Here is the review for the Arkel Handlebar bag, Dolphin Panniers (32 front & 40 rear) and the Old Man Mountain Racks (Pioneer - front and back). I am not that great with reviews but I will write what I've put this gear through, what I like and don't like and issues I've had. (Disclosure: I obtained both the racks and panniers at a discounted price).
Riding Conditions: ~8500miles (Nearly 40% of which was off-road) over 10 months. Temperatures from as low as -30C to +40C. All of this has been done with a full load for touring. Here are some examples of the road surfaces I've been on:
*Note: In addition I have hitch-hiked to various start points and the bike had been strapped down and resting on the panniers (and racks) through some rough roads.
The Arkel Panniers (Dolphin 40 and Dolphin 32)
- mesh pockets on the side: can carry extra, easy to access stuff (e.x. oil, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, water, fuel and of course: a Nutella jar)
- aluminium mounting: to be honest I don't want to know how plastic mounting system would have performed in the cold and all the falls
- closing system: I've met people similar top-roll closing system which requires 2 or 3 rolls to be waterproof, the Dolphin panniers are fine with one.
- I have never had a pannier fall off or get loose, no matter how rough the road is.
- can adjust the mounting system so that panniers are further back (so you don't kick them)
- the panniers can make excellent pillow or something to sit on (ex. if you have your sleeping bag in it!)
- I never had a kickstand, so the bike is always put down on the right side on the panniers (on gravel, mud, ice, snow...). The panniers are still holding up great!
- on Arkel Dolphin 32, the front pocket looks nice but you won't be able to use it much if you have the pannier already fully stuffed
- the hook on the bottom can occasionally be kind of tricky to put on (see pic on right). Not a big issue but a differently designed hook will solve the problem.
- rip on rear pannier - this one was my fault, the laptop bag in spring was in the rear bag and it stood higher than the other side (it was pushed down with the hiking backpack). Arkel provided me with a replacement bag.
- plastic cover on rear panniers gets slightly deformed: another issue from improper loading - easily solved by swapping the rear panniers to the other side
I would absolutely recommend the Arkel Panniers to anybody embarking on an around the world trip, few day tour or a ride to work! The Dolphin 32 & 40 are amazing.
Arkel Handlebar Bag (Large)
- aluminum mounting: the normally overloaded bag has never shifted down or fell off
- rigid frame: just amazing - provides protection and it's so much easier to organize.
- mesh pockets on side, front pocket: absolutely love the side pockets, good place to store extra stuff
- zipper closing system: I have never ridden with it fully closed, always zipping just enough so that I can easily access my camera
- roomy: I've got a lot of stuff there (probably too much), if you are into photography you can easily fit a DSLR and still have space for other stuff!
- front zipper pocket not water proof or water-resistant
- map holder: this one is hard to explain but it seems that it's designed so that you can easily undo the side facing you and show it to somebody in front of you. Where as to just lift the farthest side and look at the map yourself it's more difficult (see pic).
I can't see myself touring with any other bag.
( product link: Arkel Large Handlebar Bag )
Old Man Mountain Pioneer racks (Front and back)
- Wide platform on top to put even more stuff
- Versatile mounting options (axle mount or eyelets, v-brake holes or clamps), these make the racks very useful for bikes that would normally not have the option to have a rack.
- There are secondary mounting rails just under the top - makes the bike more stable. I've been using those the entire time
- The racks are designed to haul gear and they do their job amazingly well. There isn't much else to say.
- Made of aluminum, not easy to weld if it breaks.
- If you only ride on pavement and don't need the high clearance, a "low-rider" rack for the front may be a better option
- I've broken a bolt supporting the rear rack twice (once in Alaska crossing a stream and once in Utah on a rough road). Rack was perfectly fine and thanks to Surly Troll's extra eyelets I was able to mount to a different one and continue. Solution: if you are planing to go to such extremes, get longer bolts so that you can easily extract them.
Absolutely amazing racks - standing solid even after two bolts broke.
Conclusion: Both Arkel panniers and OMM racks are amazing. They have withstood 10 months of use in some of the most unforgiving terrain and weather conditions. As an added bonus Arkel is Canadian and OMM is American based/made.