Commuting - Arkel Utility vs Ortlieb Backroller Classic
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07-14-08, 10:48 AM
That's the choice I'm down to. Sure there are others, but these are the ones I'm looking at. I need all weather panniers for hauling stuff. All kinds of stuff. In all the weather we have here. Perhaps some touring capacity, but it's a distant concern.
So, the Arkels are larger, but in a pair is $50 more and I'm unsure of how they'll take the winter slop. I'm not amused by raincovers, but will tolerate them.
The Ortliebs are cheaper (by the pair) and hold less, but the PVC outer holds no questions. Waterproof and easy to wipe down.
I trust both, like both, so brand loyalty here is a wash. Aesthetics? A wash. Capacity per dollar spent? A wash.
07-14-08, 12:17 PM
I don't know nothin bout nothin, but it sounds like you already know you want the Ortliebs due to the certainty of the weatherproofing. Go with your gut here.
07-14-08, 09:06 PM
What are you carrying?
From the measurements I read, the Ortlieb would be just "wide" enough (front to rear, at the base) to hold 8.5 x 11 documents. And if you carry lots of loose leaves, you will either need to put them in a hard folder or you will have bent corners. And if you carry a laptop, check its size (plus that of a carrying pouch) vs the panniers to see what fits.
For the computer, I definitely prefer the rigidity of the Arkel bag, as well as its optional computer pouch. However, if you want to carry papers and books, only a waterproof design will keep your books totally dry in 1-2 hour downpours. I haven't seen the fabric of the Utility Bag, but I can tell you there is a wee bit of humidity in my Arkel GT-54 covered with the rain cover when I ride in a serious downpour (i.e. flooded streets and all that). But I never had a soaky document or one that didn't look great, and I think the Utility Bag by itself offers a bit more protection against the elements than the GT-54 (1st generation, without any kind of waterproof inside liner).
So the completely waterproof bag has a slight advantage, and besides you dont need to actually deal with the rain cover. On the other hand, I also have a set of waterproof panniers (Arkel Dolphin), and while the outside is easy to clean, it nevertheless is a bit fader after one winter. In other words, the rain cover by itself has the advantage of protecting the panniers against winter slush and sald, and replacing the rain cover is cheaper than replacing a set of panniers.
Another thing that works well with the Arkel bag is its hook system. The current one is very secure, works on most or all rear racks and is very easy to install and remove, which is a worthy factor to consider if you must remove the bag(s) daily. I have absolutely no experience with the Ortlieb systems.
Finally, how much do you need to carry around? By using large panniers, I quite often carry only one pannier, as it is enough for my repair gear, lunch and rain gear. Using only one pannier saves a bit on wind resistance.
As far as durability is concerned, I have a few sets of Arkel bags that I use both for touring and commuting. My first set of T-42 has been used daily for 9 years before I threw them away (fabric worn in a few key spots), and my 9 year old GT-54 have seen lots of touring and about daily use of ONE pannier for the last 2 years. They still look almost brand new.
07-14-08, 09:14 PM
I love the Ortlieb hook system. Instead of a hook at the bottom which always frustrates me with my Arkels, the Ortlieb front rollers I have attach and come off so much easier. Of course both systems are very secure.
I like the pockets of Arkel but everything else about Ortlieb. If you can figure out a system to keep your things organized, go with the Ortliebs.
07-15-08, 06:16 AM
Keep 'em coming and thanks for the input!
I have some Arkel products and like them, but do lean towards the ease of use for Ortlieb. I'm not carrying a laptop nor much in the way of papers save for library runs, but pretty much everything else one carries when commuting about town, shopping, and such.
Owing both Arkel and Ortleib products, and living in a very wet climate, I say Ortleib hands down.
From riders that own both, my understanding is each has advantages and both have good mounting systems. Most Arkels offer multiple compartments if that is what you want. Ortliebs are waterproof. The non-classic Ortliebs have Ortlieb's newer QL 2 mounting system which allow locking the panniers on the rack and adjustment without tools if you are hanging them on different bike racks.
I went with yellow Ortlieb Classic Backrollers for the waterproofness, visibility, long-term reliability/durability of a non-zipper closing, rapid attaching/removal, and shoulder carrying strap. If it is not raining, they offer the option of leaving the top open and sticking up to carry light bulky items (toilet paper, potato chips, etc.) or long items (e.g. French bread) well above the height of the rack holding the panniers.
Are there any accessories that one offers of interest to you, such as the backpack frame that the Ortliebs can attach to? Any issues with attaching taillights?
Alternatively, you could always get a drybag (not too expensive) to carry something that really needed to stay dry inside the Arkels.
Both are well made; in addition to the Backrollers I have an Arkel Tail Rider which is also nicely made.
Finally, I've read several threads on various forums recommending The Touring Store LINK (http://www.thetouringstore.com/) as a very good vendor for the Ortliebs. I bought my Ortliebs locally but then thought I needed a rack extension bracket from The Touring Store to prevent my heel from hitting the Ortliebs. Wayne at The Touring Store promptly emailed me back explaining how to avoid the problem without buying anything from him; A+ service in my opinion.
07-17-08, 01:49 AM
I have the Deuter Rack Pack (II?) Panniers which uses the Ortlieb mounting system I believe. The issue I have is that I use it to carry my laptop and the bottom mounting hardware is not flush on the inside. The bolt sticks into the bag and rubs against whatever's inside. It's not a problem if you only carry soft items but if you have anything rigid it's going to rub.
I'm not sure what to do about it yet but that may be a consideration. I haven't seen the newer Ortlieb mounting system in person (the round bottom style) so maybe they addressed this defect.
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