Last edited by mm718; 03-26-14 at 08:39 PM.
The other day popped into a bike/outdoor store cuz of a sale, and ended up getting a pair of Dry-Lites because I could not resist the sale price of $71. Figure that they will get used over the years in any case.
First impressions, they are as well made as other Arkel products, they just don't weigh a ton. The Velcro system is very flexible and should fit a wide range of racks, will be interesting to see how they fit on a very narrow rack like the axiom streamliner on my wife's bike, a rack that would get put on road bikes without rack bolt holes, and are bikes folks would use for ultra light touring.
As mentioned in earlier posts, you really need to have both sides together and on the bike. I've only used them a few days now but they work fine with only one side filled with stuff, with no sagging to one side.
Commonsense prevailing with sharp and hard objects, the material is reasonably tough but using your noggin with using clothes to prevent hard objects rubbing against inside is the way to go and keep them in good shape, as with not leaning and scraping them against abrasive walls etc.
Flexible hook system, especially combined with the Velcro system overlapping the rack in two directions seems to me that this will eliminate them hopping off rack over a big pothole, the Velcro really seems to hold the bags securely to rack.
There are four sturdy oval plastic clips that appear would be great for using straps or bungies to hold a dry bag on the top of the rack between the two panniers, especially if the panniers are filled and so are somewhat higher than the rack horizontal surface.
Obvious downside, cuz of Velcro, not great for taking off and putting on all the time.
I see these as a great credit card tour system, use a waterproof handlebar bag, a drybag on top of rack for more storage space and you'd easily be able to carry clothes, rain gear and whatnot for a fun light trip. I don't have a small cook set but could see being able to do a lightweight alcohol burner setup and a light tent on rack and as others do on this forum, you could do minimalist camping with a light bike package.
The store where I got them, Le Yeti, told me they hadn't sold many of them, but despite the Velcro aspect of not "easy on-easy off" they are a neat set of waterproof 32 litre panniers.
Will put up more info if I use them more than just commuting.
Last edited by djb; 08-13-14 at 09:34 PM.
I cannot speak to the dry-lites specifically since I haven't used them. However I can say I like the Arkel GT-54s I have and like the company quite a bit. They are good folks making a good quality product and all the reviews I have read from their stuff and people I have talked to, have said the same. I would get a pair for light trips, maybe set them up on my fixed gear for commuting as well.
One of the major issues with super light stuff being used as this is potentially being used is sharp and heavy objects poking through but I think people have covered that. Also waterproof stuff not being able to drain water out if it should get in but I won't get into that because it is a political issue for some ; )
been thinking that with a front rack like the Old Man Mountain Sherpa, with a top platform long enough to take these panniers, it would work fine for front panniers.
Yes, this rack is overkill in terms of sturdiness considering one would most likely put soft stuff in these bags, clothes, sleeping bag or whatever.
The Sherpa rack is also about $125, so if any one has suggestions for a front rack that is not as robust nor expensive, this could be a good way to use these as lightweight front panniers.
I've been thinking of the front pannier use idea, and dont see why a front platform rack wouldnt work, again , especially if you put soft bulky stuff in them that would be taking up room in rear panniers.
Im thinking sleeping bag, clothes in general, camp mat if one that is small in physical size. I guess the only downside is that it would put more weight on the rear of the bike, but I guess it would depend on your overall load to begin with.
I guess the other factor too is that undoing the velcro is always going to be a pain if you prefer to take your panniers in the tent with you (as I do). The sturdiness factor wouldnt be a factor for me when I think of my tours Ive done, but I guess in a real rough environment, tougher and easier to get off bags are always going to have an advantage over these--which brings us back to their intended use as very light travelling, even better if you are staying in motels or whatever where you can bring your bike into a safe environment and just leave them on all or most of the time.
I just find it neat to think of different ways to use these, cuz it is pretty impressive how functional they are with such little weight.
I was also considering how to use these as front panniers. My bike doesn't seem to like a lot of weight in the front anyway, so a pair of these to put the sleeping bag, pad, tent, and perhaps a few articles of clothing like a jacket would be great. I'm not of the mindset to try to shave every gram I can, but if I can easily take off a couple lbs just by buying different panniers, that seems like a good idea. I know many here say weight doesn't matter since you're carrying a lot for touring anyway, but I'm convinced there Is a difference between hauling 25lbs vs 35lbs. Let me know if you find a cheap rack solution.
I learned a long time ago that 10lbs less , ie 35 instead of 45 or 50 made a huge difference in enjoyment for me. Getting it even lower would be nice but for most camping trips I figure I will always be between 30-40, but every pound or so helps.
I have used good quality rear racks, alu ones in the $20-30 range for years, putting easily 25lbs on these rear racks. Cuz of this, I am sure any reasonable front platform rack will handle the 10-15lbs tops that would go in these bags.
the real issue is the length of the platform. I seem to recall reading that the minimum length of a platform is about 7.5 inches. I just measured the bags, or rather the distance between the two main straps joining the bags together, and they are 7.5 inches, the bags themselves extend back and front of these velcro straps, but I figure a rack with 8 or 9 inches of top area platform should work. (take a peek at the website and photos to see what I mean regarding these straps)
another factor to consider is the vertical struts of said front rack, you'd want enough support of two struts to stop the bags from swinging into the wheel. So in other words the front rack would have to be conceived for carrying bags, not just a platform with a single vertical support strut. The bags are reassonably stiff, so with two struts that the bags can go against, they'd be fine.
I hope other people chime in with ideas of racks.
racks like this fit the size bill, cost and weight etc, but on a bike like mine with cantis and a carbon fork, I cant see how you'd attach the top part of the rack to the forks.
thats what appealed about the Old Man Mountain rack, it attaches to the canti or v brake studs, and on top of it, it seems like a really sturdy rack that you could use with heavier front panniers without any concerns.
Last edited by djb; 08-16-14 at 08:26 PM.
I wouldn't be surprised if these new Arkels hold up fine as long as users are a bit careful about how they pack things with sharp edges.
I don't count grams but I do count every ounce and the Dry Lites alone would get me a lot closer to my goal of having less the 25 lbs of gear. So let us know how it goes. I am interested to hear your experience with durability and how the attachment system works out.
I'm ordering some Dry-Lights(Anyone from Arkel reading this? This is how "light" is spelled. In case you were wondering, skateboard is not spelled sk8bord, either. Anyway...) tomorrow. If anyone would like any other pictures of them, or the mounting, let me know. I'll also comment on them after my trip down the west coast. I'll be packing the heavier and harder gear items in my more rugged Axioms in front, with the Arkels as rear panniers with soft things like my backpacking quilt, sleep pad, some clothes, etc. They will carry all of the soft and light weight gear. Theoretically this will create a better balanced load on the bike and save some weight from carrying "regular" panniers front and rear.
Last edited by 3speed; 09-20-14 at 03:41 AM.
I am running the Dry-Lites front and rear, and really love them so far. The weight of all four bags is less than the set of rear panniers I used to use, and I really prefer the balanced distribution of weight--the bike handles much better, and I worry a lot less now about putting all my weight on the rear with only 32 spoke wheels.
My first impression of them is that they are pretty small, but they appear to be more durable than what others have suggested (I liken them to a heavy dry-bag that one would strap to a rear rack). For soft-sided gear, I think they would stand up really well.
The whole system makes a lot of sense for me: I have mostly ultralight gear (tent, bag, pad, etc.), so I am not carrying a lot of bulk or weight, so smaller, lighter panniers and racks suit me perfectly. Here are some shots:
Mr 3speed, yesterday I put up a little post trip blurb here but it looks like it wasn't saved, so quickly: did a two day overnight trip last weekend and used the arkels. Also used a drybag on top of them/rack which looked kinda goofy but was expecting rain. As for rain, rode for about 6 hours through heavy rain and a strong headwind and the Arkels worked perfectly. Used my old cordura front panniers on a fro t rack for stuff that wouldn't be great for the Dry-Lites, hard edged stuff and to have some free space for when picking up food at end of day.
As I've said before, use a bit of common sense with abrasive surfaces and what you put in them, stick with clothes I reckon, and they work fine.
A bit more time to take on/off, would be ideal if you can leave them on your bike but not a real problem. Here's a photo.
Last edited by djb; 09-20-14 at 08:07 AM.
A few aspects I can see these not being ideal is if you are going to be going somewhere where its really rough, ie having to put your bike down on bad surfaces all the time, or wanting the advantage of taking bags off often as I could see mucking about with the velcro could get tiring; and especially them not being ideal for overfilling with a food shop before the end of the day, especially if there are heavy cans, or sharp edged containers involved--I really do think sturdier panniers are still good to have for this (again, why I put on my old blue cordura ones).
Though it really does seem to be "horses for courses" here, and your example certainly shows the big weight win with using two sets of them. (although Mr DH, I guess last week the weight savings were offset by the heavy studded winter tires you had to put on your bike ;-)
LOL. Yes, the studded tires almost came out last week when we had our freak blizzard. (I know a bunch who did throw them on!)
I agree that the big downside to these bags will be durability. They are very well constructed, but just like my other ultralight gear, one needs to be extra careful with them, which definitely would not appeal to everyone.
Regarding the Velcro straps, have you found them to be cumbersome? I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to see how well designed they are and how easy they are to take on and off. They are a bit fiddly to get adjusted the first time, but once that is done, it takes mere seconds to attach or detach. And I really liked this system on rough roads and trails - the soft bags spread the weight across the rack well and absorb shock well, unlike my old clip-on panniers which would thump and rattle with each bump (so much quieter now!)
re velcro, I have to admit I was a bit leery, and thought theyd be a real pain in the arse, but as you say, once you get the width thing adjusted, I found them not too bad. You plop them onto the rack, and then undo the larger two velcro tops, feed the front and back "anchoring" velcros through the front and rear of rack, bring them back over the main two velcros and bring down the velcro "tops" onto them, then of course reach down and do the two hooks.
interesting comment about rough roads and trails.
what front rack are you using btw? Enquiring minds want to know.
Last edited by djb; 09-20-14 at 08:41 PM.
thanks, that seems like a great rack for using these up front, and like you say, the panniers are never going to be really heavy so would work perfectly fine with this front rack.
Thanks for sharing the personal experiences and pics! I thought about dry-lights front and rear, but I do have some hard gear that I didn't want to always be worried about.
I must say, now that I have my hands on them, they really are light weight, and the velcro attachment system is crap. The one that attaches the panniers together is fine, but the front-to-rear ones that are supposed to secure to the rack are rather limited in design. Of course they'll work for certain racks, but clearly wouldn't work very well at all for many racks, including mine unfortunately. I'm going to buy some more velcro at the store and figure something out, but I'm kinda surprised Arkel didn't figure out something better in the first place.
3speed, yes the fore aft Velcro's are narrow, but I found they were easy to put on and they worked fine, no movement of bags. Is your rack very long?
3speed, I'd be curious to see a photo of your rack with the panniers on them-specifically taken from above. Is the issue that the narrow fore/aft velcros are not long enough? I'll measure the rack I have put these on and can show how the velcro holds it well in place.
It would be good to know if your problem is because of the rack length, or not being able to loop the fore/aft velcros around something.
Well, I did finally figure out a way. I just had to get a little more creative than the way they intend for you to do it. I ended up wrapping the fore and aft velcro adjustments underneath the metal plate that goes down the center of my rack and attach them on the other side. It still keeps them from sliding fore and aft because there are cross bars underneath the plate that the velcro straps go around. I'll get a picture if I have time before the trip, but I'm doing a lot of last minute stuff so it might have to wait until I get back.
Last edited by 3speed; 09-29-14 at 02:03 AM.
Despite Arkel telling me not to, I used these front and rear on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (~5000 km, mostly gravel and dirt, with some very rough sections.) Total load was around 33 lbs PLUS (lots of) food and sometimes water. First, they're not 32 litres. Arkel now claims 28, and I think they may be a bit smaller than that (similar to my 25 l Ortlieb Front Roller Plus.) I started with 300 km of pavement (from Jasper to Banff.) At the end of the first (50 km) unpaved day, one front and one rear velcro tore out of the panniers. I stitched them back on. Fortunately I had extra accessory straps, which I used to tie the D-rings together across the top of the racks. If you look at the stitching, the D-rings are strangely reinforced whereas the main velcros are not. With the extra straps taking some load off the velcros, they lasted the remaining nine weeks. Some stitching was slowly starting to come apart towards the end. Attaching the D-rings together also made the panniers more stable in the sense of not bouncing into the wheel; my racks have only two vertical struts, so the rear panniers weren't well supported vertically at the back. The fore-aft velco on the front tore later on, but I didn't seem to need it. One pannier eventually had a small cut on the outside, and another rubbed through on the inside where I had my pump against the fabric. The bungees were not tight enough for my taste, so I added a knot into each one to increase the tension. The panniers stayed put, even on some very rough descents. Late in the trip one bungee broke, but an improvised fix with cord didn't take long. The velcro system isn't practical for quickly removing/installing the panniers, so I rarely removed them. Completely waterproof, even after some really serious rain.
Bottom line: I would use them again, but never without extra straps on the D-rings because the velcros are NOT reliable. The stitching is pathetic. I think they would fail even road touring after some time. I also dislike the black colour. Ugly, and the contents cook in the sun. Larger reflective patches would also be welcome.
UPDATE: Arkel informs me my panniers were from the first batch, which has been recalled. (They didn't offer to replace mine.) The stitching is now improved. I still recommend my D-ring technique for unpaved touring though.
Last edited by nicolaim; 10-07-14 at 08:33 AM.
Well, interesting torture test of them, as off road like that, and then with a "heavy" load certainly sounds like it put them to the limit.
Interesting about the d rings being very strongly attached, and allowing you to improvise and support the load by connecting the two.
re teh dark colour getting hot, yes I have had darker colour panniers get super hot as well, I guess its a tradeoff of dirt and scuffs not showing up on dark colours. Certainly agree about reflective stuff, the more the better on the road.
I guess it always comes down to that these were designed for carrying clothes and such, and even stuff like a pump is going to wear the fabric, especially given an off road situation with so much bumps and whatnot that will move any contents around a LOT.
I still feel that these things have a real place for lightweight touring, put only clothes in them, use a rack pack or whatever for your tools, pump and other hard stuff, and these will do the job well, at a fraction of the weight of other panniers. If taken care of in terms of abrasion, they certainly are waterproof--will be interesting to see how the seams are over time in this regard.
re 32l vs 28 or whatever, ya I too noticed the varying quotes for the size. I am about to receive some new front roller pluses so it will be interesting to see how they compare. My old front panniers are so old I have no idea what they are supposed to carry capacity wise, plus with roller type panniers, you get into the grey zone of how much you roll the top, which makes a small diff in the capacity, so they probably were too much at the "hardly rolled at all" end of the scale.
thanks for sharing your very tough experience with them and comments on how they were with such a rough environment.
That's rather disappointing. First of all, it's not rocket science to figure out the capacity of a simple bag, the fact that they have been overstating it by at least 4L is concerning. Add to that the fact that they didn't offer to replace yours after telling you that they had recalled the first batch...There a couple of Arkel products I'm considering buying and the above information is definitely going on the scale. I'll be taking a hard look at reviews of their other products I was interested in before I shell out the large amounts of cash for anything from them now.
Everyone hates your lights. Throw them away & buy something civilized.