(Conversion: 1 liter = 61 cubic inches)
2014 UPDATE NOTE: The following solution has partly changed as of 2014. Instead of the Arkel GT-54 panniers, I now use the Arkel Dry-Lites waterproof panniers. The other solutions remain constant. The Arkel Dry-Lites weigh 14 ounces, whereas the GT-54s weigh 6.6 pounds, thus, a tremendous weight saving. Please see the 2014 update photos at bottom of page.
2017 UPDATE NOTE: I now ride an ICE Full Fat trike, intended for extended jaunts into the backcountry. As such, the small fast and light pannier solution, noted in the update above, has again been modified. I still use my trusty Arkel TailRider rear trunk, and the Radical Design side seat pods, but for my main panniers, I now use Arkel RT-60 (RT stands for recumbent touring).
MY 2017 PANNIER SYSTEM – REFINED:
Arkel TailRider top trunk – my constant standby, regardless of trike I ride
The Radical Design side seat pods are always used on all my trikes!
All trike pilots who head off cross country, whether it be a couple hundred miles or several thousand, need a means to store supplies for the trip. The good news is that recumbent tadpole trikes offer many ways to do this, as the area above and on the sides of the rear drive wheel are perfect for locating a rack, upon which panniers and trunks can be placed. According to Wikipedia, a pannier “is a basket, bag, box, or similar container, carried in pairs either slung over the back of a beast of burden, or attached to a bicycle or motorcycle.” The tricycle makes a perfect platform, because fully loaded with panniers, it does not become less stable like a heavily burdened bicycle tends to do.
There are a number of companies that produce quality storage solutions for overland trikers wanting to experience the great wilds of the Earth up close and personal. They include such names as Arkel, Ortlieb, Topeak, Axiom, Radical Design, and others. The selection is large enough to make your head spin, so how do you know which combination will work best on your own trike? The preferred method obviously is to personally inspect every company’s offering at stores, to see just how well they’re made, whether they will actually fit on your rack, if the zippers work well, along with other things like: Are they waterproof? Some trike pilots are not living where stores carry a decent selection of these speciality items, if they even carry them at all, so we have to rely on what others tell us after reading all the advertisements meant to talk us into a particular brand.
Like everyone else, I did my homework to determine what I should order online. The small local bike shop had a selection for people who rode around the town and took day rides into the mountains, but not the really roomy kind that I needed for my trek to Death Valley. I had a large order I was about to place with Hostel Shoppe, which included a pair of red Ortlieb waterproof panniers, but prior to placing the request with the Wisconsin-based recumbent store, my local friend Matt Jensen asked if I would like to purchase his nearly new set of Arkel GT-54 panniers. He had used them on only one trip, so they were in perfect condition. He also told me that these panniers were among the best money could buy. Well, since they were right there in front of me to inspect, and knowing of Arkel’s stellar reputation as the best, I shelled out $300 and snatched them up (that was a “second hand” price, as the new ones are more).
I was not disappointed in the slightest! The Arkel GT-54s are simply outstanding and well thought out by the designers. Since I am now intimately familiar with these fine cargo containers, I will place information from the company website below for you to read up on them in the event you too are searching out a high quality option that will get you over the road in style. These panniers have 54 liters of volume. The GT-54s attach to the side of the rack. I liked them so well that upon my return from the trip, I went ahead and sold my existing trunk (the one that sits atop the rack between the side panniers), and acquired an Arkel TailRider instead. After the GT-54 information below, you will also find the TailRider specs, which include 11 liters of storage volume. The combination of these two solutions offers room to carry most everything you’ll need on a trip. Arkels are made in Canada, and the people there are very helpful when you communicate with them.
Along side the seat of my Q is space that otherwise sits wasted, so I filled it with Radical Design’s Lowracer side pod panniers, which drape over the seat and provide another 25 liters of storage. Radical Design is made in Holland, for use anywhere on Earth, and they have several options for trikers. Like the folks at Arkel, the Radical Design people are great. Both companies respond to emails readily, and can answer any questions that you still have after speaking with local dealers or visiting online. With all of these containers combined, my cargo capacity offers 90 liters of storage, enough for any well planned ride into the wilds.
So, this page is devoted to trike cargo solutions that have worked exceptionally well for me. I feel confident featuring these products on Trike Asylum because I have used them in real life in real touring conditions. I am not saying there aren’t others that can do the job just as well, as reputations among other companies run high, but since I have not tried them, I cannot personally endorse them. Experience is the best teacher. What I can say is that the following products will get the job done exceptionally well.
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In a nutshell:
The flagship of the Arkel line, the GT-54’s are simply the best touring panniers available. With features like a removable tube for carrying your sleeping pad and tent poles, a convertible fanny pack and specialty pockets, the GT-54’s are absolutely unique and are a gem of functionality. An internal aluminum frame supports the load and the full-length zippers give you complete access to your gear. The GT-54’s come with a fully waterproof, integrated liner bag inside the main compartment. Designed to go the distance, the GT-54’s are ready for whatever the road has to offer.
|The GT-54 is our workhorse touring model, with an overabundance of features and amenities born of experience on the road. Arkel went further than the common “bag” in which you cram gear like there’s no need to retrieve it. We understand the need for organization when we’re on the road for weeks on end, living out of our panniers; the need to find a tool quickly, or to know that the sleeping mattress is well protected from the weather. Every detail comes from on-the-road experience, and the result will enhance your own touring. 1 – Tube Pocket
2 – Removable Butterfly Pocket
3 – Internal configuration
4 – Pockets and lots of details
5 – Safety on all fronts
6 – Removable fanny pack
Most other panniers on the market are made symmetrical – it’s easy, just flip the pattern. At Arkel, we know that some features need to be there only once. As form must follow function, our panniers ended up being slightly different from the right side to the left side. Some features are distinctive, like the tube pocket for a sleeping mattress (no need for two) or the Flip Flop pocket for a toiletry kit (who’s carrying two toothbrushes?). The result is a distinctive, well-designed pannier that is made to fit your needs.
|100% Waterproof Liner in Main Compartment
As Shakespeare said: “To be waterproof or not to be waterproof, that is the question”! How do you combine the advantages of multiple functional zippered pockets with total waterproofness? We achieved the absolute best of both worlds by adding a 100% waterproof liner inside the whole main compartment of the GT-54’s. The liner is made of a lightweight, fully waterproof, polyurethane coated nylon. The zippers on the liner allow for full frontal access of the main compartment in the same fashion as the front panel of the bag itself. Frontal opening of the main compartment allows for easy access and functional organization of the contents. Still, come the monsoon rains, your belongings will be kept absolutely dry. Moreover, there are essentially no problems of moisture and mildew associated with roll-top type watertight bags. Indeed, the best of both worlds, for you to enjoy!
|Dual zipper sliders
Dual zipper sliders provide frontal access to the inside. The liner is bolted through the back plate and can be removed by simply undoing the bolts. The bright yellow color of the liner helps locate things in low light.
|No need for the liner while riding across the Gobi Desert?
You can quickly stash the liner away by rolling it up to the ceiling of the main compartment and hooking it up with the elastic loops sewn at the top. The liner takes no space and is completely out of the way.
|Separate the clean from the dirty?
You want to separate your clean set of clothes from your dirty socks, shoes even wet towel? Everything can be stowed in the main compartment but the clean stays clean inside the liner while the rest stays outside, awaiting the perfect timing for a stop at a Laundromat along the way!
Unique to Arkel, the tube pocket is the feature that is most noticed by our customers. Carrying long items, such as a sleeping pad or tent poles has always been somewhat of a problem. The tube pocket allows you to carry these items securely inside. This makes the whole system easier to use and protects your gear more than just strapping it on top of the rack. It is removable for those days when you don’t need it.
* Click here to learn more about how it works*
|Removable Butterfly Pocket
A pocket that opens like butterfly wings, is located on the left hand side pannier. The wings conceal and hold a two-way zippered, removable pouch that is useful for storing necessities like a tool kit, a first aid kit or a toiletry kit. The pouch can be carried on the belt of the Fanny Pack pocket – or left at home if not needed. The space behind the butterfly pocket creates a very handy and quick-access compartment to store small items like gloves or a map. The wings can also be used to cinch a rain jacket or the like.
* Click here to learn more about how they work*
A bag is a bag, right? At Arkel, we beg to disagree. While the GT-54 is full of outside amenities, the inside isn’t neglected either. An aluminum internal frame and a rigid bottom shelf (quite unique!) prevent sagging. It also allows the panniers to fold flat for closet storage. The outside has the looks, but the inside is where the living takes place.
* Click here to learn more about the inside*
|Pockets and lots of details!
There are countless details on an Arkel bag. The pockets feature our unique Smiley Zippers for the widest access ever in the corners. Each YKK zipper has die-cast nickel sliders with full metal tabs, and we added our own pull tabs.
* Click here to learn more about functional pockets*
|Safety on all fronts
It’s easy to skimp on safety. It doesn’t add to a bag’s sex appeal and is usually not a selling point in stores. But we ride at night or in the rain and fog and we know that being seen is critical. For that reason, the GT-54 has reflective ribbons on all exposed sides so no matter what direction the car (or logging truck) is coming from, your visibility will be enhanced. When riding at night, be sure and use a strong headlight as well as rear and side lights/reflectors.
* Click here to see all facets*
|Removable Fanny pack
While touring, taking a shower is not optional! Strong of that knowledge, we went on to create a pocket that is quick to grab and fun to use. Moreover, it’s also a fanny pack if you need it!
* Click here to see its transformation*
|No hazardous mishaps
A pannier has to be used and mishaps will happen, like forgetting to close a zipper, or to buckle a strap. At Arkel, we go to great lengths to make sure that an unbuckled strap will not fall down into the wheel. It calls for a lot of stabilization, but it’s worth it. Here you can clearly see the compression strap totally unclipped. As you can see, it would be impossible for the webbing to get anywhere close to the rear wheel. Simple, but rarely done by anyone else.
|GT-54 tube pocket|
|Sized for convenience
The pocket measures 24″ long and 5.75″ in diameter, big enough to accommodate most self-inflating sleeping mattresses, but not all of them. Please take a moment to verify that yours will fit. We also recommend that you roll the tent poles inside the mattress, it will protect the poles against damage and will keep the pocket stiff at all times.
|Upper safety strap
The tube pocket is attached with 2 strips of industrial strength Velcro combined with a safety strap at the top to safeguard in case of an accident. Compressing the strap also minimizes sway, which enhances riding enjoyment.
|Lower compression strap
A strap, starting right at the back of the tube pocket, wraps around it for optimum compression and stabilization. Note that the Velcro strips go all the way down. It would be difficult to make it more stable than that.
|Well stabilized lower strap
The strap is fed through a loop-lock at the front of the pocket, which serves two purposes. Keeping the compression as close to the pocket as possible and in case the strap is left unbuckled it will never fall down into your spokes.
The tube pocket is mounted on Velcro, so the height is adjustable if you need more ground clearance. This may be of particular interest to recumbent riders or people using their mountain bikes for off-road touring.
A hidden pocket is located behind the tube pocket towards the bottom. This is a perfect place to stash tent poles, a pump or even a packable fishing rod!
The pocket is removable, which allows you to bring it inside the tent for packing / rolling the sleeping mattress, or when stuffing the panniers in a plastic bag for airline transits. Note how the Velcro flaps close and leave a clean looking bag.
With the tube pocket removed, the GT-54’s become excellent commuting panniers set for daily use. It is even possible to remove the Butterfly pocket for a more streamlined set up. Back to features
|GT-54 removable butterfly pocket|
|Located at the front
A “butterfly pocket” is located on the main panel of the pannier (left-hand side), making it easy to access at all times. It is perfect for a first aid kit, tool kit or toiletry kit, things you may want to have handy at anytime when touring.
The space behind the butterfly pocket is ideal to stash quick-access items – sun lotion, spare change, you decide.
|Good for stuffing gloves
If you’re anything like us, gloves are the first things we remove once off the bike. That pocket is our preferred spot to stash them.
|Opening a Butterfly
A strap & clip cinch the butterfly pocket closed, and allows adjustment for the volume at the same time, which is great for compression.
The Butterfly pouch pocket is easily accessible, and it has wrap-around zippers for the ultimate ease in opening and organizing. Bandages or tools can be neatly stored.
|Removing the Butterfly Pouch
The Butterfly pouch is held in place on the shell with a wide Velcro strip. That strip actually doesn’t hold the load – it simply keeps the inner pocket from sliding sideways. When the Butterfly is open, just pull on the pouch to remove it.
|Pocket on its own
Removing the pocket allows you to take it where you need it for a bike repair or to put some ointment on a rash. The back of the pocket has a loop that allows it to be carried on a belt for trips away from the bike.
|Stash a jacket there!
Here’s a great idea: use the wings of the butterfly pocket to hold a wet jacket, to carry a drawing tube to school, or any other items that you may not want to put inside the panniers. Use your imagination! Back to features
|GT-54 internal configuration|
|TFL zippers (Total Front Loading)
Not a company to cut corners, we designed the zippers (the strongest industrial zippers on the market with die-cast nickel sliders) to zip/unzip all the way to the bottom. The access is wide open for easy loading.
|Internal aluminium frame
To support the shape of the panniers there is an internal aluminium frame. It is so simple yet so strong that we guarantee it for life. The frame folds flat when you want to store the panniers for the winter.
|Pocket inside the panel
The inner side of the door flap received a special Arkel treatment. Notice the lining on the front panel – it allows you to stash maps or papers. They are kept flat, well protected, and easy to access. Isn’t that great?
|View of the system
Here’s a nice view of how the whole system interacts. Even when the main panel is open, the pannier retains its full integrity. The solid shelf at the bottom of the panniers is also noteworthy. No matter the load in the bag, the bottom will never sag. Back to features
|GT-54 pockets and lots of details|
Many of our pockets have a peculiar zipper path that curves like a smile. Our unique Smiley Zippers offer not only the largest access you can get, from one corner to the other, but they also keep a wall of fabric all around so even if someone forgets to close the zipper, the content will not spill out! Very nifty!
|Road map pocket
Would you have thought that even the upper pocket of the GT-54 was designed with a purpose? The dimensions are perfectly sized to make it a bed for road maps. Thanks to the frame of the panniers, it keeps them flat and readily accessible.
It is important in a rear pocket not to spill the contents when it is open. Our Smiley Zipper and compression strap makes it handy and secure, as the content will never fall off even when left open!
|Fuel bottle pocket
The rear pocket of the right side pannier is designed around a large fuel bottle for a camping stove. Of course, you can always use it for something else – we particularly like stuffing a spare pair of shoes in there.
|Chunky zipper sliders
Look at those sliders – the strongest available. They’re made of die-cast nickel (not painted, which is less durable) and they sport a full metal pull tab. It is much easier to grab than a piece of string, is less prone to wear and tear and, it works more easily in the corners for a longer overall life.
|Pull tabs even on the smaller zippers
Those sliders are the smallest we use. Notice that they’re still dual opposable heads (to cut wear in half) and have our full dual grosgrain pull tabs which help locate the zippers and are easy to grab with gloves. Back to features
|GT-54 safety on all fronts|
|On rear pocket
The beauty of the reflective band on the rear pocket is that it follows the curve of the pocket, meaning that it will show reflectivity in a multitude of angles – even through the wheel’s spokes.
|On the front of the panniers
Reflectors on the front of the panniers work great when you are turning a corner and a car is coming towards you.
|On the side of the panniers
Side visibility is the most important. We install a wide band on the lower pocket, where it can be wide and continuous. Notice on the preceding pictures how that band wraps on the sides, adding more to the overall visibility.
|Reflective bands at night.
You will not go unnoticed at night. Back to features
|GT-54 removable flip flop fanny pack|
|Right there in front of you
The Fanny Pack pocket is always right there in front of you attached to the front of the right side pannier. It is distinguished by its the flap that wraps around the body of the pocket.
|Removing the pocket
While the Fanny Pack can be used and accessed like any other pocket while on the pannier, it’s also easy to remove as you need. It is held by an upper and lower strip of Velcro rated at nearly 500 pounds of shear strength – but easy to tear off when you get the hang of the motion. The pannier can be used without the pocket if it suits you.
|Fanny Pack in its grandeur
The Fanny Pack pocket is simple and elegant. Nothing fancy nor frivolous, just good sense.
|Ready as a fanny pack
The Fanny Pack also makes a great travel wallet, as long as you don’t forget it and leave it on the top of a pay phone! Back to features
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The Side Panniers Small is an economical alternative to the larger models. It has a content of 2 x 20 liters. It doesn’t have a foam back panel and is less useful for extended trips. It works well for shopping and commuting. Available in 2 widths and 5 colours
The Side Panniers Medium have foam back panels and attachment loops for side pockets. The internal compression strap releases the strain on the zipper to provide easy opening and closing. The outside straps compress the pannier when it isn’t fully packed. These straps also keep the storm closure in place. They come with mesh pockets to store snacks or maps. Available in 2 widths and 5 colours
The Side Panniers Large are most suitable for extended trips. The 70 liters of contents and the mesh pockets for maps or energy bars, leave little to desire. NB: Often too big for bikes with 2 x 20″ wheels. The medium model is more appropriate on these bikes. Available in 2 widths and 5 colours