Review: Arkel Metropolitan Handlebar Bag

The Metropolitan Handlebar Bag (HBB) is a companion to the Metropolitan Pannier that I reviewed a few weeks ago (see here). Both are new from Arkel for 2009 and are part of their “Urban” series of bags designed specifically for commuters. Together they make a nice set, though either can be used individually without issue.

At 425 cu. in., the Metro HBB is a relatively small handlebar bag with slightly less capacity than Arkel’s popular Small Bar Bag. The construction is simple, with a single main compartment, a small pouch for a wallet, and a key clip. The bag is plenty large for carrying a lunch, wallet, phone, and small windbreaker. It would also make a nice home for a compact DSLR with a short zoom such as a Canon XSi with kit lens. The sides are relatively stiff and the bag holds its shape, even when empty.

Features include a small Velcroed pocket in the lid with a see-through window specifically designed to accept an iPhone or Blackberry; a single external slip pocket for papers or a train ticket; a lightweight shoulder strap; an integrated rain cover; an internal liner than can be zipped out for cleaning; and alloy quick-release mounts.

The alloy mounts are totally rigid and showed no signs of bouncing or slipping, even with a full load. (The arms make metal-to-metal contact with the handlebars, so you’ll want to lay down a layer of tape or thin rubber before attaching the mounts to keep from scratching your handlebars.) The bag separates from the arms via a pair of quick releases at the rear of the bag. The arms stay permanently attached to the handlebars to reduce carrying weight and bulk off of the bike. A roll-down flap protects clothing from the quick release mounts while carrying the bag.

The Arkel Metropolitan HBB is a near-perfect handlebar bag for daily commuting to the office. It’s not too big and it carries nicely on the shoulder. It detaches from the bike in just a few seconds and looks professional and nondescript. And like the Metropolitan Pannier, only the best materials were used throughout including heavy-duty Cordura nylon and YYK zippers. Arkel’s bags aren’t cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for; I use their bags everyday and they are 100% reliable and an important component of my car-lite lifestyle.

Specifications
Capacity: 425 cu. in.
Dimensions: 8.5″x10″x 6″
Weight: 1.8 lbs.
Color: Charcoal w/Black
Price: $129.00

Arkel

19 Responses to “Review: Arkel Metropolitan Handlebar Bag”

  • ksteinhoff says:

    Alan,

    The only possible improvement I can see over the Arkel small bar bag is the integrated rain cover (something I really like on my Tail Rider).

    Other than that, I think the small bar bag has more features.

    Am I missing something in a quick read / glance?

    Why would I buy one over the other?

  • Alan says:

    Hi Ken,

    I think it provides an advantage mainly for those who will carry it into an office environment everyday. It’s fairly nondescript and the profile is such that it rides nicely at your side, similar to a laptop bag or office brief. In other words, it doesn’t look like a bike bag when off the bike.

    Alan

  • Brian says:

    Alan,

    I have the Arkel small bag (and love it), but I installed my mounts reverse of your’s. Has Arkel changed the way the mounts work for this new bag or perhaps did you mount the mounts upside down? My bag slides from the top, of the mounts downward and locks into place. I have to depress the tabs on the bag to unlock it and then slide upward to remove.

    Brian

  • Alan says:

    Hi Brian,

    They must have reversed the mounts at some point because they way they’re shown in the photos is the only way they’ll work. Like you describe, the bag slides down from the top onto the mounts, then upward to remove while depressing the tabs.

    Regards,
    Alan

  • Ken Steinhoff says:

    That’s the way mine loads, too: top down.

    I do have one minor problem: I have to stand in front of the bike facing the saddle in order to be able to remove the bag. I never manage to push the tabs and lift the back off if I’m still straddling the bike facing forward.

    Alan, One other question / observation: frequently, like right now, typing is jerky like in the old 300-baud days. Is that just a bandwidth issue on your side?

  • Alan says:

    Hi Ken,

    I too find it easier to remove the bag if I’m off the bike.

    Regarding the typing issue – I’ve never experienced it, so I’m not exactly sure what you’re referring to. I’m wondering if it has something to do with the “preview” script. The preview runs in memory, so it’s definitely not a bandwidth issue, though it might have to do with settings within a particular browser. Would you mind telling me what browser you’re using – that might help me troubleshoot the problem.

    Thanks-
    Alan

  • ksteinhoff says:

    Alan,

    I normally post from Firefox. As a test, I’m typing this in IE 6.0 and I’m not getting the delay.

    I’ll file another from Firefox and see what happens.

  • ksteinhoff says:

    This is from Firefox 3.01. It’s jerky.

    Sounds like it might be related to the browser.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Ken,

    I normally run Safari, but I just tested it on Firefox and it seems fine here. You might check your Firefox preferences and make sure javascript is enabled (please let em know if that was the issue).

    Thanks-
    Alan

  • ksteinhoff says:

    Javascript was enabled in Firefox.

  • Alan says:

    Hmm. I’m scratching my head on this one…

  • ksteinhoff says:

    Typing in Google Chrome works fine, too.

    I’m getting more and more convinced that the version of Firefox I’m running has some serious problems. It’s a memory hog.

    I may need to migrate to something else.

  • Alan says:

    Thanks for the info, Ken.

    Alan

  • spiny norman says:

    Arkel has made some minor changes to the way the mounts clamp to the bar over the years – my original clamps from their original bar bag have 2 bolts per side, I think with the bolts angled down. My second set for the other bike have that little hook. The bag end of the mounts look the same.

    If typing is jerky the problem is your computer. Nothing gets sent over the internet until you click “submit”.

  • ksteinhoff says:

    Alan,

    My kid had another theory. He asked if I had spell-check enabled in Firebox.

    Indeed, I do.

    I wonder if that could be the difference. I’ll disable it and see if there is a change.

    Spiny, since Alan has preview installed on his site, I’m not sure that each keystroke ISN’T sent as I type it.

  • ksteinhoff says:

    I am typing this in Firefox with spell check turned off. Still jerky. It’s gotta be something Firefox-related.

    OK, last try unless you can think of something else you want to check.

    We’re leaving at o’bleep in the morning for a week’s trip to New Mexico. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover and the wife has list of stuff she wanted to see / do, so this looks like a non-biking vacation.

    That’s not to say I won’t be checking in at least once a day to get my ecovelo fix.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Ken,

    This is from the plugin homepage:

    “This plugin uses only client-side Javascript to format a preview, it does not make any Ajax requests to the server. This provides a smooth live preview as you type.”

    The issue must be related to javascript and how it’s being implemented within your particular version of Firefox, OS, etc. You’ve tried the only two things I can think of that would resolve the issue. If we wait a few days, I’m sure a computer genius will stumble upon this thread and provide the solution for us… :-)

    Enjoy your trip to Mexico!

    Regards,
    Alan

  • Celos says:

    I think the biggest reason to be interested in this bag is that it’s a bit more stylish. It seems more suited to carrying around as a “manbag” for off-bike errands while out riding.

    For a commuter, though, the see-through phone pocket on the top of the bag is pretty great. I miss calls all the time on my commute, during which I keep the phone in my panniers. While I’m not keen to stop and take every call I ever receive during the commute, there are times when I would probably stop and take the call if there was an easy way to see who was calling. Same with access to my wallet, train ticket, and so on. If I had something like the Bug I might not be as interested.

    So I’m pretty interested in this bag but would still like to see it in person before pulling the trigger.

    On the slow text drawing in comments, I see it while I’m at work (such as right now, where as I type this, the browser is painting “right now”). I’m on Firefox 3.0.10 under Windows XP. At home on Safari and Firefox on the Mac I don’t see this behavior.

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