Product Review (submitted on September 18, 2010):
Before purchasing an Arkel Commuter pannier I researched panniers thoroughly on the Internet. I had two main criteria for my pannier: 1) it had to accommodate a laptop and 2) the main compartment had to be accessible by zipper -- NOT buckles (or worse: those roll-up openings on waterproof bags). Straps with buckles make a lot of sense for a touring pannier, but for getting around town, nothing can match the convenience and speed of a zippered bag. When I started my research, I just assumed that anyone designing a commuting pannier would "get" this. I couldn't have been more wrong. I had almost given up when I discovered Arkel's line of commuting panniers, all of which offer the convenience of zippered entry. Arkel's designers really understand how their products will be used. The Commuter is practical, convenient, and sized right for the commuter. The locking mechanism is robust and latches securely onto my rear rack in seconds. The zippers are sturdy and open and close smoothly. The protective laptop sleeve is ingenious and simple to use. My only quibbles are the absence of an inside zippered compartment (for a wallet, for instance) and an inside hook (for keys). These truly are quibbles, however, because this is a superior pannier in every way. I've been using the Commuter for about a week, and it's been an absolutely terrific purchase. For anyone hesitating because of the price, yes, these bags cost more than others, but you really do get what you pay for. One more thing: my research into panniers took me to many web sites, and I have to give credit to the folks at Arkel. The wealth of product information that they provide on their website was possibly the most important factor in my decision to purchase one of their bags. After studying the multiple photographs, detailed measurements, and written explanations of the features, I almost felt as if I had inspected the bag in person. No other manufacturer of panniers takes the time to provide this amount of product information for their customers, and I think it's the smartest thing Arkel could have done (aside from making great bags). It earned them an enormous amount of good will from this customer, and it made shelling out the money a lot less painful because I felt satisfied in advance that what I was ordering was worth the purchase price. Great bag, great company. I look forward to becoming a repeat customer (if the Commuter ever wears out!).