The Randonneur rack from Canadian brand Arkel isn't a new product but it's an interesting solution to an old problem: how to fit a bag to a bike that isn't designed to take a rack. Touring bikes are designed to be loaded up with racks and panniers, but increasingly the advent of bikepacking and the desire to be able to travel on a lighter bike has seen strong growth in solutions that don't require dedicated frame mounts. The Randonneur offers a half-way house – it's a rack designed to fit to almost any bike – and it does the job well, provided your haulage requirements are fairly modest.
Arkel sent us the Randonneur together with its tough-as-nails trunk bag, the Tailrider, which we reviewed a few years back. The two are designed to work together, although you could fit most trunk bags to the Randonneur.
Where the Randonneur differs from most beam racks (such as the Topeak RX) is that it attaches to both the saddle rails and the seatpost. This triangulation makes it stiffer in the vertical axis but it also gives it a lateral rigidity that doesn't require tight clamping on the seatpost.
In fact, the attachment to the seatpost is a simple clip made of a thermoplastic called Santoprene, held in place with a Velcro strap. The material was chosen as it is more akin to a rubber than most plastics and therefore doesn't scratch seatposts. Arkel reckons that it also offers some shock absorption so that bumps in the road don't put so much stress on the seatpost.
There's a clamp to attach the top of the structure to your saddle rails, with a simple QR lever. It is all pretty straightforward to set up, although if you have your saddle slid all the way forward you may struggle (depending on the shape of the top of your seatpost). Obviously it prevents you fitting a light or secondary saddle bag to the seat at the same time. There are two sizes of clamp plate, and Arkel says that for saddles like a Brooks then you may need an extra adaptor piece.
Depending on how much seatpost you have showing, you can use optional side plate extensions (not shown in our pictures) to allow the rack to sit lower down. I fitted these, to get the rack as low as possible, which was all pretty straightforward. Once I'd set it up for my bike, fitting and removing it took only 20 seconds. Even with these extension pieces, on a large frame you'll find that the bag is sat quite a bit higher than it would be on a conventional touring rack.
Does that make for stability issues? As we know, the lower you get your centre of gravity, the better – the reason why pro mechanics ballast bikes up to the 6.8kg UCI limit by fitting weights down around the bottom bracket. Well, no, I didn't feel it was much of an issue – after all, the maximum weight limit for the Randonneur is a modest 6kg. Arkel says that the rack itself can take more than this but the limiting factor is typically the parts of your bike that it attaches to, so it seems a limit worth adhering to in my view.
Fitting the Randonneur to carbon seatposts is fine, according to Arkel, and I can't see much reason why you shouldn't. You wouldn't want to fit it if you have carbon saddle rails; yes, the seatpost clamps them too, but it does so over a larger area and in a place where the rails are designed to cope with the load.
I loaded up the Tailrider bag with a heavy D-lock and some shoes and other stuff, which took it close to the 6kg limit, and everything stayed in place just fine. You can feel the extra mass, sure, especially if you're out of the saddle and climbing, swinging the bike under you, but the rack feels more than amply engineered to take the load.
What you can't do, despite the Randonneur appearing on the Pannier Racks page of Arkel's website, is fit a pannier. With no side structure, this is strictly for trunk bags only. That's fine if your carrying requirements are modest, but as someone who normally commutes with a pannier, it was perhaps not surprising how many times I found myself needing to take a laptop or something else unexpected which just wouldn't fit in the Tailrider, and ending up having to take a rucksack too.
The construction of the Randonneur is from aluminium tube and extrusion. It does a decent job (especially with trunk bag fitted) of keeping the mud off your back if you don't have mudguards fitted. The aluminium is fairly chunky stuff, meaning that all-up weight is perhaps more than you might expect. As set up on my bike, including the optional extension plates, it weighs 590g, which is 50 per cent more than a Tortec Velocity rack which can carry two panniers totalling up to 25kg. More surprisingly, it's also a smidge more than the Topeak beam rack mentioned above. As TR noted when he reviewed the Tailrider bag, Arkel builds things to last, and if that's your priority then weight can be a victim of that.
There's certainly no doubt that the Randonneur looks much sleeker than either a conventional touring rack or its beam rack competitors. Fitting it to a fast bike is – to my eyes – less of an affront than it would be with the Topeak or indeed something like the Thule Pack n Pedal. Couple that with the ease of installation and removal and I think there's certainly a place for it in the market.
Priced at £75, it's a good bit more than most beam racks, although less than the Thule. Arkel's a small company and this is a fairly low-volume product, so I wouldn't expect it could turn them out for £30 a go. For my commute, I'm going to stick to a rack and pannier, simply because my carrying requirements too regularly exceed what I can fit in a trunk bag.
Sleek trunk rack that fits to almost any bike and should last a long time, but only carries 6kg
road.cc test report
Make and model: Arkel Randonneur Seat Post Rack
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Arkel says: "Seat post rack with dual attachment points to provide unequalled strength and stability. Fits most bikes including road bikes with carbon seat posts.
"This seat post rack is strong, light, stable, goes on and off in seconds and adjusts to fit both longer or shorter seat post set ups. A sleek quick release bracket attaches to both sides of the seat rails, forming rock-solid attachment points. The front of the rack gently envelopes the seat post with a soft rubberized clamp that is secured with a velcro strap. The three point attachment system of the Randonneur Seat Post Rack® brings unequalled stability - it feels like it's bolted on to the frame! Move it from bike to bike depending on what type of riding you want to do."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Claimed weight: 495g (unit)
Our weight included all the gubbins. As I set it up for my bike, with the optional extended vertical sections, it weighed 590g.
The metal parts are aluminium, with steel fasteners that don't appear to be stainless steel (but haven't rusted yet).
It feels pretty tough. Not sure it's finished quite like I'd expect a £75 rack to be finished, though.
Very stable in use, a big improvement on most beam racks that simply clamp to the seatpost. It's really quick to install and remove too, which is a bonus if you don't always need to carry things.
Only useable for trunk bags, though, and with a maximum weight limit of 6kg, it is a tool for quite a specific job.
No concerns – Arkel builds all of its stuff to last.
It's lighter than most touring racks but it can carry a lot less. It's not particularly light compared with other beam racks (or something like the Tortec Velocity) but that's perhaps a trade-off for toughness.
Arkel is a small brand and so we'd expect prices to be higher than mass-market racks.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. Once I'd got it set up it stayed fixed in place.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Ease of installation, looks sleek, can fit to any bike.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The days when I found I needed to carry more than I could fit in the Tailrider bag and ended up carrying a rucksack.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
It's really well made and has a unique way of attaching to the bike, allowing it to work with a really wide range of bikes. If a trunk bag will carry what you need, then this is perhaps the best way of attaching it to your bike.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.