Stuff We Love: Chrome Messenger Bags — Carry Everything You Need for Biking and Beyond
I own three bikes.
That's my four-word introduction to my cycling obsession and equally obsessive quest to find biking gear that actually works. Any accessory I buy must be reliable, be affordable, and last a long, long time.
As someone who practically lives on her bike, sometimes riding up to 60 miles a week in the summer, having a bag that can carry all of my crap around without falling apart is an absolute necessity. But you don't have to be a cycling enthusiast to know the importance of having the tools that make your life easier.
Why I First Bought a Chrome Messenger Bag
When I moved to Burlington, VT in 2008, I sold my car and began to rely on my road bike for most of my transportation. I bought my Chrome messenger bag, along with a padded laptop sleeve that fits inside the messenger bag around that time. I worked at a local bike and ski shop that carried a small selection of Chrome bags. In addition to the employee discount I received, I could special order any items we didn’t carry through the store. It was a no brainer.
But the main reason I chose a Chrome bag was that all of my coworkers highly recommended this bag because of the unique features, such as the signature seatbelt buckle, and the incredible durability. Because my old messenger bag turned out to be too small for my commuting needs, I gave it to a friend and bought a green canvas Chrome bag. It remains one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
What’s Great About the Bag
In my opinion, Chrome is a company that stands by its commitment to make durable and utilitarian products. And even though the company says that they are "not about fashion" in their manifesto, I would argue that the bags have a unique style that makes them fashionable and functional. My bag is also very comfortable and roomy, which is an important feature when you are carrying heavy groceries and other bulky items.
Durability and Guarantee
I have put this bag through a lot over the past five years — rain, mud, extreme temperatures, and its fair share of eating pavement from accidents and getting tossed around. The only damage I have found is on the strap, where it is slightly worn around the buckle due to the fabric rubbing against the metal, which you can see in the photo.
The company also offers a lifetime guarantee for anything caused by defective materials or in the workmanship, but it doesn’t cover reasonable wear and tear or abuse. I haven’t returned mine because I feel that after five years of daily use, a little frayed fabric is very reasonable.
My laptop bag is also very durable. In fact, I recently had my laptop in the laptop sleeve, both of which were nestled inside the messenger bag, which I precariously placed on a chair. Even though the bag fell onto a hardwood floor, my computer was not damaged. It's like a skateboard helmet for laptops.
What's perhaps most unique about the Chrome style is the seatbelt buckle. Not only does this allow me to remove the bag without removing my helmet; it's also a good conversation piece. Even though almost every hipster in Burlington has one, there's always someone who has never seen a Chrome bag.
Every time I'm on the bus or in the airport, someone will make a comment or ask where I got it. They have several designs to choose from, and you can also get a custom design (custom designs are momentarily on hiatus, according to the website, but will be relaunching soon).
You can tighten all the straps easily to provide a snug fit, which helps with comfort as you're riding. It's also very roomy. I can carry groceries, a change of clothes, my bike shoes, and anything else I might need. After enough experience with packing the bag, you learn how to distribute the weight evenly. Then you never feel as if the bag will throw off your balance, even with a six pack of PBR inside.
What a Chrome Bag Compares To
Timbuk2 bags. That's really the only comparison I can make. Overall, I would say that Chrome is like no other bag I've ever owned. If you are thinking of buying any other messenger bag, I would seriously consider Chrome first. You might be paying a little more, but the phrase that keeps popping in my head as I write this is, "They don't make them like they used to…" Actually, no one makes them like this.
What Chrome Bags Are Best For
Everyday use and commuting. It's as simple as that. However, I would also add that if you are looking to support a company that started as a grassroots effort to make stuff that works for the people who use it every day, then Chrome is where it's at. I don't just use mine when I'm cycling. I take it to work, on vacation, and honestly, I don't leave home without it most days.
How They Could Be Better
Ah, so here's the catch, you might be thinking. I would change a few things.
Although my bag is comfortable for the most part, I would add more padding, even if it means less volume. When you have a gallon water jug inside, pulling on your shoulder strap, or a glass dish of food you're bringing to a potluck poking you in the back, it does not make for a very comfortable ride. I'd also add a few more compartments for phone storage, waterproof pockets, and just more organization storage in general.
Bottom Line Recommendation
This is the best bag I've ever owned, hands down. If you want something that is going to serve you well, Chrome messenger bags are reliable and practical bags. And for the price (ranging from $90 to $200), you do get what you pay for: Quality.
Where to Get Yours
I guess I'm old school and want everyone to buy from the company itself. You can buy directly from their website, or you can click in the "Find a Store" tab on their site to find a retailer in your area. I would recommend asking the local store about sales and discounts on last year's models, too. And of course, Chrome bags are also available on Amazon.com.
What's your favorite messenger bag?