CHROME URBAN EX18 ROLLTOP CYCLING BACKPACK
714g Ranger and black (as tested) $120 (about £93.63 at time of writing)
Urban by name and nature, Chrome's Urban Ex18 Rolltop Cycling Backpack is fundamentally one for the commute and go to meeting ride. It ain’t cheap, but there’s an element of getting what you pay for and the Urban Ex18 offers a lot. I’ve found one or two little annoyances, but they are very much part of the learning curve; things I could learn to live with.
Pros: Harness is very comfortable and adjustable. Robust.
Cons: Those with laptops will go larger.
Ranger? Well, it’s a sort of green khaki. It certainly looks good with the black tray at the base of the rucsac, loops and other details. The Urban Ex18 also comes in all black and black/grey, too.
Colours cleared up, there’s also a 28litre version for larger loads.
Constructed with a hardy nylon and polyester shell, the Urban Ex18 is designed to keep the necessaries of office life safe and dry. Part of Chrome’s “Knurled Welded” series, seams and fabric are fundamentally waterproof. Along with the rolltop closure all this should ensure the weather is kept out. there's no laptop sleeve, but that's no necessarily a deal-breaker.
Measuring 11x16x6 inches, the main compartment has a gently tapered base. There’s a slim pocket for pens, pencils, notebook etc. There are also two carrying handles, should you decide to use it as a tote bag or just want to carry it around open. Sturdily made to resist abrasion and defend your valuables on dirty winter rides to the office, it looks pretty tough.
Closure is by rolling the top, secured by clips. Straps with reflective details allow these to be adjusted according to size of load.
When rolled, the top reveals a zipped stashed pocket for ready access to phone, cash and cards, keys and so on. Protected by a flap, it should be safe from rain.
As well as the reflective Chrome logo, the back features six loops for blinkies, D-lock, reflectives, or anything else you might like to dangle behind you.
Padded shoulder straps, with mesh for climate control and straps for adjustment, should fit most body lengths. Chrome use models from 5ft 7inches to 6ft on their website, but it should go beyond this. I am six feet spot on. There’s a carry strap, too - actually, there are two more canvas carry straps on each side.
Seven pads are intended to keep the sac off your back, preventing sweaty patches.
Sensibly, the Urban Ex18 eschews a waist strap. Instead it sticks with a comfortable chest strap. This won’t give the stability of a waist strap. Or a waist and chest strap set up, but we aren’t heading into singletrack territory, even if you might weave amongst the motors every now and again.
Packing took a bit of practice to make the most of the available space. Softer items, such as a waterproof top, went at the bottom – except when clouds looked too threatening. Above that went the iPad and cable – neatly slotted in with a bit to spare. Lock, sarnies (should probably have been pasta salad box, really), water bottle, wallet etc. All neat enough. Changing to a smaller D lock or cable lock saw security hanging form the loops on the outside, freeing up more space. Top pocket for phone and suchlike. It'll swallow a macBook Air and take a lumpy old laptop, too.
If your likely to carry large items, then look at the Ex28. Grabbing a pint of milk on the way home from work will be fine, but take-away curry for two and bottle of red on top of your daily work necessities and you’ll be struggling.
The roll-top seal works really well, but remember to factor it in when packing. On that front, there’s been no hint of watery ingress. Watering-can and hose-pipe tests have failed to penetrate the main compartment or the top pocket. Nor have more realistic prolonged rain showers on a couple of wet commutes. However, belt and braces Steve like to use plastic bags, too. Helps keep things organised as well.
Strong and stable isn’t everyone’s favourite phrase, but it is pretty accurate for the harness. Chest strap is ideal for riding on the hoods of the single-speed and fine on a sit up and beg. Padded straps are to be expected and feel good, with smooth stitching and mesh effectively keeping shoulders happy.
The mesh, of course, also helps keep things sweat free – not easy when the alarm clock has failed and the pedals are rotating above normal. As you’d expect, its most effective at a steady commuting pace. Likewise, the six pads that lift the pack away from the back. Packing makes a difference here, too; don’t overstuff. At fifteen miles an hour on a warm morning, I’ve built up a sweaty patch. At a gentler twelve, things have remained much drier. Don’t expect arid, that’s not really fair to any system.
I always keep mudguards on the commuter machine. Splatter had been limited, but a quick wipe with a damp cloth and a little elbow grease has restored things.
Small reflective details are built in, but on early starts before sunrise, I decorated the loops with old slap-wraps. Seemed effective, but a suitable blinkie gives additional presence. Be nice to mix them in pretty patterns.
I’ve found the carrying handles a real boon off the bike – perfectly placed, the backpack feels just like a bag.
Whilst I try not to bash the brickwork, an occasional scape on a low canal bridge has not led to any ill-effect. However, be reasonable about ventures close to abrasive surfaces.
A really good cycling backpack for urban use. Primarily for commuting or leisure visits into town. To some extent you get what you pay for, and with Chrome you generally get a lot – for example, their Storm 415 SPD ready work-boots. Some may want more capacity, and the Urban Ex 18 certainly requires a bit of planning when packing. However, it is high on quality and works very well.
Verdict: 4.75/5 An excellent backpack for urban, commuting and leisure riding, though with limited capacity for those who carry laptops etc.
PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2018