Arkel Commuter Pannier Bag

For the last 6 weeks I’ve been trying out a new pannier bag – the Arkel Commuter.

Arkel are a Canadian company that have been making pannier bags for over 25 years, but seemingly aren’t stocked by any retailer in Ireland.  I came across the company and their bags when I searching for a new pannier.

My existing bag, the Carradice Bike Bureau, had reached the end of its life, primarily because the clips that mount the bag to the rack had failed for the 2nd time.  And so I was looking around for a replacement, but not really seeing many bags that matched my requirements.

I was looking for a pannier that worked well both on and off the bag – something that not a lot of panniers are designed to do.  It needed to have a good/quick/secure rack mounting system, but also a top handle and shoulder strap for carrying the bag off the bike.  I wanted it to be waterproof, for all those commutes in the rain, and I wanted some outside pockets to store my work ID and bike lights, because trying to root around at the bottom of the bag is a pain.

Luckily I came across the Arkel Commuter bag, which seemed to fit all my requirements.  It was a bit expensive (£140 / €177) but it looked like a good quality bag. I liked the design and the attention to detail, and the Arkel brand seemed to get good reviews. So I went ahead and bought it.

Six weeks later, I am delighted with the bag and its features.

Arkel Cam-Lock system

The Arkel Cam-Lock attachment system – which is used to attach the bag to your bike rack – is really easy any quick to use, and holds the bag very securely. I’ve tried a few different pannier attachment in the past, and this is definitely the best system I’ve ever used.

I also love the padded carry handle on top of the bag.  Even carrying a full load, it doesn’t dig into my hands.  The shoulder strap is also a welcome feature, and is a good length. My only slight criticism is that the plastic clips on each end of the strap seem like the might break quite easily.

The bag is a top-loader, and uses a zip to seal the bag.  On the face of it the zip-top doesn’t seem like it will be as water-proof as the roll-top panniers, but I’ve had no problems so far, and the zip is a very convenient way to access the bag.

Inside the Arkel Commuter bag
Inside the Arkel Commuter bag

Inside there is plenty of storage space for my needs (24 litres), and a separate padded laptop sleeve that can hold a 17 inch laptop. There’s also a large piece of metal that keeps the back of the bag perfectly rigid – even if it does add to the weight of the bag.

There are also three  pockets on the outside of the bag – one one each side, and one in the top flap – that provide handy storage for small items.  There’s also a mesh pocket on each side for holding a water bottle, U-lock, or something wet.

All in all, I love this bag.  It fulfils all of my pannier requirements, and I use it ever day on the bike.  My only slight regret is it seems that Arkel are about to discontinue the bag.  The short-term benefit is that the price of the bag is now discounted on their site to £111 / €141.

I just hope that Arkel come up with an even better replacement.

Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog

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