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  1. #1
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    Arkel GT-18's vs. GT-54's

    I have some questions on Arkel's GT-54 panniers and was hoping to get some input.

    I already own a pair of GT-18's, which I use for commuting, and find them to be excellent panniers. With regard to touring (self-supported camping) my plan has been to use them as my front panniers and get the GT-54's for the rear.

    But, I'm also considering getting another pair of GT-18's. I'm wondering how the 54's compare to the 18's. Are they really that much bigger? When Arkel claims 3300 cu. in. for the pair, is that with or without the tube pocket? (I'll probably call them and ask them that one)

    For those of you who own them, do you find the tube pocket useful? One concern I have with it is that it just gets in the way. What about the removable butterfly pocket, do you find it to be useful? What do you find yourself using it for?

    Anyway, thanks in advance for any replies.
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    I have both the GT54's and the T18's.

    The 54's are gigantic - easily twice the size of the 18's. The tube pocket is stupid, as are the removable & flapped pockets on the 54's. The tube doesn't really get in the way, but it's hard to get the thermarest in there, and since it's not waterproof you need to bag the theramarest anyway. I have a waterproof stuff sack that my sleeping bag goes in and gets strapped to the top of the rack, I just put the thermarest in with that, so that's one less bag to add weight and deal with in the morning.

    THe inner waterproof liners are also stupid - the zippers are too annoyingly slow to use. I removed all the removable pockets & the tube, and the inner liner, and just use a big waterproof stuff sack inside (which I already had), because I can just fold the top over for it to be waterproof, instead of fiddling around with the zippers. Then with the pockets removed, you are stuck with the stupid flaps which do nothing but add weight.

    I like the rear and lower side pockets, and the top pockets are ok, but it's not a great location for a pocket for me, since I strap my bag & tent on top of the rack, which means they aren't accessible.

    I would not buy these bags again, they are ridiculously heavy and covered with pseudo-features that don't work and add weight. I would use a simpler Arkel, if your heart is set on matching the brand, but consider the Lone Peak P400's as a similar shape bag, they are smaller, but the features (look) more functional and the LP bags are much much lighter. I have the LP P99 (front) bags and like them a lot.

    I like the T18's though - they are nice large front bags, and work well, without too much extra junk. I really do like the very very secure attachment system for a front bag - I have old ones, with an old style metal thing you turn, not the automatic release cam ones.
    ...

  3. #3
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    Thanks valygrl. That's kind of what I was thinking.

    I wonder if the T-42's would be a good match with my GT-18's? They appear to be plenty big.
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  4. #4
    Fat Guy Rolling dcrowell's Avatar
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    I have the GT-54s, and I love them. The tube pocket is floppy and weird when empty, but my tent fits in there perfectly. I have occasionally used a single GT-54 to commute with, and could put 15" laptop, clothing, lunch, etc, in the one pannier.

    I agree that the inner waterproof liner is poorly thought-out. I'm also not crazy about the mounting mechanism, although it does seem sturdy. Weight? These bags are for touring. If weight is a big issue, buy a smaller pannier set, just so you have to carry less.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcrowell View Post
    ....If weight is a big issue, buy a smaller pannier set, just so you have to carry less.
    I disagree with this. Even when touring, weight is a concern for me. I carefully select the items I bring, trading off weight and functionality. There's no reason to carry extra weight that doesn't perform a function that justifies it coming along.

    The bag itself must provide enough carrying capacity, organized in a way I prefer, and secure & durable enough. If it fulfills those functions, the lighter it is the better it is. If I can get the same functionality for 4 less pounds, that's 4 pounds I don't have to lug up the hill, or 4 pounds worth of something more functional that I'm able to carry (like warm clothing, a nicer tent, a book, pie). I don't want to carry less stuff, I just want to carry less pannier weight. Since that's an option, why not avail myself of it?

    Obviously, this is subjective, and your subjective analysis of the Arkel GT54's is different from mine.

    Malachi292 - I have no experience with the 42's. On paper, yes, they are lighter, and you lose one of the functional pockets and all the non-functional ones. And they are way way cheaper.

    http://www.thetouringstore.com/LONE%...ERS%20PAGE.htm

    lone peak P400 - 2500 cu in and and 2.9 pounds
    arkel 42's - 2550 cu in and 5 pounds
    arkel 54's - 3300 cu in & 6.6 pounds - unknown how much of that stated capacity is in the useless pockets that i leave home.

    THe rear bags I acutally use are ancient Cannondale Expedition bags I have no idea of the size or weight, but they are at least 3 pounds lighter than the 54's --- i would have to dig them out of my store room to weigh them. Unfortuntely, they aren't living up to the durability i need, so when they die (one more tour) I'm going to get the lp400's. I keep the 54s for grocery shopping. but I doubt i'll tour with them again.
    ...

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    oh yeah i forgot... i find those "smiley" openings very annoying. a straight side-zip works better.
    ...

  7. #7
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    I've had the GT-54 before and replaced them with T-42, which are great. I really like the smiley zippers as they make it easier to dig into the pockets. The T-42 use smaller zippers than the GT but they're plenty strong.
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    djb
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    I disagree with this. Even when touring, weight is a concern for me. I carefully select the items I bring, trading off weight and functionality. There's no reason to carry extra weight that doesn't perform a function that justifies it coming along.

    lone peak P400 - 2500 cu in and and 2.9 pounds
    arkel 42's - 2550 cu in and 5 pounds
    arkel 54's - 3300 cu in & 6.6 pounds - unknown how much of that stated capacity is in the useless pockets that i leave home.
    as a light guy, I am completely in agreement with the mindset of saving weight whenever possible. This was a priority for me when I began looking at Ortliebs many years ago (wanted waterproof bags) and the roller plus ones were just over 3lbs a pr, very similar to the lone peak P400s mentioned. I could not imagine the Arkel 54s at 3 lbs + more just of the bags, yes bigger holding capacity, but I agree completely with the extra 3lbs of just bag.

    3lbs is a fair amount of clothing.

    I guess its up to you, but bags with that much volume are also always going to follow the "a gas fills a given space" idea, in other words, with bigger bags you are going to take that much more crap, and more weight.

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    lone peak P-500: 3200/pair and 3.1 lbs, lots of exterior pockets

  10. #10
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    Are you buying expedition bags that will last hundreds of days of touring or are you looking at bags that will last for 10 tours of 10-14 days each? It's an important question and should determine how much to spend and how durable the bags should be. Durability has an impact on the weight (as does the number of pockets, zippers, etc). Like valygrl I have a pair of Cannondale panniers that are 30 years old and still functional for touring. They are neither fancy nor heavy and leak like a sieve in the rain. No big deal as I pack everything in zip-locs. On the other hand, my trips don't last longer than 2 weeks, are all on pavement so the attachment mechanisms aren't critical and in areas where a pannier failure is no big deal.

    I personally like the Arkels (and bought a rack top bag from them last year for 'round town riding) but the side load panniers are heavy and somewhat over engineered. Bottom line, my bike is 28 lbs, I'm 180 lbs, my gear is 20-25 lbs. and my water bottles weigh, I don't know, 4 lbs each. I'm not going to worry about an extra 3 lbs in bags if they make me happy.

  11. #11
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    This is an older thread but since I own both of these Arkel bags maybe I can offer some additional input:

    The GT-54 bags were, according to the reps I met at Arkel, designed for heavily loaded touring. As such they were engineered to carry heavy loads than any other commercial touring bag on the market. With that in mind, they not only have an internal aluminum frame and a composite back panel similar to the GT-18's, they also provide bottom support for the load. The rear panel / bottom panel construction of the bag is continuous and allows the composite back panel used in the GT-54's to curve under and provide a rigid support to the load.


    Does that add to the weight? Yup! On the other hand, given the number of sagging non-Arkel bags I've seen on the road, and the number of bags I've seen damaged because their design didn't keep them out of the spokes - at least a few people might find them an advantage for some trips.


    And personally, I haven't found it all that difficult to remove the internal aluminum frame, rear stiffener panels, internal dry-bags, tube pocket, and / or external removable flapped pockets when taking a less than fully loaded trip and they weren't absolutely needed. Occasionally I've gotten by with just one bag too - nothing says you have to take everything. But you can't change the volume and the smaller size of the GT-18's makes them more versitile for use around the city and for day trip or weekend jaunts.


    And ..... pockets. Those are as useful or useless as your imagination. Personally I've used those exterior tear-off pockets on the GT-54's to house different things on different occasions - personal toiletry kits, bicycle maintenance kits and spares, first aid kits, and sometimes just the rain covers for the bags themselves. My biggest complaint would be that they aren't marketed separately with internal organizational strapping or compartments.


    The internal dry bags have been lined with closed cell foam on occasion, and used as a cooler. Ice in zip-locks is OK for several hours since clothing outside the dry-bag also insulates. Yeah - a regular dry-bag would also work - and be twice the weight.


    The tube-bag is removable and stores when not in use. Its not waterproof, and neither is the rest of the GT-54 bag. The rain cover that goes on that side covers the whole bag including the tube-bag. Criticisms? The rain covers are sold separately, only available in pairs, and a bit expensive. A second set would have to be purchased to have a spare to cover the RHS without the tube-bag installed.


    But I've put a PVC tube with caps in that and used it to carry a fishing kit, as well as using it for a sleeping mat. It'll also take some sleeping bags, a camping hammock and an alcohol stove and fuel all at once. On a couple occasions it got used for laundry just to free up room inside the main bag.


    So no - this isn't the bag for everyone. Its large enough that it could cause heel-strike issues on smaller frames not intended for loaded touring. Its heavy enough that it could be annoying for anyone expecting to do ultralight touring, and its expensive enough and specialized enough that I personally don't recommend it for the odd weekend jaunt.

    The GT-54 isn't the perfect bag for everything, but making poor selections when matching equipment really doesn't back up claims of poor design. The bags were designed to be large enough that strapping large items horizontally across the top of the rack wasn't really anticipated. Particularly by anyone claiming to be weight conscious. For larger loads there are (were) GT-84's which are even larger, even heavier, and primarily aimed at tandems.

    Arkel claims the pockets on top of the bags are map pockets. Personally I can't see anyone carrying that many maps, but they do hold a water bottle or extra pair of cold weather gloves just fine. They also describe the rear pocket on the LHS bag as a fuel pocket, but personally I'd never carry amy fuel other than alcohol inside a bag. A one litre thermos does fit fine though.


    IMO its a lot like a bike - its the fit that counts. If it fits your requirements - its the cat's meow. If it doesn't - no point blaming the designers - do more homework next time and buy something else that fits better. Some people do ultralight touring. For them these bags would be a nuisence. Some people successfelly manage extended bicycle excursions with their partner and two or three pre-teenage kids. For them the options are bigger panniers like this - or a trailer.



    Last edited by Burton; 07-29-12 at 10:46 AM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Re the GT 54... Just me, but I can't imagine carrying enough to fill them or wanting that heavy of a bag There are different styles of touring though and they may suit some folks wants. For my style of touring they would be way too big even for tandem touring.

  13. #13
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Re the GT 54... Just me, but I can't imagine carrying enough to fill them or wanting that heavy of a bag There are different styles of touring though and they may suit some folks wants. For my style of touring they would be way too big even for tandem touring.
    I respect that. Different people not only travel differently, but usually have different objectives for their trips.

    Just curious - skipping the quantity of gear altogether - what makes a trip work for you? My cycle touring often involves using a bicycle as transportation to a specific destination where I may spend a few weeks hiking, fishing or just relaxing around a base camp. Comfort is probably higher on my list that on other cycletourists. Occasionally I'll make some photo expeditions by bicycle to some locations that have protected areas for local fauna and I can get some interesting shots. Those can be extended trips but maybe thats not what you would consider cycle touring compared to what you do yourself.

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    I've got the 54s and yes,they are big.Big enough to carry all my camping gear inside of them along with the rest of my stuff.I just wish they would have left out the internal waterproof covers and thrown in a set of rain covers at no extra cost.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Just curious - skipping the quantity of gear altogether - what makes a trip work for you? My cycle touring often involves using a bicycle as transportation to a specific destination where I may spend a few weeks hiking, fishing or just relaxing around a base camp.
    That is very different from my tours. I usually ride a major part of the day every day and it is mainly about the riding. I might take some time off for a hike or what ever though. My daughter and I spent almost a week in the Yosemite Valley hiking and seeing the attractions, but that is an exception.

    My upcoming Colorado tour I plan to ride a mountain bike on a course that should be 70-80% dirt. I plan to do more side trips than usual, including some peak bagging and possibly seeing a stage or two of the Pro Tour race.

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    That is very different from my tours. I usually ride a major part of the day every day and it is mainly about the riding. I might take some time off for a hike or what ever though. My daughter and I spent almost a week in the Yosemite Valley hiking and seeing the attractions, but that is an exception.

    My upcoming Colorado tour I plan to ride a mountain bike on a course that should be 70-80% dirt. I plan to do more side trips than usual, including some peak bagging and possibly seeing a stage or two of the Pro Tour race.
    Sounds like fun! Colorado has some pretty spectacular national parks! Have you been east to the Blueridge Parkway? Some of the best bicycling in North America and .... about 125 waterfalls scattered along a 600 some mile parkway. A guy could spend the whole summer exploring there - both on and off a bicycle. Next time I go back - it'll be the fifth time .

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Sounds like fun! Colorado has some pretty spectacular national parks! Have you been east to the Blueridge Parkway? Some of the best bicycling in North America and .... about 125 waterfalls scattered along a 600 some mile parkway. A guy could spend the whole summer exploring there - both on and off a bicycle. Next time I go back - it'll be the fifth time .
    I live in the East so it isn't too far from home. Still, I have only ridden a small portion of the parkway when we passed through on the Trans America. I have been there by car a few times and may go again this fall with my wife. That will be a car trip since she isn't in to cycling these days. One of these days I may do skyline drive and the BRP as a tour.

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