CHROME MODAL VALE SLING BAG
783g 14L Black £110
Chrome’s Modal Vale Sling Cycling Bag, is a ‘messanger-esque’ bag shouting urban, commuter style. It has many of the great features you’d associate with Chrome’s cycling range – and which, frankly, you’d expect for the price. Equally, it might be a bit small for some, but light, strong, and stylish is a good start.
Pros: smart, flexible, and stable.
Cons: technically not waterproof, on the small side for some.
Materials and manufacture 4.75/5
It pretty much goes without saying that the finish is excellent. Made from a polyester-twill mix, its 600D rating places it amongst the most durable of polyester fabrics commonly used in bag manufacture. The lining is 70D nylon. Although the colour designation is Black, it is an attractive heathery grey. There’s a “Dune” version available, too – as in sand.
The harness is a simple sling, with loads of adjustment, a comfortable shoulder pad, and a smart metallic buckle. In addition, a second strap from the base of the bag clips to a quick release buckle on the main strap. This should offer improved security of tenure compared to the simple sling of more traditional messenger bags.
The shoulder strap has Velcro webbing out front, and a mesh backing. The latter for climate control. The purpose of the other is not immediately obvious, but you’ll think of something.
A foam pad, with channels, takes up the area likely to come into contact with your back. There’s also a hidden pocket for valuables, with a very discrete carry-handle completing the scene.
The genius of this bag is the bellows effect and the elasticated straps that act as automatic compression. Fundamentally, within reason, it can carry things flat or bulky, without being flabby or requiring careful adjustment.
The zip to the main compartment hides away in the fold, but like the other zips there’s a large fob to aid location in the dark. Inside the main compartment, there’s an elasticated, padded, laptop sleeve. This will take a thirteen-inch MacBook Pro, and not larger. That could be a deal-breaker for some. Opposite is a small pocket for notebook’ pens, and such like. In between is the main space, ready to expand at your command. It is sealed with a “weatherproof” zip.
On the other side, we have a larger, easy-access pocket, with a baffled zip. There are a couple of straps, with some reflective detail, that can be used to compress the pack. There’s no light loop.
Unlike the Chrome Urban Ex 18 cycling backpack, the seams are stitched – very well-stitched – rather than welded. In that sense it is similar in construction to Tucano Urbano’s Beak Pack. Moreover, the Modal Vale’s fabric ‘wets-up’ quickly, as opposed to sending droplets pouring off the surface. In that sense, “weather-proof” means water resistant rather than waterproof.
Having said that, heavy March showers and prolonged drizzle have not got inside; nor has five minutes under the power-shower made any impression. So, to all intents and purposes it seems resolute against precipitation. Having said that, some people will always go for the belt and braces option, which may be best for your electrical goods, at least.
I’m a MacBook Pro regular, so slipping it into the padded sleeve kept wrapped in a light plastic bag was comfortable enough. Colleagues with older or larger laptops, couldn’t use it. Good for me, but a deal-breaker in real life.
I’ve been able to cart all I need for a day in the city, including tubes, repair kit, tyre levers, multi-tool, pump, and waterproof. There’s even room to spare for a few extras. There’s definitely a touch of the Mary Poppins about it. And, yes, basic gym gear can fit in, too, as the Chrome website suggests, or a couple of bottles of beer and haddock and chips. Your choice.
With chest strap adjusted, there’s very little movement. In fact, at commuting speeds on sit up and beg and drop bar café racer, you’d not really know it was there, provided you have not overloaded weight-wise. In that context, getting the shoulder pad in the right place is worth a few additional seconds before setting off.
Sweaty-back syndrome is almost inevitable with back-packs or messenger bags, in my experience. However, within reason, the ventilation chanels provide decent climate control unless you are really going for it or have a hilly road home.
At £110 you should expect a good deal for your money. On the other hand, fully waterproof bags of around the same size and style could set you back twice as much. I’d say Vale Modal Sling is good value, if you value style, flexibility, and shun courier status.
Equally, similar lay-out will get you something fully waterproof, more resistant to scrapes, and bigger. A larger model from Polaris comes in around £50. Fair enough, take the Polaris into the board-room and there’ll be squeals of “cyclist!” The traditionally styled Kelbrook Satchel, by Carradice, comes in at £130, but is larger and fully waterproof.
On that front, size does matter more than style to some. Even so, many of the smart messenger bag brands have gone down the 13inch route.
Chrome’s Modal Vale Sling Bag bears all the hallmarks of quality you’d expect from the brand. Definitely one for the city, and probably for the fairer weather commuter. It will look just as at home on the bus or the train, on your back or in your hand. Just check the size of your equipment before taking the plunge.