As the proud owner of 1) a Chrome messenger bag (my favorite purse) and 2) many sets of touring panniers, I would like to present my review of the new Chrome panniers (best of both worlds??? Almost…):
- Huge. It is at least as big as a paper grocery bag. In fact, you can hold it like one with the two handles on top. It’s like a badass waterproof grocery bag that mounts to the side of your bike.
- The buckle system is great. Standard form is that you roll the top and buckle it to the sides. Or you can buckle the rolltop to itself for more space and/or attach the shoulder strap to the sides and carry it over your shoulder. Very nice. Wish they had an optional shoulder strap upgrade with a Chrome buckle on it for quick release. Might have to try and make my own.
- The internal laptop section is PERFECT for my work laptop. I ruined the last laptop having it bang around in my panniers. My laptop is now safe and sound going anywhere. I don’t even put my sleeve on anymore. This is great. I only wish there was a power adapter holder in there as well. ;)
- The lack of external hardware is great for carrying the bag around. That was always something I didn’t like about my other panniers.
- The loops on the front are ALMOST perfect for my U-lock. I still mount it there and it gives it a little compression, which isn’t a bad thing.
- The mounting hardware is very adjustable. Looks like it would mount to almost any rear rack.
- Biggest issue with the mounting hardware is that it doesn’t go far down enough to block the bag from hitting your spokes. This has happened to me a couple of times when I go hard. It is disconcerting to say the least. This is currently the fatal flaw in my opinion. Not sure what I’m going to do to fix that. Maybe put a cardboard box in the bottom to give it a little more shape.
- A little hard to mount the bag on to the rack/hardware. It took a good couple of weeks to get the trick to it. You have to bend it over the top hooks and slide it down. It will catch on its own. I didn’t trust it at first and trying to pry open the little slots and slide both on at the same time was a bitch. But it does work if you just bend it over and pull it down. Just have to trust it.
- The mounting hardware isn’t exactly solid and it is a pain to get on just right. I had to remount farther back because my shoe was catching the bag. It also rattles like a mofo going over bumps. I’m thinking of going to the hardware store to get another set of brackets so it can have one more mount.
- Yet another problem I have with the mounting hardware is that I want to order another set of hardware for my other bike, but it doesn’t seem to be something they sell. I hit them up on twitter about that, but got no response yet. UPDATE: They got back to me! Call 415-820-5065 and they will let you order one for $35.
- No reflectivity. Every pannier I’ve ever owned has had reflectivity on the sides (so when mounted, faces back). This one does not. Not huge, but an interesting oversight.
- No compression. That’s another thing every pannier I’ve ever owned has had. There’s a work around in using the loops on the front, but again, kinda hacky.
- The dangling straps on the side are worrisome. There are little rubber things to hold them (I think), but they are tight and in the wrong place in my opinion. Plus they get in the way when you are trying to really tighten it down. I wrap them around the buckle and call it good, but still, would like something to hold them further down the side. UPDATE: The rubber holders work when you stretch the buckles all the way to the top… But the thing is, they are only useful when the bag is filled to the brim. Otherwise, they don’t hold the straps. Weird design issue.
- This thing is definitely NOT ugly. Looks so much better than all previous panniers I’ve owned. I don’t feel like a tourist from the 80s anymore.
- Gets dirty quickly. Not 100% sure how to wash it. Probably will just hose it off (that’s the point, right?).
- So huge that I end up carrying too much shit. Need a second one for the other side (once they come out with v2.0 and fix some of the above issues) so that my bike doesn’t buck sideways like a fucking bronco.
- I want to use space for the cell phone for a wallet because I keep my wallet in there much more than I keep my phone in there (only when it is raining really). But it is hard to find a wallet of those dimensions. Not really Chrome’s fault, but would be nice to have a zippered pocket somewhere like on the messenger bags.
- One of the buckles was tight as fuck at first. It has loosened up upon successive uses.
- I found a funny way to hold the handles in place if you have a U-lock. Basically, you take the one handle from the far side, bring it towards the outside, thread the near handle through it and down tucked into the space between the bag and the U-lock. This works perfectly. I’m almost convinced this was designed this way.
- It doesn’t rain in LA enough for my to have test the waterproofiness of it, but from the looks of it, I’m not worried about it. I think it will be fine.
All-in-all, nothing that a little ingenuity can fix. I really wish the mounting hardware was a bit longer to prevent spoke strike. That’s really my biggest problem with it now. That being said, I’m using the shit out of this thing every day. It is my commuting bike trunk and I love it.
Do you have anything questions or anything else you want to see about this bag?