archival and resource material for human powered recumbent tricycles

Arkel Dry-Lites Panniers

Moments ago, the doorbell rang. I jumped up from the computer, eagerly anticipating an important shipment from Canada. I suspected this was the one, because the doorbell had the familiar UPS or FedEx ring. I rushed downstairs, legs nearly crippled from sitting at the computer so long, and briskly opened the door. Nobody there, another UPS or FedEx clue (they ring and run). But, down to the right, nestled in the corner of the fading light of this drizzly day, was a small box, still cool from the Canadian winter from whence it just came. Five wondrous letters appeared on the label: A-R-K-E-L. I have my bags. I am ready to ride. Except, I still don’t have a trike. Bummer.

Dry-Lites 01 Dry-Lites 02


17 responses

  1. Dean

    Steve, What trikes are on your short list? My guess is ICE VTX and Catrike 700.

    January 27, 2014 at 5:33 pm

  2. Randall Oakley

    Nice. They look like they might very well outlive the next trike … which by the way I’d put my money on being a Scorpion FS.
    Not having a trike must be killing you. :-(

    January 27, 2014 at 5:47 pm

  3. Steve, You’ve started a guessing game. I have a Scorpion FS 26. On the heavy side but comfortable over the rough stuff. I am guessing a Catrike 700

    January 28, 2014 at 7:24 am

  4. Down Wind Dan

    Ahoy There, Steve, that Arkel stuff would sound pretty good to any triker. Do you have stock in that outfit ? Might be a good idea.

    January 28, 2014 at 7:48 am

  5. Hi Dean,
    My shortlist has been pretty doggone short. You are correct in your assessment. The trike I rode for the past five years was fairly light, yet I still had an urge to try out one in the ultra-light range, for two reasons: 1) I have learned on my overland journeys that heavy is hard, and that the lighter one travels, the more enjoyable the journey becomes; and 2) There are times now and then that I simply love to ride really fast for the thrill of it. On the ICE Q I had, I could sustainably maintain 15-17 miles per hour on long flat stretches, yet when I upped the ante to 20+ miles per hour, the effort was not nearly so sustainable with that 20 inch rear wheel and my gearing. These two trikes I have been long assessing both have 700c rear wheels, are ultra-light, accelerate like lightning, and provide top-end speeds far in excess of the Q. Word in the pipe claims speeds of 30-35 miles per hour on the flat if a rider is powerful and fit enough to achieve it. So, my new triangulated vehicle will be one of the two you mentioned. The interesting thing here is how it will ultimately meet my needs on long road trips. It’s just like these Dry-Lite panniers: they are super light, but will they stand up well on the road, and carry what I need? I am used to the large GT-54s, so it will be a fascinating experiment. If one of these ultra-light trikes comes up short for overland journeys, I may have to keep it for adrenaline pumping speed rides locally, and go to a suspended trike again for more comfort. This is my new lesson. I am eager to learn. School is still in session!

    January 28, 2014 at 8:20 am

  6. Hi there Dan,
    Yep, there are those who think I have stock in several companies, most notably: 1) ICE, 2) Arkel, 3) Schwalbe, 4) Radical Design, 5) ThermaRest, etc. But of course, I do not. I have simply found these products to be of superior build and performance during my relatively short, but intense, five years of triking thus far. When a guy is out triking on a long and isolated trip, with help not so convenient, it is important to spend the extra money to acquire the best products available. Breakdowns are not an option on some of these stretches of road out in the middle of nowhere! Triking overland is exceptionally challenging work, of that there is no doubt in my mind anymore, so the last thing one needs is something to go wrong with the products being used. Peace of mind is worth a lot when a road stretches out before you for miles that never seem to end!

    January 28, 2014 at 8:31 am

  7. Howdy Keith,
    Ever since I got into triking, I have been lured towards the Scorpion FS, and with a 26 inch rear wheel, the higher speeds available are indeed a draw. There are a trio of reasons at this point in my experience that I would not opt for the Scorpion, none of which has anything to do with the trike’s quality, as it is a superior product: 1) Scorpions, due to their build strategy, are heavy, and for my trips, I prefer the lightest trike and gear I can find for fast and easy travel on the long haul, 2) They sit higher, which I initially preferred back in 2008, but have since learned that for my needs, extremely low centers of gravity are best for downhill lateral stability in curves on mountain passes. I have witnessed a Scorpion FS 20 tip over that was being ridden next to me, and that image remains in my head, and 3) Due to my environmental preservation paradigm, which has only grown stronger over the past few years, I prefer to keep the production carbon footprint of any product I purchase as low as practical. This aspect is one that I suspect would not affect the majority of buyers, and in years past, would not have affected me, but now I am attempting more and more to “walk the walk” as the saying goes. I used to be one that talked the talk, but the actual walk was yet to be part of my existence model. So, regardless of how crazy it sounds to others, it works for me, as I am getting better at doing my tiny little part for the air we breathe (read my article here:
    Okay, perhaps people will think there are some clues there, but a direct answer to your guessing game question will have to wait until I have the trike in my possession. Then, I’ll be photographing and writing all about it.

    January 28, 2014 at 8:49 am

  8. Hi Randall,
    Yep, it’s tough not having a trike, although this time of year here on the central Oregon coast is typically very windy and rainy. Often in January and February, we can get literally more than two weeks straight of heavy rain and winds, with not a hint of sun (of course, this keeps the Pacific Northwest region -territory west of the Coast Range summits- very beautiful and green). This year however has evolved into what seems a freak of nature. I call it the winter where winter never came a knocking. We have had warm sunny weather for weeks now, with clear blue sky that seems like springtime. Yesterday and today are slight drizzles with clouds though, so perhaps winter has only been delayed. Time will tell.

    Anyway, with this weather, I could have been triking every week to my heart’s delight. Oh well, by not having a trike, I’ve been spending even more time writing, so all the TA readers out there on the planet can read more of my fringe rantings than ever, ha ha. I just completed a reply to Keith regarding the Scorpion, so refer to it for my thoughts. Yes, they are superior trikes for sure – great choices for many riders, and yes, I am sure I would really enjoy riding one. Yet, I look at multiple aspects surrounding my trike, so my choices may be somewhat skewed from the norm. Trikers are typically mavericks or rogues in many ways, and I typify this mindset. Just like on an overland journey, expect the unexpected from me. Are my choices “right” or not? Perhaps not, but life is an ongoing adventure of learning and adapting. I am poised to take my next step in the classroom of human existence!

    January 28, 2014 at 9:23 am

  9. These look interesting. I am assuming they are panniers panniers and not simply dry-bags. Do they mount using a mount something like Ortliebs? What do you see the advantage of them over a “standard” pannier?

    February 3, 2014 at 1:41 am

  10. Howdy Andrew,
    Yes, these are indeed “pannier” panniers, in that they have a specific attachment mechanism for a trike rack, which includes a bungee cord attachment to the bottom of the rack, similar to Arkel’s heavier duty bungee on their large bags (GT-54) and to Ortlieb’s plastic attachment bar. These panniers will attach as securely as standard panniers, but the bottom line is that they weigh a small fraction of what typical panniers weigh. The big advantage, and the reason I have switched to them, is their ultra-light weight, which is not matched by any other pannier available currently. The secondary aspect of importance is their ability to keep the cargo dry in downpouring rain, without the use of placing elasticized covers over them, as I had to do with the GT-54s. Dry panniers have the potential disadvantage of retaining moisture if the cyclist places damp items inside, however if a cyclist is aware of this, it can be avoided. So, essentially what we have here are 32 liters, or 1950 cubic inches, of dry stowage that attaches as panniers do to a standard cycling rack. For anyone looking to travel light, fast, and easy, this is a worthy solution, despite the lack of individual pockets. I am learning to trike like a backpacker hikes. These bags are the next step in my evolution as a fast-n-light triangular nomad.

    February 3, 2014 at 9:50 am

  11. Thanks for the detailed response. I must investigate them myself. Like yourself I try to be light on the bike when touring as well.

    February 3, 2014 at 5:47 pm

  12. Hi again Andrew,
    Here are a couple of photos I just took to show you the backside of the Arkel Dry-Lites. In the first one, you can see the lighter weight bungee cord that holds the bags firmly against the rear rack, and you’ll notice the metal hook near the bottom. In the second photo, I took a close-up of the hook, which straps on to the bottom retainer area of any rack. Click the link of each picture to see a large size of it:

    Also, feel free to save the photos if you wish to your computer and share them with others who may be interested. Trike Asylum is all about sharing, so have fun! – steve

    February 4, 2014 at 3:32 pm

  13. Thanks for the photos. Helps get a better idea of the panniers.

    February 4, 2014 at 5:31 pm

  14. My pleasure! Stay light, ride fast, have fun!

    February 4, 2014 at 6:06 pm

  15. John G

    Hi Steve,

    I saw your post about these dry light panniers and was wondering how the 20 liters of less space is going to effect your touting? I’m in process of reading your Overland Triker book now as my dream is to do some touring (trying to get wife on board with idea)

    Thank You for your website and knowledge sharing – Trike On!

    February 13, 2014 at 2:36 pm

  16. Howdy John,

    Well, perhaps the most challenging aspect of your current situation will be that which you mentioned last, getting your wife on board with the idea. And it’s not a gender thing either. Trike touring is a domain for very few of the human species, of that there is no doubt. The chances that both spouses in the same relationship thinking it’s a cool idea are next to zero, or maybe even in the negative digits. This is frequently the result of one partner believing that pedaling a trike on paved roadways with automobiles is suicidal at best. Often (always?) the non participating partner will move heaven and Earth to convince the soon-to-be road nomad not to do it, and grumbles something about mangled bicycle riders. After a few days, weeks, and months of this, even the eager triker might fall victim to fear. Well, okay, I’ve gone out into left field again, so back to point.

    Regarding the Arkel Dry-Lites, a trike gypsy has to have the mental mindset to use them. The normal course of overland trikers is, from the beginning, to bring every conceivable thing along for every conceivable situation. First, there is usually the trip with an overloaded trailer. Then, there is another trip with no trailer, but an overloaded trike. Then another trip with an overloaded trike, albeit less loaded than the prior time. If these treks are of sufficient duration and challenge, by the dawning of the fourth journey, the triker has wised up to what’s needed on the open road, and is ready for ultra-light triking, that is, triking like a backpacker does hiking. Minimalism.

    It’s easier on the joints. It’s easier on the trike. It’s easier on the mind. And, it’s one heck of a lot more fun in the process! Okay, we know the average scenario of starting heavy, always a result of fear of the unknown, and gradually learning the lessons of others while reducing the load with each successive trip. You are at a unique place in your triangular development, in that you are thinking proactively ahead of time and asking these questions. I had a touring friend tell me all this stuff when I started, but you know what? I, in all my arrogance, knew better than he did. Oh boy, was I ever wrong, but it took me five years to really get fully squared away. I was the proverbial slow learner. Your comment indicates that you may be on the fast track to going to the head of the class.

    Briefly, the largest single factor in touring light and easy is the organic engine, in other words, the rider. I hear trikers talking about shaving off a few ounces here, a couple of pounds there in their cargo choices or their trike’s components, but then realize they could be far more efficient by losing the extra 50 pounds of unhealthy bodyfat, which would also better prepare them for efficiency and speed. Trike touring is an immensely life altering experience that forever changes the way one’s mind sees the world around them, providing benefits psychologically as well as for the physical body. But, regardless of how well tuned a rider’s body is, overland triking is just plain hard work! It will challenge anyone as the miles, days, and weeks roll by, and living on the ground in a tent becomes the new normal. Why not make things easier?

    On my first trike trip with the trailer five years ago, I had more storage space than even my frightened mind needed. The trailer alone weighed 36 pounds, weight I was pulling up every mountain range just so I could fill it up with even more weight. This kind of stuff really gets you in great physical condition overall, but it makes the trip killer hard, and can also mess up one’s tendons, feet, knees, and in the worse case scenario, the mind … to never try it again!

    I thrive on challenges, one of the reasons I took up triking. My challenge has always been to bring less weight along with me, but my progress has been slow. Now that I have sold my former ICE Q trike, I saw the perfect chance to really make a huge paradigm shift in my overland travels. Having seen hundreds of diamond frame bicycle tourers regularly fly by me on my recent Pacific Coast adventure, I asked myself: What are they doing that I’m not? Well, they had lighter vehicles, lighter panniers, less cargo, and had mastered what I was still struggling with. So, my decision to acquire an ultra-light trike, made for speed, began my metamorphosis.

    Next, I sold my Arkel GT-54 panniers, got the Arkel Dry-Lites, and shaved off 5.5 pounds in the process. I had already purchased my NEMO Obi one person tent (half the weight of my former REI Arete tent), and I started using a lighter sleeping bag. I also spent a few extra bucks and got the ThermaRest Fast ‘n Light air mattress, which folds up to minuscule size (unlike all those riders out there with the old fashioned sleep pads that are long and bulky and must be strapped on to their luggage flapping in the wind – not to mention they are not comfortable for sleeping).

    Bottom line is that for me at this stage, and perhaps for you at your stage, dumping the weight is the most welcomed thing I can think of. Trips are hard. Why make them harder? When pedaling up long hills in the direct sun with 107 degree heat bearing down upon you on a windless day, all you want is two things: 1) lots of water, and 2) to shed lots of cargo weight to make it more bearable! Oh, and some shade trees would be helpful too. Thus, my challenge is to reach this objective of ultra light travel, and by going to these ultra light bags, I am much closer to achievement. These bags also force me to downsize my cargo load, which is the best thing that could happen to me. If backpackers can do it, and diamond frame bicyclists can do it, I can do it too. And so now I am … finally.

    On my new trike, I will have about 73 liters of cargo volume available to me. My Pacific Coast trip last September saw me at the 92 liter mark. Something has to give. Efficiency to the rescue. Essentially, I will make it work because I know what it’s like touring way too heavily, and I refuse to do it even one more time. I am not yet sure how the redesign of my cargo will fully develop, but of course, it must because I have less space. I cannot yet answer from experience how this will go, but I know I want to walk this path regardless. I will adapt. The old saying is “adapt or perish” and this is true if one wants to keep on touring year after year, because if nothing else, the burden of hauling so much load will eventually burn-out one’s mind and they will give up.

    Think of this analogy: If you had a car that had a top speed of 30 miles per hour, and another with a top speed of 60 miles per hour, which would you choose to drive from Orlando to San Diego? On a trike, lighter means faster and easier, and translates into being more eager for taking an overland jaunt. If I can pedal somewhere in 14 days in a relaxed mindset, versus 19 days of struggling, the choice is clear.

    I hope to have the new trike in my possession by late February or early March. Then I will begin fitting the new setup and practice loading it. I will take a short overnight or two in the area to see how things go. This coming August, I have reservations at the 15th annual Recumbent Retreat in northwest Oregon, and will be pedaling up there and back, which will be a total time of about 10 days on the trike and living in a tent. After that maiden voyage with the Dry-Lites, I should have formed some solid opinions that I can share beyond simply intellectual speculation like I am doing now.

    Okay John, that’s probably way more than you wanted to hear, but you know how it goes when you ask a writer a question. Remember, all this is just one person’s mind speaking, and there is no right or wrong way in the way of life. There are many paths, and the one I choose may not be the best for you or anyone else. One man’s protein drink is another man’s poison. I like to have fun. And sometimes, I like to ride fast. So, I think I’ll combine those two things for my upcoming trip this summer, all while watching the Pacific Ocean roll by for several days (might even pass a bicyclist along the way … on an uphill no less)!

    DIRECT ANSWER to your question (finally): The 20 liters less volume is going to affect my touring by making it much more fun to do! That much I already know. It’s just the details I have yet to fill in ;-)

    Keep me posted on your progress. Once you and your wife get your trikes and start setting them up, email me the story and some photographs and perhaps we can get a page up for you under the “Reader Rides” menu. Check out what the other two (so far) trikers have sent me for an idea. Good luck my friend. See ya’ …


    February 13, 2014 at 3:44 pm

  17. r

    Hi Steve1 ordered my Arkel dy-lie bags today and told them you sent me! The new kmx viper arrives monday…can’t wait!

    February 15, 2014 at 12:33 pm