Wednesday, December 2

Touring Equipment: Arkel T-42 Panniers

Okay. I got the bike, I got the best bike rack. The next logical step for a bicycle touring setup is the bags, which are called panniers when they are on a bicycle, for whatever reason. My approach to buying cycling equipment is to do research on my own, online, then go to the local bike shop to buy. This is as opposed to the obnoxious habit that some people have, which is to spend the bike shop sales guys' time with questions, then buy equipment online. With that in mind, I scoured the internet for best option for panniers, and everything came back to the same Canadian manufacturer, Arkel. It happened that Bicycle Bob's was one of their vendors, so I went there to order them.

They had quite a few options, but I ended up going with the T-42's. The Arkel T-42 is so-called because the pair has a total capacity of 42 liters, or 42 litres for my Commonwealth readers. That's not to say that you can put five gallons of water in each bag. Also, some nerds might point out that 42 liters of water would weigh about 84 pounds, which is more than the 60-pound capacity old man mountain bicycle rack which they will attached to. The T-42's are billed as being for "weekend touring", while my trip is for an entire month. The next larger pannier, though, had a thing to carry a tent, and a detachable fanny pack. I'm not camping, and if you're thinking I'll get caught dead wearing a fanny pack, you are gravely mistaken.

Here's what the pair of panniers looks like empty and off the bike. The Arkel site shows them individually, over-stuffed, and off the bicycle. As you can see from the picture here, these saddle bags have reflectors on the side and rear. That isn't photoshopped or anything, that's just from the camera's flash! They also have a few cool features that make them great. Without getting too much in to the website's copy which you can read for yourself, they have good features like ease-of-access zippers and really sturdy tear-proof fabric.

A couple people have asked me about front panniers. No thank you. I am entirely uninterested in having weird awkward weight on my front wheel. So far I've used my bags for groceries a few times, and having like 30 pounds sitting underneath my center of balance is weird enough. I can't imagine having to swing more weight around every time I wanted to make a turn. Forty-two liters of capacity will be more than enough to carry the few things I'll be bringing.

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