Bicycle and Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Chrome Soyuz laptop bag

8 Comments 05 July 2010

Being a bike commuter in Finland means that you have to tolerate the four seasons (although I’m only planning to do three of them) and since in Finland three out of four are wet and cold seasons, having the right equipment is important. I started off with my over a decade old Everest bag and it still functions perfectly, but it’s not waterproof. So I started my hunt for “a perfect laptop bag that will stand up to the elements”. The first bag I came across was Mission Workshop’s Vandal, which really piqued my interest but as with most fun stuff, you can’t get it easily in Europe, let alone in Finland. So my search continued.

I came across the “Bag Week” articles from Crunchgear and that got me on the way.

I started digging the interwebs and came by Chrome Bags, who are supposed to be some kind of trendy and cool, but luckily I had none of the prejudices against any makers. Obviously Chrome is a trendy big enough brand, that all the major sites reviewed it, even Wired in their article.

My goal was to get a:

  • Big enough backpack for me to carry all my commuting stuff, towels, change of clothes, work stuff etc.
  • Not be too bulky that would make it annoying to carry
  • Fit my 17″ MacBook Pro safely (ie. have padding)
  • Be waterproof all around
  • Not have any weird things hanging from it, tighteners etc.
  • Be a solid and lasting backpack, and
  • Optional: Not look like crap

Since a backpack, at least for me, is always a lifetime investment it doesn’t really matter if the bag costs 75 or a hundred euros – so price in a way wasn’t an issue. I read reviews online, saw that it matched my requirements and ordered it online. After I found their European web store that is, from Chrome Europe and boy did I appreciate good site naming then.

I sent out the order and got it a few weeks late, but thanks for them being late, I got Chrome’s cell holster along with the deal (saving a nice 20 euros in the middle) and that was a good thing since the bag doesn’t actually have a good place where to put your phone.

Now, having used the bag for about a month, I’m really happy with it. It’s light, it’s sturdy and it’s not big enough to keep stuff lingering in the bag – at least compared to my Everest bag. The bottom end of the bag is slimmer than the top end so it’s nice to bike with, but as with all bags, it still gets pretty darn sweaty when biking with it.

The bag has a messenger style back compartment that’s right next to your back and it’s huge and fits pretty much everything. It also has a side compartment for the laptop that barely fits my 17″ laptop and a few extra pockets for smaller stuff. So far I haven’t come across a situation where I’d need more space. There are two lacking parts – no room for a water bottle with easy access and the same applies for your phone and/or mp3 player, but that’s where the cell holster comes in.

The build quality is very, very strong. I’m pretty sure the material could stop stray bullets, there’s more velcro than in a space ship and this is the think, sturdy kind of velcro. One thing I also like is the use of metal in clamps is very rare these days in any bag. The back padding is adequate even though nothing special and it also circulates air quite well. The ergonomics of the bag are well thought out and it sits quite nicely on your back whether you’re walking or riding.

Some people have complained that it doesn’t have a waist belt, but personally I’ve never liked them and thought them just to be in the way.

The price is a bit steep, some 150 euros plus shipping and handling, but as I said earlier, this should last a lifetime (and comes with a lifetime warranty) and the price per day will go down every day.

Our verdict: ★★★★☆

All and all, it’s a recommended bag for anyone who needs to have their stuff dry while commuting, using a 17″ laptop and don’t want to look like a dork ;)

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- who has written 201 posts on Coming thru!.

Markus is a bike commuter gadget freak who is learning the ropes of the bike world, you can find him all around the web - but you can start with his twitter at @banton.

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  • Pnigmenos

    Thank you for a well written review. As I’m thinking of buying the bag, I found it quite helpful.
    You mention that there is “no room for a water bottle with easy access”. I’m wondering, couldn’t one of the two front pockets be used for a water bottle (like on the photos on Chrome’s site)?

  • Hi! That is true that you can put a bottle anywhere in the bag, and I did hold my bottle in the front pocket when it wasn’t on my bike’s bottle cage, but when I was off my bike the bottle was awkward and the lid didn’t close properly. Also, since the pockets are very high and directly in the rear, reaching out for a drink when on the walk or ride would be very difficult. Still, it’s a very good bag – get one!

  • Bikecommuter123

    HybridBackpack

    Check it out!.
    http://www.hybridbackpack.com

    It let me take my own backpack.

  • I like the review too. It is informative.

  • RobBB

    Hi, thanks for the review!
    When you say “barely fits” you 17″ Macbook, does this mean it does, but it’s tight… (which may not be so bad) or it doesn’t?
    Thanks!

  • Hey Rob! Thanks for commenting. It does fit the 17″ Macbook perfectly, it’s a very snug fit and the laptop doesn’t move or sway in any direction. Which is of course good for cycling ;)

  • amzing one!

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Coming Thru (or Coming Through - as that URL was taken) is a daily updated bike magazine - a collection of writings and links that relate to biking in its every form. The idea started from when Maarten met Markus decided to finally start collecting the things we like about bikes and talk about our everyday adventures in dodging moving objects at high speeds.The site is run by a collage of cyclists, most notably by Canadian Johanna MacDonald, Belgian Maarten Patteeuw and Finnish Markus Sandelin.

It all started in the spring of 2010, after a record breaking snowy winter when Markus bought a house 25 kilometers from the office and decided to handle the commuting with a bicycle. It turned out the bike wasn’t up to standards for that kind of stress and the first weeks were more tragicomic than glorious. Thus the idea began to brew to actually document this journey.

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