Backpacks distribute weight better and more comfortably for longer rides or commutes; messenger bags excel for errand runs that include multiple stops. That’s why, I’m told, messengers use them. Writing and editing reviews for Rodale’s MountainBike.com years ago gave me the opportunity to try lots of gear, and I’ve used high-quality messenger bags from Manhattan Portage and Timbuk2, among others. It’s a tough field. Most of what’s in this category is a solid buy. But Chrome bags stand out. Chrome’s Metropolis is at least as durable as its competitors, but with better attention to details, my favorite of which is a ’70s-era seatbelt buckle connecting the main strap.
It seems gimmicky but it’s not. The buckle strap closure means you don’t have to heave a loaded bag all the way over your head — just unbuckle, pull the strap over your shoulder and rebuckle. It’s as fun as it is utilitarian.
Chrome’s Metropolis is expensive, and well worth the price if you live car-light and don’t use a rack and panniers or Xtracycle. My Metropolis bag is about a decade old and going strong, if a bit faded. I wash it every couple of years. It’s one of the best-designed and -constructed things I own, and there aren’t many tools I’d be as comfortable recommending. The company offers a lifetime guarantee, and I know from personal experience (in a non-media capacity) that Chrome’s customer support is outstanding.
This bag took on a second life when my daughter was born. I wasn’t fond of the diaper bags my wife carried, so I used my Chrome bag for lugging the complex infrastructure that accompanies an American baby. The big main compartment and quick access suit the Metropolis well to this purpose, too, though the underside of the belt buckle rubbed my chest more when I was walking around upright than when I was hunched over the top tube of my bike.