When I began full time bicycle commuting last November, I just used my old backpacks that I’ve had around for years. They worked for a time, but I quickly realized their limitations. They had limited cargo capacity, and were awkward to ride with when fully loaded, as the weight was stacked perpendicular to my back. A big hump that would stick way out when full.
I was asking Dan at the Bicycle Authority about his messenger style bags, and he was nice enough to let me borrow his Chrome Bags “Kremlin” model. The Kremlin has a cavernous 3,000 cubic inches of storage, and turned out to be too big for my tastes. I could have used it for a Bivouac sack had a blizzard hit! Still, I got a feel for what these bags were about. I returned Dan’s bag and had him order me the next size down, the Metropolis.
The Metropolis is still quite large with 2,000 cubic inches of storage. The Chrome website says these bags are “constructed with the most rugged assembly of industrial materials and hardware available: military spec. seam binding, 1000d Cordura shell, 18oz. weatherproof truck tarp liner, and nylon 69 thread.” If you’re accustomed to the cheap crap coming out of China, the construction on these bags will astonish you! After several months of use through snow and hot sun, this bag looks like new.
If you are not familiar with the messenger style bag (or as I like to call it “commuter style” … I have yet to deliver a message with it), the bag is wide and tall without a lot of depth. This keeps the load close to your back, and helps distribute the weight equally. This bicycle friendly design is quite noticeable when your body is leaned over on a road bike.
Another great feature on this bag that you won’t find on a standard backpack is its bag within a bag design. The weatherproof inner liner is independently suspended, and floats freely within the outer shell, eliminating seams exposed to the outside elements. This is reassuring when you have to carry electronics or nice work clothes in the unpredictable Nevada winter weather.
From what I’ve seen, the Chrome Bags have one of the nicer strapping systems. The shoulder strap is wide and foam padded. There is an additional across the chest load stabilizer strap that can also be connected around the waist. I prefer the waist strap for most loads, but if the bag is really full, the chest strap is your only option. The buckle is pretty unique too, a Seat Belt style buckle. This makes putting the bag on or taking it off easy when you have your helmet on.
The inside has plenty of pockets to keep your gear separated and organized. Up front there are little compartments for pens and notepads, a zippered pocket for valuables or small items, and a deep pouch (that I think is designed for a small U-Lock). The inside has the main compartment, and two smaller compartments. I like to carry my 32 ounce water bottle in the right hand (or lower) compartment. There is even a a secret stash pocket on the outside of the bag for whatever you can imagine to put in there.
In the picture above you can see a typical day’s cargo. Lunch, shoes, wallet, phone, memory card reader, glasses, camera, iPod, water bottle, chap stick, tube, levers, multi tool, pump, a smaller waist pack, and shorts and a jersey for lunch rides. Occasionally I’ll carry a lap top in the main compartment, but with all the other gear, it does get a bit heavy!
If you’re used to shopping at the big box super marts, the price of this Made in USA bag may shock you at first. The Metropolis retails for $135. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. This bag will give you many years of service, and keep several of the cheap bags out of the landfill.
Check out the Chrome Bags website at http://www.chromebags.com/ to see all the sizes, styles, and many colors they have. Another tip when looking at the colors… The stripe on the front is the same color as the inside of the bag. A black interior may make it more difficult to find items in low light conditions.
If you’re interested in purchasing one soon, I have recently seen a Navy Blue Metropolis bag down at the Bicycle Authority. It may still be there. If not, the bags ship out of San Francisco, and Dan can get one quick for you.