High-quality, water-resistant, retro, and tough. These are four words I might use to describe the XM-45 bicycle panniers from Arkel.
Several months ago I was sent a set of Arkel XM-45 panniers and their matching rain covers. In this review I will describe in great detail the make up of this particular pannier, share my thoughts in regards to its strengths and its weaknesses, and tell you whether or not this is a pannier I would recommend for your travels.
To Start… A Brief Intro To The Arkel XM-45 Pannier:
The Arkel XM-45 is Arkel’s highest selling bicycle pannier for the touring market. The company actually makes a larger set of panniers (called the GT-54), but those particular panniers are absolutely huge (3,300 cubic inches) compared to the XM-45s (2,800 cubic inches). The XM-45 panniers are large enough for most people and are ideally shaped for the needs of nearly every traveling cyclist.
On their website, the company explains that this set of panniers was initially designed for off-road mountain biking, but because of their tall, narrow profile (which helps to ensure heal clearance while pedaling); the compression straps that cross the front of the bags that allow for maximum compression; and the inner lining that works to protect your precious gear… these particular panniers have become a favorite for thousands of people traveling by bike.
Features That Make The XM-45 Bicycle Pannier Unique
The following is a list of some of the features that make the Arkel XM-45 pannier so incredibly popular.
Made Of High-Quality Cordurra
The XM-45 panniers are made out of a high-quality, water-resistant fabric called Cordura. This is the same material used in the manufacturing of backpacks and panniers produced by other outdoor companies. It’s a favorite fabric amongst outdoor manufactureres because of its ruggedness and its ability to shed (although not completely deflect) rain, snow, and other such outside forces. I’ve personally received letters from people traveling by bike in remote parts of the world and they stated to me in these letters that the reason they chose to travel with Arkel panniers was because of just how tough and seemingly indestructible the fabric is – even in the most harsh environments.
Besides the high-quality fabric, the pannier uses three top-of-the line zippers (one used on the top lid, one used on the side pocket, and one larger zipper that runs down the side of the pannier for those who wish to load their belongings from the traditional sideways position.) Zippers as a whole are something many pannier manufacturers try to avoid, as the zipper is usually the first thing to break on a bag such as this. But the zippers used on these Arkel panniers are top of the line and they’ll run for years before you have to worry about them breaking or giving way.
The compression straps on the XM-45 panniers are unique in that unlike other bicycle pannier compression straps that typically run in either a vertical or horizontal manner, the compression straps on the XM-45 panniers run in a diagonal pattern, crossing the center of the bag at its middle (See the photo above). This not only gives you a great way to compress your bag down to its smallest possible size, but it also allows the straps themselves to be kept short, so they remain out of the way and are easy to manage each and every time you need to get into your bags.
Top-Loading With Side-Loading Zipper
Traditional touring panniers were designed to be loaded from the side, much like you would do with a suitcase. But many of today’s most popular bicycle touring panniers are designed as top-loaders, meaning that you load your gear into them from the top, kind of like you would do when putting rocks in a bucket.
Whether you are someone who prefers loading your gear from the top or the side, the XM-45 panniers give you the best of both words, because while their core design is that of a top-loading bag, the large side zipper does give you the option of opening the bag on its side and loading your gear in that way.
Fully-Lined Main Compartment
This is another feature that makes the XM-45’s shine! Each of the panniers has a fully-lined interior. So in addition to the external Cordura material that provides the tough, water-resistant shell around your belongings, the inner-liner adds another layer of water-resistance and quality to the bag itself. This liner, just like the exterior of the bag, is accessible from the side and closes at the top with a simple drawstring.
Top Of The Line Pannier Attachment System
How your panniers attach to the racks of your bicycles is another key factor to consider when purchasing a set of panniers. Having a quality attachment system is extremely important – especially if you plan to use the panniers on any sort of long-distance tour. Luckily, the attachment system on the back of Arkel panniers is one of the best in the industry. Some might even argue that it is the best in the world!
The panniers attach by a small bungee-mounted hook at the bottom of the bag and large, industrial-strength, self-locking cams at the top. Best of all, the attachment system works with either 10mm or 8mm racks, so no matter what size rack you have, the Arkel panniers will work for you! (The image above shows the panniers mounted on an 8mm rack.)
Multiple Pockets For Organizing Your Gear
Another nice feature of the XM-45 panniers is that they have three different compartments in which to store your gear. Many panniers only have one compartment and this makes organizing your things somewhat difficult. The XM-45’s, however, have three compartments: one large one in the center, a small one on the side, and a small one in the lid.
Bright & Flashy Design
If safety is a concern of yours, the bright attention-getting colors of the panniers shown in this review certainly do a good job of telling passing motorists that there is a bicycle up ahead. While the XM-45s currently come in both yellow and black colors, both models come with 3M reflective stripes on the exterior… and the rain covers (if you choose to get them) come in a bright neon yellow color that also works wonders to alert passing vehicles of your presence.
Optional Rain Covers That Fit Like A Glove
Finally, when it comes to the extra rain covers, the ones made to fit the XM-45 panniers fit like a glove. If you’ve got your panniers filled to the max and need to protect the gear inside your bags from a sudden download, just slip the light, colorful rain covers over your panniers, tighten the drawstring and continue on your way. The covers themselves are made of lightweight 1.9 ounce Coated Rip-Stop Nylon and are designed so that after slipping them around your panniers, you simply give a tug on the covers’ elasticized drawstring and they’ll close tightly around your panniers so as to keep the contents inside dry and secure.
Benefits Of The XM-45 Arkel Pannier
While there are many reasons the XM-45 panniers from Arkel are so popular, I believe the three biggest benefits of this particular set of panniers is that they are super tough (and therefore perfect for people traveling long-distances on a bike); provide superior heel clearance when compared with other bicycle panniers on the market (even my friend Josh (shown in the images in this review) who has a size 15 US foot was able to mount the XM-45 panniers on the back of his bike and ride without any interference whatsoever); and they come with three different compartments that make organizing your belongings oh so easy.
Drawbacks Of The XM-45 Arkel Pannier
That said, the main drawback to these panniers is that they not 100% waterproof. As time goes on, I think having set of waterproof bicycle panniers is going to be more and more important to many, many people. And despite the fact that the panniers do have extra rain covers that can be purchased, many will see this as just another item to buy and another item that they have to carry on their bikes (in addition to the panniers and all the gear they are already towing.)
Another small drawback to the XM-45s is that they are on the heavy side when it comes to touring panniers. Both panniers weigh a total of 4.3 lbs, which is heavy when compared to many panniers from other bicycle companies.
My Overall Thoughts & Impressions
Overall, I have been super impressed with the quality and design of the Arkel XM-45 bicycle panniers. As far as function and design is concerned, they are top of the line and I would highly recommend them for any type of bicycle riding – whether it be commuting near your home or riding your bike all the way around the world. If I could change anything about the panniers, however, I would want them to be waterproof (without the need for additional rain covers) and ever so slightly lighter. Other than that, they’re fantastic and I recommend you consider getting a pair for yourself!
My Rating: 9 out of 10
More information can be found at www.arkel-od.com
Do you have a set of Arkel XM-45 panniers? If so, what do you think of them? Add to this review by leaving a comment below.
Review Status: The product featured in this review was sent to me for free for the purpose of this review.