Chrome Berlin Review
Thought I'd post this here, not sure if it's the right forum but I'm sure it will get moved if it's not!
I'll be comparing this bag to Chrome's Kremlin since it's the other bag that I used for a long time. I can't post side by side pics since I don't have the Kremlin anymore, sorry! I do have one pic next to Timbuk2's largest bag though.
First pic is the bag next to a milk crate for reference. Pretty straightforward...
Followed by a picture of a lanky guy wearing the bag
Next up is a picture of what's underneath the main flap, lifted up to expose the inside pockets and their velcro.......lid?
When you lift up the small flap (lid?) inside you can see the main inside storage pockets. They're pretty deep and I find them pretty functional. I carry 2 tubes, 2 tire levers, a mini-pump, a 15 mil wrench, a park allen key set, a trisocket (for fenders), my wallet, a spare blackberry battery, a spare roll sleeve, and a small notepad. It all fits very nicely, and doesn't get too bulky. There's also a key ring, a pen pocket and a zippered pocket which is nice. I'm not sure why the pump and wrench are sticking out the top of the pocket in this picture because the pockets are way deep enough for them to fit. In fact now that I think about it, everything is still in the pockets in these pictures and they barely look full at all.
Immediately opposite these pockets is another large flat storage pocket on the inside of the main pouch. It's the full length and height of the main inside pocket so there's lots of storage space. It also has a velcro closure which is nice. I usually use this pocket for small or flat items such as manifests, small envelopes that you don't want flying out of your bag, maybe my little toque and gloves when I get too warm in winter. I don't usually put anything bulky in this pocket for a couple reasons. It's attached directly to the same wall as the main storage pockets so combined with the weight of your tools/wallet/whatever it can kind of weigh the front of the bag open/down which I find kind of akward. Also, the more you put into this pouch the more it starts to infringe on the space in your main pocket.
So next up are pictures of the main storage section of the bag. Here's where the big differences start. When I used the Kremlin in the past, I found that the bag's main pocket was shaped sort of like an envelope or pouch. (2 flat peices attached at the bottom and sides) I found that when you started putting anything that wasn't a flat envelope into the Kremlin, it would become really akward. How do you fit something 3 dimentional with 4 sides into something that is basically flat and only has 2 sides? The Berlin's main pouch is shaped more like a giant rectangle. This is great for large packages and boxes. Way easier to use and fill. To illustrate what I mean better.... When you put a large file box into the Kremlin I found you had to stand it up to make it fit in the bag which is really akward. The box will sort of see-saw back and forth on your back and really **** your center of gravity on the bike. What's the difference between the bags? You can lay a file box down in the main pouch of the Berlin and still have room for more trips. The biggest benefit of this is that the box will sit on your back in the exact same way as the bag. It may be hard to tell from the pictures, but this bag is massive.
This is also where the differences in the bags main strap system comes in.
Some visualization work ahead.
Think of the Kremlin as an evelope. One seam running around the bottom and two sides with an opening at the top. With this design the straps have to attach to the side seams which can cause the bag to wrap around your body when the straps are pulled tight. Trying to put a box, a three dimentional item, into an envelope only causes the top to flop open and the sides to pull and bunch causing you to loosen the straps to make the bag more comfortable to wear, potentially make it less comfortable and less stable while riding. Plus you essentially lose space in the bag since you'll never be able to fit a box into the very bottom of an envelope or the corners which makes you less effective at carring large amounts of trips.
Now think of the Berlin as a box. It's designed as an expandable rectangle instead of a two dimentional envelope. Think of a suitcase with an expandable main or pocket compartment. The Berlin has straps attached to the outside front and back seams that can help you maintain the shape you want/need your rectangle to be i.e. loose straps = full, open rectangle, tight straps = smaller, contained compartment. In addition to the actual shape of the bag compartment being more logical as a three dimentional shape and it's ability to expand and contract as per your needs, the sholder straps are NOT sewn into the comparment seams. The sholder straps are attached, essentially, on the back of the bag. The length of the bag is 26 inches end to end across your back, picture the straps attached 3 inches in on either side, leaving 20 inches of flat space where your back fits. Basically, the main compartment of the Berlin extends slightly past where your shoulder strap is. This gives you an advantage since no matter how full your bag is, your straps are never contorted with the weight. The straps can still be worn tight, holding the back of the bag flush against your back while the compartment expands as needed to fit whatever crazy **** you've got stuffed in there.
To deal with hefty objects Chrome has also added concealable (coooool) and adjustable second shoulder strap. It attaches right next to your buckle directly opposite your (still useless) waist strap. This is awesome, I can't even explain. Remember that client that gave you a full file box that was only going a couple blocks, and then you got a couple rush trips, and then more and more rush trips and you carried that ****ing box around for an hour and by the time you were done your shoulder was killllllling? Not so much anymore. This second strap makes your bag feel more like a backpack and alleviates some of the load off your main shoulder. I love this strap.
This is a picture of the compression straps on the side of the bag. Because the Berlin is just so big, I usually leave these mostly compressed to keep from having so much bag bulk to deal with. With these straps compressed the bag's bulk is usually not an issue at all. Whenever you need more room you just slowly let out a little more strap. The picture is sideways, the bottom of the bag is to your right. You can also sort of see the way the main strap attaches now too in the top of this picture.
Next up is the new way to attach rolls to your bag (courtesy of my girlfriends yoga mat). The 2 straps are still attached to the bottom of your bag but now they also run through 2 little plastic clips. These clips make it a bit more akward to adjust the length of the straps, but they do help to keep them out of the way when you're not using them. Rolls now sit under the main flap, on the front of your bag, instead of the bottom of the bag because Chrome has added 2 new clips to the inside of the bag (you can see them in the top of my 3rd pic). This makes the roll a little more accessible once it's on, but a bit harder to get onto and off of your bag in the first place. It also keeps the roll from getting too manhandled while swinging your bag around to get in and out of it.
You can see in the next pic, that when you really cinch down the straps the bottom of the bag kind of bunches forward, and the top of the bag pulls down a bit. All in all the new roll system is only OK in my opinion. Which is a shame for me because our company has a couple large clients who are Architects and I find myself carrying a lot of rolls. Where it does shine though, is when you have to carry huge flat boxes. As show in the second pic, stolen straight off the Chrome website.
So that about wraps it up.
I would say that this bag is a huge improvement over previous designs. There are a couple notable differences that really make this bag stand out from most. Such as the improved shape of the main pocket, the second shoulder strap, new main strap attach points, and compression straps on the sides to name a few. The bag is gigantic, but due to the compression straps it is not too bulky. You can fit way more into this bag without it getting akward to get in and out of. My biggest gripe would be the roll straps I think. But that's pretty minimal in my opinion. All in all, worth my money. Makes my day easier for sure.
Last edited by thadcombs; 05-11-10 at 08:05 AM.
Don't lie -- that's your yoga mat, isn't it?
Haha, only kidding. No shame in men doing yoga tho (I go 3-4 times a week).
Nice bag! It looks really well designed. The newer Chrome bags are certainly more well thought out than the older ones. I'm sure they're feeling the pressure to step things up now that there are so many other companies making killer bags.
I've got an older Ranchero backpack I used for errands and commuting and it's meh. I'm interested one of the newer packs.
Those new shoulder straps are kewl. I have an old metro and after seeing those straps DAMN! I want one.
Originally Posted by powers2b
good stuff. Glad they finally fixed the box shape problem
That additional shoulder strap looks like a crap version of the PAC X-strap. It looks like it is hooking to the fabric that pads under the buckle so it will most likely pull up when using it. On a PAC, it clips in to a nylon that goes around the main buckle itself. The anti-sway strap is also hooked to that same nylon.
You are correct that the additional shoulder strap attaches underneath the buckle, but it doesn't pose any issues.
I've put some seriously heavy/akward stuff in this bag and it's never pulled out of position. I also like that the Chrome strap tucks away and is hidden when not in use, but that's just esthetic's!
The Pac design does look better in theory for sure, but when I checked out the Pac bags in person they didn't feel as good to me personally. I also didn't like that the Pac "nylon" peice could slide up and down the strap.
But....... that's where personal opinion and subjectivity come into play, and I'm not really interested in discussing that over the internet.
Last edited by thadcombs; 05-12-10 at 06:43 PM.
Because when have internet forums ever been a place for personal opinion and subjective experiences?
Originally Posted by thadcombs
Ha ha yeah I know!
But as soon as someone says "I think this is better"... we all know how fast a thread can go downhill!
the nylon piece on the PAC can't slide up and down as it is a loop of nylon with one end of it stitched close and onto the pad that sits under the buckle. I have several friends with PAC bags and was able to try them out first. Bagaboo copied the design and I have seen it on a few Freight bags as well as some Australian company's bags.
Chrome has more recently hired some long time messengers so hopefully that is what is helping in their improved bag designs.
To be fair, the only pac I saw with the nylon piece must have been damaged and home-rigged then because it definitely slid around on the strap. If that's not the legitimate case on the bags, then they look good!
I actually checked out the Bagaboo bags before buying this one. They looked pretty sweet honestly and in retrospect I feel as though I should have gone the route of one of their bags....
Do you have any experience with them?
Last edited by thadcombs; 05-13-10 at 02:31 PM.
I hate the way they designed this bag! It's totally not weatherproof under a big load. They should have put more material up the sides to the flap.
I have a friend with a Bagaboo bag. He is a full time student and has messengered at the same time, at least during a few of the semesters. He seems to love it. It looked really nice but I only ever saw him carrying it when it was pretty full. The X strap looked a bit bulky so it might flap around a lot when not in use and if not clipped down to the flap.
Blicks, that is a comment I have heard for years about Chrome bags and something I noticed when seeing a Chrome and Baileyworks next to each other. The flap should be oversided and wider than the back of the bag.
Hey, im about to buy a chrome berlin, just thought i'd check how it's been holding up since you got yours.. still happy?
ive got a medium citizen and its the last bag ill ever buy. i beat the **** out of it too and its still like the day i bought it... have prices gone up? i think i spent about 120 for mine almost a year and a half ago. now there 140? i almost went with the leningrad i think it was called but it was too big. medium citizen is perfect size, anything bigger is overkill.
Prices have gone up and they've outsourced most of their bags with the exception of the Pro series.
My girlfriend's teal mini metro I got her a couple of months ago is made in the USA, as is my ooooold Ranchero backpack (semi-retired now.)
I recently got a Mission Workshop Vandal backpack. This bag is super nice and very well designed. They're expensive, but I EP'ed mine so it was very affordable.