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Chrome Bags

Road-ready Riding Gear

If you spend just a few minutes standing on Market St. in downtown San Francisco, it’s likely you will spot a messenger bag with a black griffin on a red background. If you aren’t already familiar with the ubiquitous logo, I’d like to introduce you to Chrome Bags.

Originally founded in Colorado 14 years ago, Chrome Bags has made its home in San Francisco for the last six years. And just two months ago, Chrome Bags moved into their new spot on 4th St. near Brannan St. in SOMA.

If you ride a bike and you need to carry anything more than a wallet, a well built messenger bag is the way to go. They’re sturdy, secure and generally more comfortable than the average backpack. More importantly, you are less likely to knock someone over when walking through a crowded bar.

Though you can pick up Chrome Bags throughout the United States and Canada, let alone many bike shops throughout the city, the new digs in SOMA are somewhat of a destination in themselves.

Chrome Bags now fills in the former Harper Greer clothing store. Going for a more industrial style, Chrome Bags gutted the space and chose to expose cement floors, constructed a display area of heavy wooden beams and heavy metal pipes and opened the space up with lots of natural light from the large front windows and skylights.

They’ve added a few artistic elements throughout the space, like the wall of bike frames on a far back wall, a wave of wheel rims suspended from the ceiling and a battlement of bikes running the length of the front window.

Let’s get to the bags, though. Like the store space, the bags are simple yet stylish, rugged yet comfortable. Chrome bags and gear are designed to survive the daily abuse of bicycle messengers, let alone anyone’s daily life. Chrome’s got three general satchel styles to choose from: messenger bags, messenger packs and roll-top bags. Though they come in a variety of hues, including basic black, neon pink, and even green camouflage, stylistically they stick to the basics without a lot of adornment, letting the bags speak for themselves.

First off are the classic messenger bags. Chrome’s messenger bags are an assembly of industrial materials and hardware: military spec. seam binding, 1000d Cordura shell, 18oz. weatherproof truck tarp liner, and nylon 69 thread. They’re weatherproof so you don’t have to worry about all your important papers getting wet. The coolest, yet most practical feature is that you can choose a bag that suits the side of your body that you favor most (right or left). Of course, the most recognizable feature on these bags is the quick release seat-buckle closure let lets you quickly tighten and loosen the shoulder strap. Messenger bags start at $104 for the smallest offering called Mini-Metro and run up to $145 for the Kremlin.

Next are the messenger packs. They’ve got double straps, but all the attributes of the messenger bags. Prices range from $120 for the smaller “Dually” style, $130 for the mid-size “Ranchero” and $160 for the large “Backbone.”

The third style is the roll-top, with features that include external cargo pockets, urethane coated YKK zippers, an external wet-dry pocket, haul loop handle, waist strap, adjustable sternum strap and more. The main compartment has a fully waterproof liner welded seams and a watertight roll-top closure. Prices run from $152 for the smaller “Pawn,” $162 for the medium “Ivan” and $170 for the large “Sultan.”

For those not necessarily rolling around on two wheels, Chrome’s also carries a set of laptop bags. As anyone who has to lug around their portable computer knows, you need something that is strong but also comfortable. Chrome laptop bags are padded for protection and constructed in either high strength to weight carbon fiber or Kevlar reinforced composite materials and ballistics nylon. Prices range from $120 for the “Shuttle” to “$136” for the “Duma.”

Though Chrome has been focused on the bags for most of their time in business, they’ve recently reentered the apparel market. Though the line is limited, Chrome is carrying three-quarter length pants, hoodies and t-shirts. Weather-proof jackets are in the works.

Those it’s possible to cuff or wrap your pants with a rubber band, anyone who rides bicycles appreciates the convenience of three quarter length pants. Chrome offers two kinds, Shins ($145) and Light-weight Shins ($135). Both include features such as water resistance, a lightly padded moisture wicking chamois seat and articulated knees. The main difference is the light-weight version is 3.8 ounces versus the regular, which is seven ounces.

I should point out that their products are all designed in-house and made in America. Also, if you’re thinking of scoffing at the prices, you should know that all the bags come with a lifetime warranty covering any defects in materials and workmanship. They bags are an investment, but they’re worth it.