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Product Review: Chrome Welterweight Hondo Backpack

The Hondo by Chrome.
(Review and photos by James Buckroyd)

James Buckroyd is a professional product designer who happens to be addicted to cycling and is always seeking out the perfect route and the perfect piece of gear. He blogs at BuckyRides.com[1]. His last review was the OttoLock[2].

Earlier this year Chrome Industries[3], the people who are famous for starting the whole messenger bag craze, moved their head office from San Francisco to Portland[4]. The company has been around a while now (since 1995) making high quality, cycling specific, gear-hauling bags, apparel and shoes. Having had a few Chrome bags over the years, I decided to look at their most recent lineup to see what was new.

The Hondo is one of Chrome Industries latest additions. It’s minimal, contemporary and fashionably designed for the urban commuter and everyday rider.  [5]

I can imagine the product brief: the designers chuckled as they read, thinking “Oh man, not another one of these unicorn projects (at the seemingly fictional situation).” The brief read “Design a hip-looking pack for the commuter of all sizes that is comfortable, light, economical in materials, contains lots of features and oozes durability and ruggedness while being affordable to the average Joe.” This — a product manager’s dream — is often hard to realize. In this case however, Chrome might have nailed it.

The Hondo is aimed squarely at the urban commuter market as the solution to work gear hauling needs. At $100 and $110 it is placed in the hot market of backpacks, mid-price range for a good quality pack. As a smaller sized backpack, the Welterweight Hondo is a lightweight brother to the regular Hondo. The welterweight uses durable but lightweight material (if you have felt most regular chrome bags you will know they are pretty burly – due to their robust materials and construction). Welterweight series indicates bags that are 50% lighter than regular Chrome items.

What it’s made from:

  • Lightweight 500d nylon compared with a 1510d nylon used on other bags.
  • Weatherproof lightweight tarpaulin lining compared with waterproof welded 18oz tarpaulin.
  • Extra reflective TPU tarpaulin accent panel on front and reflective webbing on straps.

Features:

  • Stylish modern clean design.
  • Reflective by night rear panel.
  • Integrated slide-in padded area to hold a 15″ laptop.
  • Pleated side pockets for small water bottles or other items.
  • Loops on the front to the bag to attach a u-lock or other items via caribiners, etc.
  • Front convenience pocket for keys, phone and other small items.
  • Multiple internal pockets.

Without a doubt this backpack comes from the Chrome stable: the construction, cut and sew carry the same classic lines and manufacturing methods. The bag is boxy (in a good way) and of a square tube construction with well-sewn edging where materials join together. And of course the bag oozes durability. Reflective accents add for safety on the front of the bag and on the straps. The front of the bag has a large 10″ x 5″ full reflective panel which is a nice safety touch and a good “plan B” in case you forget your blinkey.

On the outside:

A place for your u-lock, as is usual with many Chrome products.

Thumbs up for generous reflectivity.

EVA back panels.

Front upper pocket with zipper behind strap.

Two non-zippered pockets and two external zippers are on this bag. The first zipper opens a small front compartment, which is ideal for quick-to-reach keys, wallet, and phone. The zipper is shrouded by a strap (see photo), at first I thought this was awkward and got in the way, but after thinking for a while, other than adding style points it could mask the zipper, making it more secure, hidden when in close public situations with people behind you.

The second dual zipper is the main compartment and zips from both sides about 75% away around the bag on the upper half. The large top access allows the mouth of the bag to fold forward, large and easy to get to the insides, revealing the pockets and laptop space. The inside pockets and lining are black and sometimes with lack of light it all blends together and can make finding stuff tricky in low light situations. Convenient strapping and u-lock loops adorn the outside of the bag ideal for adding a u-lock or clipping a blinky light. On the sides, two external pockets both small water bottle size with a nice detail of a drain hole at the bottom and pleated so when not in use they don’t bulge out.

On the inside:

Interior water resistant lining.

Room for a helmet and change of clothes.

Exterior close-up.

Interior pockets make organization easy.

For maximum utility the the main zippered compartment has three areas. A padded pocket for laptop or tablet that sits right behind where your back would be. Then there’s a smaller pocket that can fit large notebooks or things up to 7″ wide x 9″deep, think memo pad, folded paper etc. In front of this is a small accessories pocket 4″ wide x 5″ deep and two pen/pencil holders. Then there’s a main compartment, about 16″ x 10.5″ wide of usable space and at full capacity about 3″ deep. (A normal magazine is 10.5″ x 8″ and 0.25″ thick.) It’s a good size and can fit a helmet, a pair of jeans and a shirt without any trouble.

In Use:
The Hondo is a narrower bag at around 11″ wide. This makes the fit on the back quite nice as it doesn’t flop over the sides. The overall smaller format feels more than manageable (even when loaded) and doesn’t feel massive. The straps are comfortable and easily adjusted with a simple loop over a metal buckle (not a cam-lock as used on more expensive models). The straps and back panel are made from a material covered with EVA foam and attach directly to the bag at the top. The Hondo’s yokeless straps seem flexible and robust. In addition the front of the straps provide a couple of loops, these are great for holding sunglasses or for attaching a bluetooth speaker for those of us who like our tunes as we ride. The Hondo come with a chest/sternum strap between the two arm straps which help stabilize the bag while riding.

Even though the material is backed by a waterproof membrane, don’t expect a fully waterproof bag becaues the zippers and seams have not been sealed. I expect this bag to withstand light showers; but in a heavy downpour, your stuff on the inside will get wet.

Drawbacks and future improvements:

  • With about 120 miles over 8 trips, I found that when loaded with a laptop and in riding position, the lower large central foam pad on the back creates a pressure point on the spine. I found the bag to be a lot more comfortable when not carrying a tablet or laptop. Maybe this EVA foam pad will break in over time, but the pad could have been designed a little different to fit the spine better. If a laptop is a must I would suggest trying the bag and simulating a leaned over riding position or being patient with a break-in period.

Things I’d like to see in future versions:

  • For navigating the pockets inside, it would be nice if the internal material was a lighter color than black, this would help with contrast and seeing things easier.
  • Add a hidden secret pocket. Just like in the early days of Chrome, these secret pockets made a great hiding place to put your wallet and worry even less on those occasions when bag is unattended.
  • The front pocket is pretty large and I considered the idea of making it a touch smaller, if it were not as deep — about 3″ shorter — I think it would be more useful as it would be quicker to grab stuff .

Summary:
If you’re in the market for a new backpack, seriously consider the Hondo. It wins massive on style points with its minimal yet functional, no-fuss aesthetic and provides a well-designed and versatile way to organize and carry everyday gear.

— James Buckroyd, @jbucky1[6] on Twitter

Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.[7]

BikePortland needs your support[8].

Front Page, Products
, [9][10][11][12]

References

  1. ^ BuckyRides.com (www.buckyrides.com)
  2. ^ the OttoLock (bikeportland.org)
  3. ^ Chrome Industries (www.chromeindustries.com)
  4. ^ from San Francisco to Portland (bikeportland.org)
  5. ^ Hondo (www.chromeindustries.com)
  6. ^ @jbucky1 (twitter.com)
  7. ^ Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email. (eepurl.com)
  8. ^ support (bikeportland.org)
  9. ^ Front Page (bikeportland.org)
  10. ^ Products (bikeportland.org)
  11. ^ (bikeportland.org)
  12. ^ (bikeportland.org)
0

Product review: The Saltzman jersey from Anthm Collective

The Saltzman jersey from Portland-based Anthm Collective.
(Photos: James Buckroyd)

By our newest contributor, James Buckroyd.

In the world of product development, this is how it usually goes: You have a great idea, you make contact with an agent in Hong Kong or Mainland China and you start in a series of negotiations. After many long e-mail chains and late-night phone calls you begin to develop a product.

Unfortunately, what gets lost in the back-and-forths with the factory are the fine details that are essential to make the product shine in an ever-demanding consumer market. As you view sample after sample from your offshore agent, you realize things aren’t as perfect as you’d like them to be.

Rewind the tape. Enter Brian Anthony of Portland-based Anthm Collective[1].

“Basically we wanted gear to ride in that represented the values we believe in,” he shared with us recently. “So we went out and made it.”

“If something comes up, it’s a short bike ride to see what’s going on in person as opposed to 20 hours on a plane.”
— Brian Anthony of Anthm Collective on making his jerseys in Portland.

Anthony channels his knowledge of materials and product development into a cycling jersey (and brand) that is made in Portland, where he controls the details. Anthm uses local sewing contractors which allows him to have what he says is, “Complete visibility of how our garments are being made.”

“The other great thing about using local sewing contractors is that if something comes up, it’s a short bike ride to see what’s going on in person as opposed to 20 hours on a plane,” Anthony added.

This care in development is where craft meets manufacture and it takes the best of both worlds to produce great stuff.

Along with craft, material and manufacturing excellence, Anthony has a different business strategy. For many years bike shops have struggled with apparel sales; shoppers don’t buy in-store because they see the same products with more selection and discounts online. To them, apparel became a commodity. Anthony sells directly to bike shops with a unique feel and exclusivity (via a custom-embroidered shop logo) so buyers know that they are getting something special and won’t be tempted to “Google it”.

On display at River City Bicycles.

Now, let’s get to the nuts and bolts.

The Saltzman Jersey

The minimal styling and high couture vibe of this jersey immediately reminds you of a large brand founded in the UK that starts with an R. It’s difficult not to like this high-end aesthetic.

The Jersey is 60 percent polyester and 40 percent merino wool from New Zealand. That combo gives you the characteristics of wool (great heat management, moisture transfer and odor resistance), and polyester (structure to maintain shape and fit). The material is constructed so that the wool is close to the skin for comfort and polyester on the outer surface. This is different than most manufacturers and provides the benefit of less snagging and a better moisture transfer system.

The jersey I have is black and size medium. I’m 6-foot 3 with a 37-inch chest and narrow shoulders. The jersey fits me nice in length and doesn’t feel pinchy at the shoulders or neckline. The material has a nice hand feel and feels like a quality garment, not inexpensive cycling fodder. It is notably thinner than Rapha’s sport wool, which means it’s more suitable for more months in a milder climate and can be used in warmer weather where I would usually switch to a polyester jersey.

As an endurance rider, it’s important to me that garments are comfortable, fit well and have usable features as I am often on the bike for four to seven hours at a time.

Cases in point: The Saltzman has a silicon gripper strip on the rear hem and three open pockets in the back. The central pocket is deeper and the two outside ones are slightly tapered outward for easy access (a feature on some older Castelli jerseys that I really like). The jersey also has a small secure zippered pocket that is perfect for a credit card and a $20 bill. At first blush the pockets are located at a great height on the jersey (everyone hates pockets that are too high), but the test will be when I load them up with food and supplies. The neck line runs high and a flap over the zipper at the top stops it from snagging into your skin. The rest of the front is plain with a nicely embroidered logo in the same colour as the jersey — a subtle aesthetic for that high couture look found by the skinny guys in the black and white photoshoots.

On the road

This is Jonathan with the orange version of the jersey on its namesake road in Forest Park.
(Photo: J. Maus)

With around 600 miles on this jersey I can now say I have thoroughly used it. From short to long rides and at various temperatures this jersey seems to resonate as a solid 0-70 mile jersey. It breathes well and stays a tad warmer than a polyester single layer jersey. On chillier days I could wear the jersey in the mid 50s (with a base layer) all the way up to low 70s.

This jersey stands out in two areas. First, it looks smart. It’s pretty subdued and classy looking, not adorned with tons of logos or colour breaks like most other cycling apparel. When worn with fitted shorts (not skin-tight spandex) the outfit has a refined, high-end urban look look.

The second bonus area is that you can wear it multiple times without it smelling – the benefit of wool and a well-designed mositure transfer between the layers. On its longest stretch I managed to wear it for 4 days, each day riding about 35 miles.

On the flip-side, there were a couple of downers. Personally, I like doing longer rides of 80 to 110 miles and found that for longer rides, the pockets weren’t quite designed well enough for the gear and food I had to carry. With a bit of weight in them the side pockets tend to sag off the sides and they are not quite deep enough.

The second area that was a little concerning is pilling (when tiny balls form on top of the fabric). In a short amount of time I found that the material on the front of the jersey pilled up a little, maybe because this was a prototype? Indeed. Anthony assured me this issue has been resolved on production versions.

And there are a couple of fit changes I would suggest to the folks at Anthm; one being the tail of the jersey be made shorter and possibly run the pockets 15 mm longer.

Summary

At $120 this jersey offers high value and craftsmanship, great construction and quality materials. And the fact that it’s made in Portland is a win for all of us.

See the Saltzman jersey in person at River City Bicycles in Portland or University Bicycles in Boulder, and learn more at AnthmCollective.com[2].

— James Buckroyd, BuckyRides.com[3] and @jbucky1[4] on Instagram.

Front Page, Products
[5][6][7]

References

  1. ^ Anthm Collective (www.anthmcollective.com)
  2. ^ AnthmCollective.com (www.anthmcollective.com)
  3. ^ BuckyRides.com (www.buckyrides.com)
  4. ^ @jbucky1 (www.instagram.com)
  5. ^ Front Page (bikeportland.org)
  6. ^ Products (bikeportland.org)
  7. ^ (bikeportland.org)
0

Product review: The Saltzman jersey from Anthm Collective …

The Saltzman jersey from Portland-based Anthm Collective.
(Photos: James Buckroyd)

By our newest contributor, James Buckroyd.

In the world of product development, this is how it usually goes: You have a great idea, you make contact with an agent in Hong Kong or Mainland China and you start in a series of negotiations. After many long e-mail chains and late-night phone calls you begin to develop a product.

Unfortunately, what gets lost in the back-and-forths with the factory are the fine details that are essential to make the product shine in an ever-demanding consumer market. As you view sample after sample from your offshore agent, you realize things aren’t as perfect as you’d like them to be.

Rewind the tape. Enter Brian Anthony of Portland-based Anthm Collective[1].

“Basically we wanted gear to ride in that represented the values we believe in,” he shared with us recently. “So we went out and made it.”

“If something comes up, it’s a short bike ride to see what’s going on in person as opposed to 20 hours on a plane.”
— Brian Anthony of Anthm Collective on making his jerseys in Portland.

Anthony channels his knowledge of materials and product development into a cycling jersey (and brand) that is made in Portland, where he controls the details. Anthm uses local sewing contractors which allows him to have what he says is, “Complete visibility of how our garments are being made.”

“The other great thing about using local sewing contractors is that if something comes up, it’s a short bike ride to see what’s going on in person as opposed to 20 hours on a plane,” Anthony added.

This care in development is where craft meets manufacture and it takes the best of both worlds to produce great stuff.

Along with craft, material and manufacturing excellence, Anthony has a different business strategy. For many years bike shops have struggled with apparel sales; shoppers don’t buy in-store because they see the same products with more selection and discounts online. To them, apparel became a commodity. Anthony sells directly to bike shops with a unique feel and exclusivity (via a custom-embroidered shop logo) so buyers know that they are getting something special and won’t be tempted to “Google it”.

On display at River City Bicycles.

Now, let’s get to the nuts and bolts.

The Saltzman Jersey

The minimal styling and high couture vibe of this jersey immediately reminds you of a large brand founded in the UK that starts with an R. It’s difficult not to like this high-end aesthetic.

The Jersey is 60 percent polyester and 40 percent merino wool from New Zealand. That combo gives you the characteristics of wool (great heat management, moisture transfer and odor resistance), and polyester (structure to maintain shape and fit). The material is constructed so that the wool is close to the skin for comfort and polyester on the outer surface. This is different than most manufacturers and provides the benefit of less snagging and a better moisture transfer system.

The jersey I have is black and size medium. I’m 6-foot 3 with a 37-inch chest and narrow shoulders. The jersey fits me nice in length and doesn’t feel pinchy at the shoulders or neckline. The material has a nice hand feel and feels like a quality garment, not inexpensive cycling fodder. It is notably thinner than Rapha’s sport wool, which means it’s more suitable for more months in a milder climate and can be used in warmer weather where I would usually switch to a polyester jersey.

As an endurance rider, it’s important to me that garments are comfortable, fit well and have usable features as I am often on the bike for four to seven hours at a time.

Cases in point: The Saltzman has a silicon gripper strip on the rear hem and three open pockets in the back. The central pocket is deeper and the two outside ones are slightly tapered outward for easy access (a feature on some older Castelli jerseys that I really like). The jersey also has a small secure zippered pocket that is perfect for a credit card and a $20 bill. At first blush the pockets are located at a great height on the jersey (everyone hates pockets that are too high), but the test will be when I load them up with food and supplies. The neck line runs high and a flap over the zipper at the top stops it from snagging into your skin. The rest of the front is plain with a nicely embroidered logo in the same colour as the jersey — a subtle aesthetic for that high couture look found by the skinny guys in the black and white photoshoots.

On the road

This is Jonathan with the orange version of the jersey on its namesake road in Forest Park.
(Photo: J. Maus)

With around 600 miles on this jersey I can now say I have thoroughly used it. From short to long rides and at various temperatures this jersey seems to resonate as a solid 0-70 mile jersey. It breathes well and stays a tad warmer than a polyester single layer jersey. On chillier days I could wear the jersey in the mid 50s (with a base layer) all the way up to low 70s.

This jersey stands out in two areas. First, it looks smart. It’s pretty subdued and classy looking, not adorned with tons of logos or colour breaks like most other cycling apparel. When worn with fitted shorts (not skin-tight spandex) the outfit has a refined, high-end urban look look.

The second bonus area is that you can wear it multiple times without it smelling – the benefit of wool and a well-designed mositure transfer between the layers. On its longest stretch I managed to wear it for 4 days, each day riding about 35 miles.

On the flip-side, there were a couple of downers. Personally, I like doing longer rides of 80 to 110 miles and found that for longer rides, the pockets weren’t quite designed well enough for the gear and food I had to carry. With a bit of weight in them the side pockets tend to sag off the sides and they are not quite deep enough.

The second area that was a little concerning is pilling (when tiny balls form on top of the fabric). In a short amount of time I found that the material on the front of the jersey pilled up a little, maybe because this was a prototype? Indeed. Anthony assured me this issue has been resolved on production versions.

And there are a couple of fit changes I would suggest to the folks at Anthm; one being the tail of the jersey be made shorter and possibly run the pockets 15 mm longer.

Summary

At $120 this jersey offers high value and craftsmanship, great construction and quality materials. And the fact that it’s made in Portland is a win for all of us.

See the Saltzman jersey in person at River City Bicycles in Portland or University Bicycles in Boulder, and learn more at AnthmCollective.com[2].

— James Buckroyd, BuckyRides.com[3] and @jbucky1[4] on Instagram.

Front Page, Products
[5][6][7]

References

  1. ^ Anthm Collective (www.anthmcollective.com)
  2. ^ AnthmCollective.com (www.anthmcollective.com)
  3. ^ BuckyRides.com (www.buckyrides.com)
  4. ^ @jbucky1 (www.instagram.com)
  5. ^ Front Page (bikeportland.org)
  6. ^ Products (bikeportland.org)
  7. ^ (bikeportland.org)
0

Nokia sued Apple, so Apple pulled all Nokia-owned Withings products

The holidays haven’t started so well for Apple.

Just a few days after Nokia announced a series of lawsuits against the iEmpire, Apple pulling all Withings products[1] from its digital shelves. What does Withings have to do with any of this, you ask? Well, back in April, Nokia acquired Withings[2] for a cool $191 million, pushing Nokia into the connected device and wearables market. And now, Apple wants nothing to do with either company.

While the Cupertino, California-based company didn’t give a reason for its sudden decision to give the boot to all Withings products, it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that it was related to the recent legal troubles (lawsuits have been filed in both Texas and Germany[3], with more coming, Nokia insists). Plus, if history is any indication, this is actually a favorite method of Apple’s when it comes to dealing with courtroom disputes. A couple years ago, Apple also removed all Bose products after the company sued Apple-owned Beats in connection with noise-cancelling patents.

MoreClear your schedule — ‘Pokémon Go’ has come to the Apple Watch[4]

But don’t worry, Withings lovers. In the event that Apple wins this lawsuit, you can expect to see these products returned to online stores. At least, Bose earned their place back on Apple’s stocklist once the Beats debacle was over. And it certainly looks as though Apple has the advantage, at least if the stock market is any guide. Nokia’s stock haven’t been doing all that well since the lawsuit was announced. Company shares dropped by nearly 5 percent following reports of the legal action.

For now, however, you won’t be able to find Withings products anywhere in Apple stores, and that includes the Body Cardio Scale, the Smart Body Analyzer, and the Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor. If you search for these or similar Withings products, you’ll find that they’re no longer listed as available on Apple’s online store.

References

  1. ^ pulling all Withings products (www.techtimes.com)
  2. ^ Nokia acquired Withings (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ Texas and Germany (www.digitaltrends.com)
  4. ^ Clear your schedule — ‘Pokémon Go’ has come to the Apple Watch (www.digitaltrends.com)
Warehouse Discounts 0

Product review: The Knog Oi bike bell

Black Knog Oi bell looks good next to a GoPro mount

Black Knog Oi bell looks good next to a GoPro mount.
(Photos and video by Ted Timmons)

I’ve been unhappy with bike bells in the past. I’ve found that standard ones take up too much room[1] (for me) or rattle, and some don’t work well[2]. So I’ve placed and replaced bells over the past few years, currently none of my bikes have a bell mounted.

Until now.

Knog, the Australian company that makes lots of little flexible-mount lights[3], went to Kickstarter to launch a new bike bell. I really like the shape, as it doesn’t take up much space on my bars and blends in nicely. Plus I’m a sucker for Kickstarter projects, so I backed it for a limited-edition model (under $24 including shipping).

They raised over $1 million (AUD, or about $750k USD) for the project, shipping the bells about eight months after the project. Granted, the shipping was almost three months late, but by crowdfunding standards that isn’t bad.

The bell came in a nice retail-friendly box. I carried it around for a week or so until I had time to mount it and get pictures. As you can see in the pictures, the mount is flexible enough to fit around bars. It uses a single screw- with a 2.5mm hex head. I wish it was 3mm, because I keep four different hex drivers within reach on the bike, but that isn’t one of the four. (perhaps I’ll talk about the hex drivers in a future post)

The semi-circle of the bell is mounted so it can move around- necessary to get a good ringing noise. The clapper is easy to flick, making the bell easy to use. Unfortunately the sound is on the soft side- it’s sufficient but no more. (keep in mind it’s louder than is in the video- I’m limited in camera gear and editing while on the road)

[embedded content]

Verdict? For $25, it’s a stylish bell that I’ll add to all my bikes. I talked to Gladys Bikes[4], who said they are carrying the bell- I don’t know if they are in stock yet, but they certainly should be soon.

Programming note: I won’t be putting up a weekly video roundup[5], as instead I’m cycling in Southern Utah. That’s where I’m filing this review.

– Ted Timmons, @tedder42[6]

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber[7] or make a donation today[8].

Front Page, Products
, [9][10][11][12]

References

  1. ^ take up too much room (www.publicbikes.com)
  2. ^ some don’t work well (triggerbell.com)
  3. ^ makes lots of little flexible-mount lights (usd.knog.com.au)
  4. ^ Gladys Bikes (www.facebook.com)
  5. ^ weekly video roundup (bikeportland.org)
  6. ^ @tedder42 (twitter.com)
  7. ^ Please become a subscriber (www.bikeportland.org)
  8. ^ make a donation today (www.bikeportland.org)
  9. ^ Front Page (bikeportland.org)
  10. ^ Products (bikeportland.org)
  11. ^ (bikeportland.org)
  12. ^ (bikeportland.org)