- Buyer's Guide
Let’s be honest, Chrome Bags are synonymous with bike messengers, bombproof materials and all-weather protection. As the happy owner of an Ivan Backpack, I was excited to see the Knurled Welded™ line in person and give their pannier, the Saddle Bag Rolltop a whirl. I was instantly impressed with the easy-to-install pannier system, not to mention the capability and versatility the bag displayed.
Who It Suits
Anyone who wants to have a weatherproof rolltop around on or off the bike. It’s incredibly versatile, be it as a pannier running errands, suffering through bad weather while touring or floating down a river keeping your essentials dry.
Who It Doesn’t
Its aggressive styling might cause some curious glares when you’re at the farmers’ market.
There are superlatives often thrown out for bags like this, like bombproof, but the reality is that it lived up to every challenge it faced. To understand why, let’s take a look at just what the proprietary Knurled Welded technology is. Chrome was able to combine “RF welding with a mechanical interlock to create the toughest, lightest 100% waterproof bags.” In addition this approach yields 150% more contact surface welds than other technologies. In short, your gear is protected and backed with a lifetime warranty.
Chrome didn’t skimp out on the materials either choosing Hyalon®, a military grade textile that’s resistant to chemicals, extreme temperatures and UV light, throughout various components of the bag including the MOLLE and bottom panel.
Part of what I loved most about this bag was its quick and easy access. Akin to a dry sack, it has a rolltop with quick release buckles that are firm and responsive. Once you open up the pack, you have an incredible amount of room to fill 20 liters. During a river float, the Saddle Bag Rolltop proved itself spacious and weatherproof as our wallets, shirts and cellphones fit with no problem while remaining dry throughout. A few times the bag was dropped into the water, in the mud and was no worse for wear. It proved a game-changer for future floats. It also proved itself a great tote when the weather turned awry and I had to do some quick grocery shopping. The 5-bar haul handles are incredibly strong and just the right length to still work even when at capacity and not drag on the ground. It does look a bit aggressive for off-bike carry but that’s a small price to pay for such utility.
It’s worth calling out the internal padding system for the laptop. It’s well thought out, easily accessible and doesn’t take up unnecessary room in the bag. On the outside of the padded laptop sleeve is a small organizer for a pen and your handy Field Notes/Rite in the Rain notepad.
The Not So Good
The Saddle Bag Rolltop utilizes another proprietary system from Chrome, and that’s the attachment system for the bag on the pannier. Setup was honestly a breeze as it required just a few bolts (included with the bag) to get up and running. The Knurled system uses a special adapter that attaches to your existing rack so the bag literally slides on and off with ease. In less than ten minutes, I was a kid in a candy store ready to take my first ride. That said, I did learn the hard way that the size does come at a price. Because my Motobecane Mirage is a bit on the smaller size, I had issues with striking the bag on my pedal stroke. A change of bikes however rectified the situation. I tried it with a few friends on their bikes and wasn’t able to replicate the issue so I suspect it comes down to geometry on the bike.
My only other disappointment was the shoulder strap. I get that it’s designed primarily for use on the bike or to be carried with the 5-bar handles but if you are going to include a strap that’s clearly meant to haul gear, at the very least include a decent shoulder strap. It easily clicked into the rolltop buckles but left some things like comfort to be desired. If I was Chrome, I would have nixed the strap altogether.
Others to Consider
As a value proposition, the Saddle Bag Rolltop at 20L is a steal given its versatility and what it can do on and off the bike. Against a pannier, look no further than the Brooks Land’s End Rear Pannier which is just $5 less but doesn’t yield quite the same versatility. As a tote, the SealLine Urban Backpack is a close competitor given size (against the Knurled Welded™ line) and capability.
Despite the issue with the bag as a true pannier, I have come to love the Chrome Saddle Bag Rolltop. It truly IS made to withstand whatever you throw at it. If it can survive a river float with 15 people doing all they can to break it, it can survive just about anything. It proved itself handy time and time again, be it in bad weather or as a large-volume tote to run errands in. Thanks to its light weight, carrying it was a breeze.