My job takes me to many different places, and when I travel, I’m all about efficiency and ensuring my gear arrives safely at its intended destination. I’ve had my Chrome Citizen Custom for a little more than a year now and can tell you firsthand that when the folks at Chrome say it’s bomb-proof, they mean it. It comfortably fits a MacBook, power cords, a book, DSLR camera, jacket, phone, and anything else I can stuff into it without taking up a considerable amount of space. The bag has been to Seattle, Detroit, Las Vegas, and all over California, and I use it daily for commuting to the office. Over that time, not a single stitch has come loose, and the waxed canvas has performed exceptionally, even under the pressures of a heavy load.
My second bag, the Sotnik, has also been through the ringer, and it still looks just as good now as the day I bought it. I’ve taken it to the beach, filled it with a few cases of beer and ice. I’ve even filled it with oysters from Drake’s Bay, dried it out, and packed it up the very next day for a weekend trip.
The point is that a lot of companies claim their products are indestructible when they’re really poorly designed and manufactured. Chrome lets its gear speak for itself. More proof that American-made products—while more costly up front—are worth the higher price tag for dependability down the road. Would you rather get one year out of a $50 bag or 10 years from a $200 bag? I’d choose the $200 bag any day.
On a recent trip to Austin, Texas, Chrome asked me to check out a bag from its new Knurled-Welded collection that debuted at Interbike in fall 2013. Using a process called Knurling, the company was able to craft a series of 100 percent waterproof bags, and two of the four are designed to go off-body, the first set of off-body bags in company history. First, there’s the pair of roll-top backpacks that come in 18L and 37L models. Next you have the saddlebag roll-top pannier with 20L of storage space and a 40L front-rack duffel bag.
I had the opportunity to test the saddlebag, which doubles as a tote and bicycle pannier. As it turns out, it was the right time to receive a sample because San Francisco was receiving its first major rain of the year, and the day I landed in Austin, it was 30 degrees with showers and sleet in the forecast.
After a thorough review, here are my thoughts: This bag is tough and light. Not only does it keep the contents 100 percent dry, it’s also incredibly useful off a bike frame. I left it out in the rain for an hour or so and carried it around with me on a cold, wet day in Austin, frequently setting it down on the wet ground. None of the seams leaked, and it’s no surprise when you take the time to inspect all the welding.
It kept all my valuables safe and dry during my travels, and now it has found a permanent home on my daily commuter bike. The mount is easy to install, and it’s fairly easy to attach and remove the bag to use for groceries after you lock up your bike. Ultimately, it’s an outstanding all-around bag that serves multiple purposes and looks great on a bike. I can easily see it lasting 10 years or longer if cared for properly. Based on my experience with the company, I wouldn’t expect any less.