Chrome Bravo bag review: Big enough for your groceries

Chrome bag with shopping bags at side

Shopping trips are often a pain on the bike. Panniers are undoubtedly useful, but the rest of the time they feel clunky to me. Therefore, I often rely on a large gym bag strapped over my shoulder. When full of shopping, its large diameter makes it difficult to cycle. Until recently, it was the best solution I had. That is until Chrome shipped me over the new Chrome Bravo bag to review.

I get plenty of emails from Chrome about new bags and most of the time I hit the archive button, thinking “seen it – none of my readers will be interested”. However, the Chrome Bravo seems to solve a real problem.

Let’s take a look at how it does that..

When the bag is in its “normal” state, it fits 20L worth of gear. This isn’t a huge amount but certainly enough for most commuters. However, the magic really starts to happen when the bag cleverly expands to 40L worth of gear. It does so through the compartment at the top which unfolds to provide extra space. At full capacity, the Chrome Bravo can fit three very full bags of shopping.

The reinforced panel at the back provides some protection. However, in practise a fully loaded bag will feel uncomfortable on your back after a while. Fortunately, you don’t feel any strains on the shoulders, thanks to the padding.

Chrome Bravo Bag

Waterproof laptop compartment

Besides the huge main compartment, the bag also has a waterproof front pocket. This has a space to fit a 15” laptop. I’d be wary of having the main compartment fully loaded while there’s a laptop in the front pocket, as it could potentially push the laptop out of shape. I’ve had this happen previously with my laptop which eventually caused the screen to crack.

For those carrying even larger loads that can’t fit inside the bag, the straps at the back provide the ability to attach items. Such as a bike frame or a wheel.

The bag also has very strong Velcro straps on the shoulders, making it easy to attach items, such as an iPhone case with a strap.

Chrome Bravo Back Panel

That’s the good. So what’s the bad?

The expanding compartment is a great feature to have, in case you need to carry large loads. However, it brings some disadvantages to the Chrome Bravo in practise.

For a start, it’s hard to quickly access items inside the main pocket. You have to reach really deep down to get to the bottom. You can get around this by storing things you need to quickly access in the front pocket.

In general however, it becomes frustrating when trying to quickly access the bag. Something that messenger bags are well known for.

When the bag is fully loaded, it somewhat towers above your head. This makes it difficult to spin your head round to see the traffic coming up behind you.

The other slightly odd design feature I found, is that when the bag is fully loaded, there’s no way to fully close the top. You can pull the cord, but this leaves a gap. The make shift solution is to form a knot with the cord, to close the top part. Perhaps something a little more clever could have been achieved here by Chrome.

Should you buy the Chrome Bravo bag?

The Chrome Bravo costs $160 (around £100, but with import taxes etc £132.99). It’s not a cheap purchase. However, you are buying a bag for life. It’s far more likely you’ll get bored and grow out of it, than it will fall apart.

Despite it being a bit of a pain to get things in and out of the bag, especially for those used to the quick access of a messenger bag, you have to marvel at the capacity, easy on the eye looks and no corners cut, comfortable design.

For those who want to pass by the supermarket on their way home, or occasionally carry big loads, you’ll like the Chrome Bravo.

More details can be found on the Chrome website:

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11 Responses to Chrome Bravo bag review: Big enough for your groceries

  1. Phil 04/09/2012 at 3:46 pm #

    Three full bags of shopping in that is going to raise your centre of gravity and reduce stability, where a loaded pair of panniers would help by lowering it and increasing stability ( they can make steering a bit twitchier, but not with my average shopping load ). Backpacks and messenger bags, no matter how wonderfully designed and well made, will make your back sweatier. Those are just my reasons for not using them- each to their own.

  2. Chris 04/09/2012 at 8:17 pm #

    You can get many messenger type bags with hidden pannier hooks.
    I have one made by Basil and it is nearly the perfect bag.

    Aggree with the point above about center of gravity… Looks very ungainly.

  3. Alan Moore 06/09/2012 at 10:41 am #

    Yeah, really – if you’re shopping regularly, get a pannier or two.

    I have a single Ortlieb rolltop which is quite small in normal use but when unrolled can hold at least two carrier bags worth. Then I can also bungee a wine box (say) onto the top of the carrier. Weight is not an issue, and there’s absolutely nothing for my shoulders to do.

    In my case I also have a front rack but that may not be to everyone’s taste!

  4. Nick 07/09/2012 at 10:47 am #

    I use a large one of these for everything from commuting to short-hop touring:

    It’s brilliant. Seemingly indestructible, just shy of 40L but can almost double in size if you pack it to the brim. I’ve had four shopping bags and a crate of beer in it, plus locks, with no hassle. Well, apart from having to haul the weight around on the bike, anyway. It feels really well balanced, doesn’t slip and has more pockets than I can fill. I absolutely love it.

    As a bonus, it has compression straps, so if you’re flying Easy Jet or whatever you can crush it down to fit the exact size of their baggage allowance. Saved me a few pennies, that has.

  5. Peter 07/09/2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Go Dutch and then use a basket. Perfect.

  6. Jake 14/09/2012 at 6:14 am #

    is the main pouch lined with the waterproof tarpaulin as well or just the laptop pouch?

  7. Caleb 23/03/2015 at 8:03 pm #

    does anyone know wether 12″ vinyl records will fit inside? need to fit between 25-35 usually

    • Andreas 26/03/2015 at 11:47 am #

      Just checked and yep, you could definitely fit 12 inch vinyl records in this bike bag.

  8. Riccardo 30/06/2015 at 3:45 pm #

    Please, does it fit a 15.6 in laptop?

  9. Riccardo 29/08/2015 at 12:32 pm #

    Hi there. This backpack is great for grocery, But NOT waterproof at all. It is surely better than average cordura backpacks, but they did make a stupid mistake while projecting it.

    The rolltop flap is composed by 2 flaps stitched together. The flap in the same side of the back is backpadded with tarpaulin. The front flap is not backpadded.
    Unfortunately, the front flap of the roll-top is the one where rain is going to fall and stall in SHOWER RAINS (yes I did put it into my shower). Water lets in.
    The only part which is really waterproof in this backpack is the little pocket in the front “waterproof” laptop pocket.

    Anyway, it is a great backpack for grocery and you will be dry for short distances in light-medium rains. But don’t expect to come back home dry during heavy rainy days. It sucks because you think you are buying something waterproof, and it is not. It is such a mess because it is a great backpack.

    You can put a 15.6 laptop without sleeve in the front pocket. If you have a sleeve, it doesn’t get in and you put it in the main compartment.

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