From the start, I knewI was in danger of this being as much a review of riding with a backpack as it was the bag itself, but it’s unavoidable. I am a fan of the practicality and aesthetics of shoulder bags, and despite being interested in a dual-strap bag, I had yet to find one I cared for. Enter Chrome’s Bravo Night.
Billed as a commuter backpack, the bag consists of one large, welded/waterproof roll-top main compartment with a weather-proof large, flat outer compartment divided into two deep pockets, nearly the size of the bag (the outer has some organizer inserts, the inside without) and a smaller zipper pocket. Judging by the description, and the photo on the site of this guy happily stowing away his MacBook:
(on second glance, maybe it’s not his)
…the intention is to use the unadorned of the two outside pockets for your laptop. In practice, I never use it for that. I find it a little tight even for my 13″ HP, and I’d just rather have it in the roll-top compartment that I trust to be waterproof (although even in downpours, I’ve still had no problems in the outer compartments).
The main compartment itself is bigger than it initially seems. Not only do I find myself being able to stuff more in than seems physically possible, if you do manage to fill it to the point where rolling is impossible, there is a built in nylon extension that folds out and Velcros shut to hold even more.
I was shocked at how much the bag could hold when you need it to. After one particularly overzealous grocery run, I found my bag maxed out to the limits of even the extension:
When I arrived home, I figured I would document exactly how much stuff that was:
(this is the proper ratio for a Red Bull and vodka)
As a means of comparison, I decided I’d take the contents and shove it into my Bagaboo – a full-sized custom messenger bag – and was surprised to see it nearly filled that as well.
While the Bagaboo carried the load more comfortably (the Chrome’s extension tends to impede looking up when wearing a helmet), it still got my goods home.
One other cool feature on this bag (and all the others in their “Night” series) is the 3M reflective panel on back. Visibility is an extremely important part of bicycle safety, but not all of us want to show up for a day-glo dinner date either. The 3M panel is undercover reflective. In indirect light, it just just looks like a black bag. When light hits, you get a face full of pure white reflection. Below is a demo using a crappy AA powered headlamp:
Pretty cool, right? And it’s small enough to bring into the bar or restaurant without taking out the other patrons around you.
Negatives? I found very few. I occasionally missed the accessibility of the shoulder bag, and I do wish it had a dedicated loop for a light. The compartments are so deep, I often found myself carry around more stuff than I intended to because I simply forgot what was buried at the bottom. Unpacking the full bag to find a wayward tire lever is annoying, but I appreciate the having the space instead of useless and unused organizers.
At $180, the Bravo Night is not a cheap bag (neither in cost nor quality), and one I think the average commuter might find themselves using on a daily basis for a long time. It’s comfort, collapsible size and downplayed looks make it bag I don’t mind carrying even when not on bike. In life past the 200 mile review mark, I do find myself going back to my shoulder bags sometimes, but overall it has won me over to commuting with two straps.