why I hate my Arkel Bug

ixionixion Posts: 27
edited October 2007 in Tour & expedition

A while ago people were discussing there was a thread discussing the merits of backpacks versus panniers. I'd just bought an Arkel Bug, a pannier that doubles as a backpack. I wanted to see how it would pan out with a view to it going to Cuba.

I hate my Arkel Bug.

It's a heavy pannier, even empty.

It's taller than my Ortliebs, and hangs lower. I can't hang it on the pannier rail on my Tortec Expedition rack because it hangs to low; if I do the axle boss for my Bob Trailer dig in the back of the pannier and wear a whole in it.

I tried using it with my Specialized Globe folding bike; it's low to the ground anyway, but I can get away with a pair of Ortliebs on it. But with the Tortec, the panniers are so low that they grind on the tarmac if I take a corner. And I scuffed the unrippable Cordura on the kerb a couple of times.

But the worst disaster was when one of the back-pack straps dropped out the bottom, wrapped itself around the freewheel and the deraileur and ripped everything to shreds. The bag and straps were fine. But the rear mech and the hanger were destroyed and all had to be replaced.

Did I mention I hate my Arkel Bug?

As a Back pack, it's lousy. There's no waste strap, and it's not very comfortable. Partly because there's a whopping metal hook on a bungie which digs in to the small of your back and isn't covered by the velcro flaps.

Arkel designed a cam system to hold the bag on the rack; by pulling on the handle, two cams swivel out, and are meant to spring back on release, clamping the bag in place. Because they swing outward, they have a habit of fouling the rack struts. You end up putting them hooks quite close together just so the cams can swing out.

Which is irrelevant as the springs are very weak and one of mine gave up the ghost early on and wouldn't open or close. You see the allen bolts that hold the brackets in place run through the cam mechanism. If you overtighten this, they are too tight for the cams to work; if they are looser the cams work, but the hooks slide on their mounting rack.

To be honest they don't work well enough for me and are fiddly and unreliable. Luckily you can remove the catch assembly, and replace it with an Ortlieb catch system - keeping the Arkel's rack system.

I think it will prove the most reliable part of the assembly.

Suffice to say that the Arkel Bug will NOT be going to Cuba, even with its new Ortlieb hooks.

And I'm very glad I got that off my chest...



  • Thought I was the only one who didn't like an Arkel product. I agree that the design of this thing is just poor. Great fabric and craftsmanship, but terrible design.

    1. Bag is so tall all your heavy items sag to the bottom, then, because the "compression straps" are next to useless, the bag swings around from the weight being so far away from the attachment points. Makes for terrible handling.

    2. Backpack pannier? Not as implemented. It is definitely no more comfortable or secure than just a shoulder strap. Sits up way too high in order to not jab your back with hardware. Plus its a pain to velcro/un-velcro the straps every time you put it on and off. And does anyone else not enjoy having road grease/grime rubbed into their back? Finally, where exactly is the bungy supposed to go when I'm wearing this on my back? I've found ways to sort of secure it, but nothing works great.

    3. Helmet holder: nice novelty, but relatively useless. If the pannier is full, putting your helmet in the holder will make your bag stick out so far you become a walking hazard. Not to mention that securing the helmet involves fumbling with two webbing straps. And in exchange for this convenience, your bag has no real compression straps to speak of (as mentioned in #1). With less than full loads, the helmet holder sags limply even on the tightest setting. When the bag is full, it works fine (but if the bag is stretched full do I need a compression strap?).

    4. This is one heavy pannier for the volume of storage you get. I found myself leaving things at home just to compensate for the extra weight and awkward handling that accompanied its use. The hard shell is nice and protection of your goods, but the Arkel designers decided to angle the bottom in order to avoid your derailleur. And because of this, the mere activity of trying to set down your bag becomes an game of immense amusement. No matter how you try to lean, prop, or use friction to keep this thing upright, it will fall over. Then even more crud will get on your back.

    5. Not sure about the new hardware, but the old stuff is a pain. Really solid, never ever came off even dropping down curbs or plowing through potholes. The trade-off is that this thing holds tight to your rack seemingly for good. Great for touring panniers, not so great for the commuter. And don't invest in that Tubus or Old Man Mountain unless you want the rails all chewed to hell. I see plastic on the new mounting hardware, so hopefully this isn't an issue anymore.

    Thanks ixion for the idea of cathartic release. I had high expectations for this pannier and now I'm stuck with a rather expensive storage bag. It just seems like Arkel is perhaps first and foremost great manufacturers of fabric products, and only secondarily pannier designers. I know people love their GT-54s and other touring bags, and I'm even considering the same. But given this last experience (and how much it cost!), I'm not so confident anymore. Just too many design flaws to be a mere fluke.
  • cracklecrackle Posts: 216
    One to avoid then! Karrimor used to do a pannier that converted to a rucksack, do they still? By all accounts it was quite good.

    My own preference is to take a rucksack which you can slip the back out of, this means you can roll the rucksack up. I used to use a climbing sac which had a foam back easily slipped out but also had a simple hip and shoulder belt, just webbing, no padding. This meant it had everything I needed but still crushed down quite small. Combined with a pair of cheap fabric boots (picked for lightness and crushability) and Gore-tex socks enabled me to combine riding and hill walking.

    I think it should still be possible to find a rucksack like that (mine was stolen :cry: ), in some circumstances it might work better.

  • sweepsweep Posts: 360
    I bought one of the Karrimor rucksack come rack top bag things about 18 years ago. To be honest I was a bit disappointed with it as it did not hold much and was not very secure on the bike.

    My Karrimor panniers of the same vintage are still going strong though :-)
    It\'s Only Rock n\' Roll But I Like It!
  • andrew_sandrew_s Posts: 2,511
    crackle wrote:
    One to avoid then! Karrimor used to do a pannier that converted to a rucksack, do they still? By all accounts it was quite good.
    Karrimor don't do cycle luggage at all any more, AFAIK.

    The model was the Kalahari.
    There was a zip-off back panel that had the bungee for clipping to the bottom of the rack. Taking it off revealed a clean pannier back, and the padded straps that had to be threaded through the buckles at the base. OK for fairly light loads. I only used is as a rucksack a couple of times. The pannier itself died then the aluminium hook rail fatigued and broke.
Sign In or Register to comment.