Arkel Bug

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.

Specifications
Capacity: 1500 cu. in.
Dimensions: 17″ x 12.5″ x 7.5″
Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Price: $165 (USD)

38 Responses to “Arkel Bug”

  • Ricardo says:

    Nice choice and excellent review ;-) . Very versatile that´s for sure and it´s also very good looking. Unfortunately they still haven´t any dealer here in Portugal :(

  • Alex says:

    Thanks for the review. Does it have a handle to grab the bag from the top?

  • Alan says:

    @Alex

    Yes. The carry handle at top also serves to open the attachment clamps – it’s a clever system.

  • Mike says:

    Alan and all,

    I’ve been looking at this bag for a long time now thinking that it would make the perfect Multi-modal bag . Anyone try this bag on a Dahon with the touring rack?

    thanks!

    Mike

  • Phil Lepanto says:

    What about a laptop pocket? Does it have room for a laptop with a 17in or other large format screen? My laptop I think has a 12.1 inch screen, but it can sometime be hard to fit into smaller pockets.

  • Alan says:

    @Phil

    The Bug doesn’t have a laptop pocket. The Arkel “Commuter” pannier has a suspended laptop pouch (but doesn’t convert to a backpack):

    http://www.arkel-od.com/panniers/commuter/overview.asp?fl=1&site=

  • Suzanne says:

    @ Alan Great review Alan! I also have the Bug, and it is indeed a really well-made and well-thought-out item.

    @ Phil & Alan Arkel sells a suspended laptop pouch as an optional accessory for the Bug. The Bug has the attachment points for this accessory inside. SOme dimensions are here:

    http://www.arkel-od.com/panniers/olp/overview.asp?site=&fl=1

  • Alan says:

    @Suzanne

    Thanks for the info!

  • Croupier says:

    I like that it looks like a pretty normal backpack and not just a pannier that you threw over you shoulder.

    P.S. @ Alan

    My girlfriend thinks you’re handsome.

  • andy parmentier says:

    arkel-my belated favorite and next time i’ll get r40’s (recumbent). and their modular hook system looks excellent.

  • yangmusa says:

    Did you get the optional rain cover? I wonder how waterproof it is…?

  • Alan says:

    @yangmusa

    Yes, I purchased the rain cover – the bag itself is not waterproof without the cover.

  • yangmusa says:

    This being California, I guess we’ll have to wait until December or so before we get to hear if the rain cover is leak-proof!

  • jim h says:

    To me, it’s another case of a great product spoiled by glitzy, gaudy red-and-yellow logos and doodads. If it were plain black I’d like it.

  • Alan says:

    @Jim H

    Yeah, it’s funny how some of their models are plain black or gray and others are colorful. The Bug was originally targeted directly at students, so that might explain the bright colors. I guess the positive spin would be that the bright colors are more visible in low light and might provide at least a small amount of additional visibility.

  • Alex says:

    Is there any way we can get pics of the inside? I want to see if it has dividers.
    Thanks

  • Ibán says:

    Disappointed with the Bug. I think I might have a previous version, because it does not have the Camlock system.
    Got the bug: first problem, won’t fit on my rack (Zefal, the most widely available rack in Spain).
    Got another rack. The edges of the aluminium hook system are so sharp that they literally destroy the rack at the points of contact. Plus, the rack mounting system (with the elastic band and the hook) makes for a not very solid sensation.
    Another problem, because of the wedge shape of the bottom, the Bug simply won’t stand when left on the ground, it just falls down, really inconvenient in wet/dirty floors.
    Another problem…it’s great to have a pocket for raincover, but the Bug does not come fitted with it (amazing for that price).
    Another problem, the elastic band (and hook) used to mount the bag on the bicycle rack are not easy to keep aside when you are “wearing” the backpack, they keep interfering, making the backpack not comfortable to wear.

    Conclusion: very well made bag (the quality of materials is truly impressive, fabrics, pieces), but very poor outcome; awful mounting system (I’ve had many panniers and this is ba far the worst…the idea is dated and doesn’t work), a partially-useless bag (you can’t leave in on the ground), uncomfortable to carry as a bagpack, and a bag that can get wet (doesn’t come with a rain cover). In short, I don’t use the bag!!! (sometimes because it does not fit my bike, some other times because it rains, some other times because I’m going to be moving around and find it annoying that my bag is going to be lying flat on a dirty surface).

    I’ve had several Ortlieb panniers (differente sizes) mounted on more than 5 different bikes (i.e. different rack types) and never ever had a problem with their mount system (way better than Arkels). Pity that Ortlieb’s backpack system is so dodgy.

    On the price: for less than half the price you can get a Vaude bag/pannier “Cycle 25″ http://www.vaude.de/hps/client/vaude/public/hxfront/index.hbs (in fact, for that price you could get 2!). Vaude is a German company renowned for their quality.

    Sorry if it sounds a bit negative, but was very disappointed by this product and wanted to give you another opinion (always based on facts).

    Greetings from Spain.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Iban,

    Thanks for your comments. I’m sorry to hear the Bug hasn’t worked out well for you.

    I’d like to address a few of the points you made.

    –It does sound as if you have the old mounting system. The current system has hard nylon bushings at all contact points with the rack – there are no metal-to-metal contact points with the current mounting system. It works very well for me.

    –I don’t quite understand the comment regarding the lower hook; when I use the Bug as a backpack I attach the hook at the top of the backpack and it stays out of the way without issue. I’m assuming an older design again possibly?

    –I agree, it would be nice if the bag sat upright on the ground, though for myself, the only time it’s on the ground is when it’s in front of my feet on a train or bus, so it hasn’t been an issue.

    –I agree, it would be nice if a rain fly was included, but for the many people that don’t commute in the rain it would be an option they’re paying for that they won’t use.

    –I’d be very interested in looking at Vaude’s cycling bags, but as far a I can tell they’re not available in the U.S.

    Arkel is well-known for their return policy – you might consider contacting them to discuss a refund, credit, or upgrade to a newer model.

    Best,
    Alan

  • Scott Elias says:

    @Jim H

    Arkel does seem to be offering the bag now in a gray/black combo.

    @Alan

    Thanks for the review!

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  • Carl Berkowitz says:

    I’ve had an Arkel Bug for several months and can’t speak highly enough of it. As a pannier it’s vibration free and mounts/dismounts quickly on my Bike Friday folding rack. As a backpack it has a good load distribution, although I did add a sternum strap. Also, Arkel added an extra 6″ to the shoulder straps at no charge, something others with a long torso may want to ask for. And when used as carry-on luggage for airplane travel, all the hooks, back-pack straps (and sternum strap) can be tucked neatly out of the way making it easy to slide The Bug under the seat in front or into an overhead bin. Finally, I wouldn’t make too big a deal out of the lack of a waterproof cover…the fabric is quite water resistant and as noted elsewhere in this forum one can purchase a fully waterproof cover that is very compressible for less than US$20. In summary, this is one very good investment for anybody with a strong bicycle/walker lifestyle.

    Carl
    PS. Alan, you’ve got a great website! Full of good information and very aesthetic, too! Thanks for all the effort you’ve put into it.

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  • Colin says:

    Just to add for those worried about the price: You get what you pay for. Seriously, I’ve had an Arkel Bug for over 5 years and have used it constantly in all kinds of weather. I’m not kind to my stuff so it’s taken a beating, but has never failed. The zippers are still great, the material is solid, and the seams are perfect.

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  • Vanessa says:

    I just want to add my two penny’s worth as I spent a lot of time looking on blogs like this before deciding to spend out on the arkel bug – but it was worth every penny!
    I have had mine for nearly two years and although it was difficult to get hold of in the UK it was worth the effort and the money. I love it!
    I don’t have the waterproof cover but it is really quite good at keeping things dry even in the most nasty of thunderstorms. Not sure how it would last in constant rain but a couple of hours and it is still mostly dry inside. It has loads of space in side and is clearly very well made and robust.
    The greatest thing about it is obviously the fact it becomes a rucksack which was the main thing I was looking for after getting fed up of lugging panniers around. If you are looking for a pannier to use for commuting to work or uni but want to be able to stop of at the pub/shops on the way home – this is great.

    If its great commuting bags you are looking for I can also recommend the basil mitre panniers – simple panniers but stylish for popping to the shops – perfect!

  • jonathan says:

    hi there, i just broke my mounting hook on my messenger/pannier bag from Trans-it products… and am now looking for an upgrade in commuter bags. i like the specs on the arkel “bug” and enjoyed your review, but have only came across worry in how it attaches to the rear rack. do you have any photos of your rear rack without the back on it? … and what brand is it? i worry that when i purchase the bag… that it wont fit with my rack.

    and i have one more question… does your shoes ever come close to the back when you pedal because that was one of the problems i had with my pannier bag.

    thnx for your time and am looking forward to your response

    -jon (from california)

  • Alan says:

    @Jon

    The rack is a Tubus Cargo: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/tubus_racks.asp

    Arkel uses a standard mount configuration that should fit any U.S. style touring rack.

    Regarding your question about foot clearance, that’s more an issue of chainstay length than bag design. In other words, if you bike is a touring bike with long chainstays you won’t have any problem. On the other hand, if you have shorter chainstays (more like a racing bike), clearance may be an issue, regardless of which pannier and rack you use.

    Alan

  • Ibán says:

    Owning an Arkel Bug for a couple of years now (check my commet above), and after a lot of hesitation, I’ve finally got the Vaude Cycle 25. A bag with a similar goal (double as a rucksack and pannier) but which costs less than the half.

    I’ve made a (very) informal review, comparing (with lots of pictures) both bags side by side.
    I thought you and your visitors could find it interesting. I’ve made a Flickr gallery with the pictures and comments.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7394371@N06/sets/72157622500917960/

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  • Chris says:

    Hi, Seems strange Arkel would spend so much energy on design and not make it waterproof to begin with. That’s the first thing I consider in a pannier.

  • Garth says:

    Hi All!

    I have an older version of the Arkel Bug, with the metal clips. There is actually an older version that is an inch or two shorter. The nice person at the store told me to come back in a week if I preferred a slightly larger one.

    So mine is about seven years old now, and kudos for it – it’s been really great too. I did stop using it as a pannier, though, because I didn’t want the metal clips to trash my nice chromed velo-orange rack. It did a great job scraping up a planet-bike rack. One solution I’d thought of was getting a can of that liquid rubber that you can dip tool handles into, and then it dries.

    I just looked at Arkel’s website, and it does look like the new clips can be fitted to the old Bugs. I also agree with the above person that the bag slips a lot if you are trying to stand it upright so that you can put things in it. If I wasn’t so lazy I’d find a strip of sticky rubber to put on the bottom.

    But, absolutely, it works killer diller as both pannier and backpack. For that reason, I thought it would actually be really cool for touring – as a daypack, or to easily carry your luggage into a hotel. BTW, I paid $105.00 for mine.

  • Philip Gamblin says:

    There is another FMOAB in the UK, I am in Texas. I have been using a pair of the Arkel Utility Baskets for a couple of years. They absolutelyrock and I’m sure your bug is equally well made. Really nice work on the review. Thanks for the effort, my site is years out of date I can genuine ly appreciate your work.

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  • Caleb Cross says:

    Thanks for a well written review and including the dimensions. I’m about to purchase one for my daily commute through Denver – and sizing it up as much as I can online

    Good review and photos – thanks…

 
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