Another grocery trip by bike

Review of Arkel Utility Basket Pannier

 After spending hours poring over Arkel’s website, I’ve just purchased my third Utility Basket bag from them.

Today I’ll share some of the hidden features of the 2005 Utility Basket which make it suitable for touring as well as day-to-day commutes.

Another grocery trip by bike

Easily Attach a Therma-A-Rest to it

One of the features of the big bucks pannier model is a vertical removable tube on the back to house a Therm-A-Rest mattress pad.


p> Attaching a mattress pad in the same fashion is a cinch with bag. On the sides of the bag, there are two compression straps that go around it. The bottom one has enough slack in it to go around the mattress pad. So just loosen it, and insert the rolled pad so it’s flush with the bottom of the bag, then cinch it tight.

On the top, the compression strap is not big enough to go around the mattress. So I use a cheap micro bungee cord, connecting one end to the shoulder strap loop, and the other end to the top compression strap buckle on the side. This buckle happens to have two small holes in it, which are perfect for attaching the micro-bungee too.


p> This arrangement is very secure. I can now pick up the back by holding the the attach pad. Shaking it this way, the pad stays put. It’s simple to get on and off– just unhook the bungee and let out some slack on the compression strap to remove it!


p> For extra waterproofing, you could put the pad in a dry bag first, which is recommended with the expensive panniers anyway.

Works Great on a Mid-Ship Rack

I was concerned about using the Utility Basket on the mid-shap rack of my Rans V-Rex
short-wheel base recumbent.

I thought the bag was large enough that it would drag the ground on sharp corners, and special “recumbent-specific” bag would be needed.

Not so.


p> Although I like to go fast and turn sharp, the bag has never rubbed the ground while I had control of the bike.

Keeping the Utility Basket on the mid-ship rack is now my preferred location. The bike handles better with the extra weight lower down and in the center. Plus, it’s easier to reach snacks I have stowed in the bag as well.

A little extra rain protection

Arkel’s standard construction is very rugged. Like their more expensive bags, this one is made of thick cordura that appears to have a water resistent coating on one side, as well as a waterproof coating on one side.


p> This bag has a design that makes it especially tough for water to get in the main compartment, even without an extra rain cover. First, the extra pocket on top is right above the main compartment, meaning there are two layers of cordura to block the water here instead of one.


p> Further, the inside pocket is made of the same material, and connected with a fabric hinge at the top. When the bag is full, this pocket can be flipped up to lay over the top opening of the bag, providing two more layers of protection for rain that’s coming straight down.

Document Sleeve

On the inside, there is a thin sleeve next to the plastic plate that forms the rigid back. This is perfect for a few full-size paper documents, keeping them flat, dry and easy to access.

Conclusion: Awesome!

While Arkel promotes this as their entry-level bag, don’t be fooled. It has the same great materials and construction of the other Arkel bags, and including the incredible Arkel fastening system.


p> It also includes two mesh pockets on the outside, plus two more small pockets to organize things, as well as the document sleeve. The huge main compartment might be the biggest that Arkel produces, providing maximal flexibility.


p> If it has any down sides, it would be that the top-loading design can make it hard to get at the bottom of a full bag. This can be addressed using thin bags to organize the contents, and by rolling clothers vertically, so the ends of many rolls are visible when peering to the bag.


p> Overall, considering the price, I find this to be excellent bag for everyday needs and touring as well.