First look: Chrome Ivan rolltop backpack

Waterproof and stout, with style points galore

San Francisco-based Chrome caters to the bike messenger crowd, and its locally-made bags, while a tad on the spendy side, are among the best available in the increasingly-crowded bag market. The US$200 Chrome Ivan roll-top bag has been piggy-backing with me for several months now.

The 1,680 cubic-inch capacity seemed overwhelming and too big at first. Time and again it proved ideal, whether commuting by bike and train to BikeRadar's South San Fransciso office, Interbike, or the San Diego Wind Tunnel, where none other than Lance Armstrong himself pulled me aside to comment on the camouflage, waterproof backpack. Sir Lancelot asked his business partner Bart Knaggs if their bike shop, Mellow Johnny's, carried this model (they do), and was certain his cycling cohort Robin Williams (and San Francisco resident) already had one (not sure).

After using standard size Timbuk2 messenger bags for years, the Chrome Ivan roll-top backpack seemed like overkill. But, I've never had need to carry so much technology and stuff with me on a daily basis (MacBook Pro, iPhone, digital micro voice recorder, assorted cables, magazines and food). The Ivan proved its worth right off the bat, and it's padded face felt good on my back, even when fully loaded with crap for an overnight company outing to Monterey, California in late October (I took the wrong train and had to sprint my ass off to make the company bus, relying on the iPhone GPS and a cyclist's intuition through the back streets of South San Francisco). The shoulder straps are easy to adjust and dial in, and the waist and  sternum straps kept everything in check, making riding less distracting, especially while standing.

After getting over the feeling of donning a jet pack, I came to appreciate the double outside pockets. The stainless steel hardware seemed a bit over the top at first, but I felt better about stuff staying put. My MacBook Pro slips safely and snugly into the external wet/dry pocket, which has a handy flap and zipper. The fully waterproof main compartment is accessed via the Velcro-stripped roll top closure, and has held up to the repeated rip-and-tear abuse I've given it the past several months.

If you commute by bike, train or plane, the Chrome Ivan is a solid option. The pockets are stout, accessible and easy to use, and the handy loop handle makes it a snap to transport when it's not on your back. Made in San Francisco. US$200. www.chromebags.com

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