it with Velcro, and off you go.
Above is the rear of the bag in backpack mode.
To convert back to a pannier, just tuck the straps in, zip up the flap, and you’re good to go! It all takes just seconds, and is easy.
Above is the rear of the bag in bike pannier mode.
Sixth, the Arkel Bug Pannier also works well as a backpack. It’s definitely on the large side, but the shoulder straps are broad, and I don’t even notice it’s on my back most of the time. And I am a shorter guy, so I don’t think anyone would find this backpack too large. If you need to carry it for some reason, it has a convenient handle.
Seventh, I think the Arkel Bug Pannier looks really good – it has quality product written all over it.
What I don’t like about the Arkel Bug Pannier
At this point, honestly nothing. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now, and I love it! I take it with me wherever I go, even if I’m not on a bike. It’s become my man-bag!
Bottom Line on the Arkel Bug Pannier
This Arkel Pannier is an essential item for a bike commuter. It would also work well for touring cyclists, although then you would most likely want to get two of them. Get this bike pannier if you want to make your cycle commute more about the fun and less about the hassle! Visit the Arkel website here.
The Arkel Bug Pannier earns an Average Joe Cyclist Gold Bike Star!
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