If Marshall Flinkman, Q, and MacGyver got together to design a pannier, it would probably resemble the Arkel Bug – this thing has more bells-and-whistles than any other pannier on the market. Its many features include an integrated helmet holder, integrated U-Lock holder, rain cover pocket, quick access top pocket, “air-dry” mesh pockets front and rear, “stealth” pocket for stashing valuables, “mushroom” opening for easy access to the main compartment, multiple hi-vis reflective strips, and an internal slip pocket for carrying papers. If that wasn’t enough, it quickly converts into a backpack for carrying off the bike and, of course, it uses the excellent Arkel “Cam-Lock” hook system for attaching to a rack.
I recently picked up a Bug to use in conjunction with a Metro Basket grocery pannier (see my Metro Basket review here). I’ll use the Bug for carrying all of my work related stuff: change of clothes, lunch, transit pass, papers, glasses, keys, wallet, meds, DVDs, memory sticks, etc. Because it will function as a briefcase/daypack and house my valuables, the Bug will stay with me at all times when I’m off the bike. The Metro Basket, on the other hand, will stay on the bike as a catch-all for picking up mail, groceries, etc., on the way to-and-from work. Between these two very different bags, I should have all the bases covered for my weekday commutes and errand runs.
The Bug’s large number of pockets are probably overkill for touring, where it’s often better to organize items into smaller waterproof bags to be stored inside large pannier pockets. But the Bug is not designed for touring. Instead, it’s intended to serve as an all-purpose bag for the multi-modal commuter or student who rides to a destination, then carries the bag with them. The Bug’s large number of pockets make it easy to organize everything that’s needed for a day at the office, effectively replacing a briefcase, courier bag, or daypack.
It’s the Bug’s quick-change backpack functionality that really makes it unique. By simply pulling open a pair of panels that are held in place by Velcro strips, the backpack straps are exposed for use. On your back, the Bug is as comfortable as any high-quality daypack and functions in much the same manner. And when you arrive back at your bike it takes just a few seconds to stow the straps and turn the Bug back into a pannier. Pretty cool.
Arkel’s “Cam-Lock” attachment system is clever and easy to use (and arguably the best on the market). The spring loaded attachment hooks are on cams (hence the name); pulling up on the carrying handle opens the hooks, releasing the handle closes the hooks. It couldn’t be simpler. Because they’re cam actuated, the hooks will fit any rack with tubing from 8mm – 15mm in diameter without adjustment.
The quality of materials and workmanship that goes into all Arkel products is superb. The Bug is no exception. Arkel uses heavy-duty Cordura nylon, alloy hardware, and heavy-duty YYK zippers throughout. You won’t find a more well-made bag. The only downside is that you pay a premium for such quality – at $165 the Bug is quite expensive (that’s for one pannier). But if you do make the investment, you can rest easy because all Arkel bags are covered under a fully transferrable lifetime warranty on materials and workmanship (including seams).
Only time will tell how well the Bug holds up under daily use, but if it’s anything at all like the other Arkel bags I’ve owned, it should perform exceptionally well. I’ll write a follow-up report later in the year once it’s seen some wear-and-tear.
Capacity: 1500 cu. in.
Dimensions: 17″ x 12.5″ x 7.5″
Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Price: $165 (USD)