Review: Bike-Commute Briefcase

By STEPHEN KRCMAR

If the great bike-seat-impotency debate of last millennium taught the cycling industry one thing it’s that if you threaten something cyclists value, they’ll gladly open their wallets. For bike commuters who want to travel, er, cocksure that their computer will arrive in one piece: Arkel’s $215 Briefcase pannier.

Handmade in Canada, the Cordura saddle bag attaches to a rear rack easily, and its cam mechanism is downright tenacious — the rack would essentially have to shear off the bike to lose this pannier.

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Arkel Briefcase Pannier

Solidly built, all of the hardware is aluminum or die-cast nickel — there’s scant plastic to be found on this case. The design is basic, but in a good way. The shoulder strap tucks away smartly, and the design is simple and clean.

Inside, your laptop seats in a padded pocket, which is suspended in a bag made to help protect a computer in a fall. For further protection, the briefcase has hard plating on the front and back. A rain cover can be added for $20. It hides in a pocket and pulls out when needed.

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Arkel’s optional rain cover

Most laptops fit in this bag. But the case measures only about 12 × 16.5 × 8 inches, meaning the largest laptops might not work. It handled my 17-inch Lenovo just fine. But check with the company if you tote a gargantuan computer with a big screen to asses fit.

I am a veteran laptop-toting commuter, having biked to work with a computer for more than a decade in cities and towns like Boston, Los Angeles and Bozeman. After riding with the Arkel briefcase for a few months, it has passed my test.

The pack has kept my laptop safe even on a few off-road sojourns. Simply put, the $215 single pannier is the best laptop-specific pannier I’ve ever seen. It’s not cheap. But security for a loved one never is. (www.arkel-od.com)

—Stephen Krcmar lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

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