The Bike Bag shop recently added Chrome messenger bags and backpacks to the shop lineup. We have been excited about Chrome for some time, as they are a well-recognized bag company and bring a little style as well as quality and function. I personally have never had a Chrome bag before so I grabbed one off the shelf for some-long term testing.
The bag I chose was the Chrome Citizen. The Citizen is considered a medium-sized shoulder sling messenger bag. It seemed about the right size for me and what I tend to carry with me on the bike. The Citizen is available in different colors, but I went for the standard gray. At first touch the bag isn’t too heavy or bulky. Most of the weight is actually in the shoulder strap focused at the main buckle. The seat belt style buckle is a recognized feature of Chrome, not only because it actually is a real auto seat belt, but because each one has Chrome’s logo on the buckle button. The buckle certainly makes it easy to take the bag on and off when it has a load in it. The only downside is when your drunk friends think it’s funny to watch your bag fall off your shoulder when they hit the buckle release button.
The outer part of the bag is constructed from a hard-wearing Cordura, and the inside is a waterproof PVC fabric. The bag feels well made, and feels like it will stand up to years of abuse. The main interior pocket has plenty of room for a laptop, lunch, a six pack and a jacket, to be exact. There are three secondary pockets. The front pocket could fit a book or day planner. The two side pockets are great for water bottles–they are a little deeper than the front pocket but not as wide. There is a smaller, zippered pocket which fits a wallet and other valuables such as car keys perfectly. Last but not least, there are two pen/pencil slots and a wider slot which could provide quick access to a cell phone or camera. The bag closes securely via two beefy Velcro straps. The bag’s hood attaches to the front of the bag, followed by two plastic buckles that allow for further security, and can be tightened using the reflective straps attached to each buckle.
It took me a little while to get used to the left side shoulder strap. All Chrome bags come standard as left-hand drive (meaning, for mostly for the right-handed) but are available in right (for lefties). Until this point in my life, I’ve worn messenger bags over my right shoulder. The first couple of times I put the Citizen on, I had to think about what I was doing. It didn’t take long to get used to having the strap over my left shoulder. Being right-handed, I actually found it more convenient. The shoulder strap itself is really well made. Both ends are constructed from what appears to be true automobile seat belt fabric, which goes nicely with the seat belt buckle. So there’s no doubting the strength of the strap. The shoulder side is equipped with a hefty wide pad which does a great job of minimizing any pressure points on your shoulder. There is an additional smaller underarm strap that helps further to stabilize the bag. Both adjustments on the main strap and underarm strap are super simple and easily executed with one hand.
Riding is where this bag really shines. Chrome definitely designed this bag to be on the back of a cyclist. Once you get the bag positioned to the right spot on your back, you completely forget it’s there. Even with a heavy load (e.g. a twelve pack of PBR) there isn’t any discomfort in the shoulder or back. The bag just seems to hover in its spot on your back and stays put quite nicely. I like the incorporation of reflective material where usable. Increased visibility always helps. There is also a loop for a light which remains exposed on the front of the bag after the bag is closed shut.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the construction and feel of the Chrome Citizen. Having had friends who rave about Chrome bags, I always wondered if they were really better then your average messenger bag. The design is not overly complicated, and it is effective. The Citizen is comfortable to wear, looks good and is about the right size for a medium messenger bag. I give 4 out of 5 spoke cards. The only thing I would like to see–and this is a personal preference–is a more squared-off shape. Call me anal, but I like to keep my storage compartments organized and I think a square shape works a little better. The Chrome Citizen is a quality, well-made bag that will last for years, and has all the fixin’s that you would expect on a messenger bag of this price, and then some. I would recommend one to anyone.