Scott Atwood on 1/8/09
I have owned panniers from many different manufacturers over the years, and this is without a doubt the best, most well designed front pannier I have ever owned.
My most recent previous set were Madden front and rear panniers. The Arkel panniers address all of the problems and design flaws that I recognized in the Madden panniers, as well as problems I didn't even realize I had until I got the Arkels.
This bag feels quite spacious, and the straight rather than tapered sides makes it more versatile. With the removable frame taken out, I can easily fit my 15" widescreen laptop in the main compartment with plenty of room to spare. This bag is big enough to serve either as front panniers or modest sized rear panniers.
The zippers on the main body and the large external pocket unzip completely on three sides, which make this bag a breeze to load and unload. This is a large improvement over my previous panniers, which were top loading with a drawstring and a flap that buckled over the top, which made it quite difficult to get things in and out of the bag, especially if something had fallen to the bottom.
Unlike my previous panniers, there are no parts that can dangle and get trapped in the spokes. The horizontal compression strap is held up and out of the spokes even when it is unbuckled.
My previous panniers had outside pockets with zippers on the bottom. I suppose this results in a somewhat more water resistant design, but I accidently spilled the contents of the pocket more than once when I forgot to re-zip the zipper before riding off. I really appreciate the design of the zipper on the top pocket of the Arkel panniers. It easily gives access to the contents of the pocket, with less danger of spilling the contents accidentally. This pocket is big enough to comfortably hold a SIGG .6 liter water bottle, or a random assortment of small odds and ends.
The best feature of all is attachment mechanism. The hooks are infinitely adjustable side-to-side to fit just about any rack in existence. And the handle is attached to spring-loaded cams under the hooks. When you pull up on the handle, the cams release and the bag comes free of the rack. When re-attaching the bag to the rack, the cams stay open until you release the handle, then they snap back into place, securely locking the bag to the rack. I've never before had a pannier that was so easily adjustable, so securely attached, and so easy to attach and remove.