The Chrome Mini Metro was not competitive in this review, but it had a lot of qualities that we appreciated. It is a very classic messenger bag: durable and comfortable while providing easy access to the contents. In an increasingly competitive field of products, however, and with more and more expectations laid upon these types of bags, the Mini Metro didn't quite keep up. It lacked some organizational features that improved the competitive edge of this review's award winners.
Chrome Mini Metro Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Durable, better for smaller users, comfortable
Cons: Heavy for size, no top grab handle, less versatile
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Our Analysis and Test Results
When loaded thoughtfully, the Mini Metro was one of the most comfortable bags in this review. It has a wide and well-padded shoulder strap, and the bag hugs close to the body for an ergonomic feel. It is exceedingly easy to adjust, and the cross strap is very well positioned to secure the bag on a long bike ride or brisk walk. This bag truly moves with you, wherever and however you go.
This bag scored high in the comfort metric because it was a solidly comfortable bag most of the time. There are a couple of scenarios, however, where some users might find this bag to be less comfortable. The fit gets uncomfortable when loading this bag with books. Well before it is stuffed full, it starts to feel tight around the left shoulder and back. This is not too surprising because there is no padding in the back of the bag where it rests on your back.
Some smaller users find it to be a bit big or bulky, which appears to be a common theme among Chrome bags — they're a bit on the big and bulky side. This has to do with the durable double-engineering of the bags, which pops back up below, under "Wear and Tear," as a definite "pro." Unlike some unwieldy messenger bags we have tested in the past, the Mini Metro didn't create a blind spot when looking over our shoulders while biking.
The stylish and iconic seatbelt buckle often clocked us in the head when trying to toss the shoulder strap over our heads. Also, the strap design makes it so you can't sling the bag over one shoulder like a shoulder bag because that puts the buckle directly on your shoulder and then seat belt strap material folds over and cuts into the shoulder. If you intend to carry this bag across the body, as a proper messenger bag should be carried, and if you intend to mount and dismount the bag with the stylish buckle, then these issues likely won't affect you.
Since this is a very bike-savvy messenger bag, we appreciated the reflective trim throughout the bag. The fit of this bag made us feel svelte and nimble navigating through traffic crowds, and the trim gave us that extra boost of confidence in the road safety department.
The Mini Metro has an impressive packing economy that allowed us to fit proportionally more in less space (see Volume/Weight Ratio below). But in the broader review, this Chrome bag didn't get high marks. There is no added protection for laptops/electronics, no key clip or easy-access external pocket, not a lot of organization features, especially compared to the most closely related design of the Timbuk2 Classic. This is a true messenger bag, simple and pure, no frills, not a lot of pockets, and certainly nothing on the outside to get hung up on in stop-and-go traffic or busy subways.
The Mini Metro also lets you spread the contents over more of the bag's real estate, rather than concentrating all your items in the center and making it bulge out in the middle like the Chrome Buran we tested in past reviews.
There is a sewn daisy chain on the shoulder strap (complete with reflective trim) for mounting bike lights or clipping carabiners. This worked well for clipping keys on a keychain carabiner.
If you're going to be transporting a laptop in this bag, be sure to purchase the laptop sleeve accessory. As is, this bag performed poorly in the review for electronics storage. There is no padding, only 2-3 pockets that will hold tablet cords, and only one that will hold a computer charging cord.
If you purchase the extra laptop sleeve, there are internal Velcro fasteners for securing the accessory and your laptop, and will thus accommodate laptops sized up to a 15" MacBook Pro.
Ease of Use
The sleek and simple design, along with the modest size, make this bag relatively easy to use. This comes at a small cost in some of the other metric categories, but we liked the simplicity of its streamlining effect.
The flap's buckles are easy to access on the outside of the flap. Under the flap, there are large swathes of Velcro which help secure the contents but make opening the bag very loud, and not very professional for meetings nor polite for work in the library.
The belt buckle is easy to adjust (though the cross strap is much more awkward to adjust), and the bag cinches to comfort easily and quickly. That seat belt buckle releases fast when you hit the button, so if the bag is heavy, it can be hard to hang on to when you're ready to dismount, and it also can be hard to mount and clip it together when heavy.
One of our biggest frustrations was the lack of a top grab handle. We frequently pinched, wrangled, and grabbed the bag awkwardly with two hands to shuffle it out of the way on our desk, move it to the floor, etc. It is also awkwardly balanced and uncomfortable (see Comfort section above) when you throw the shoulder strap over one shoulder for a short trip down the hallway or to your car. This is a bag optimized for long bike commutes or long walks through busy urban areas, not for the stop-and-go of in-town errands or a busy office day.
Chrome's signature "double engineering" (see Wear and Tear below) means that they essentially layer two bags into one, which in the case of the Mini Metro was a bit confusing. That "second" internal bag was easy to confuse with another compartment or organizational sleeve.
Wear and Tear
The "big and bulky" aspect of Chrome bags we mentioned as a "con" for comfort for smaller users comes back as "pro" for wear and tear. Chrome says on their website: "To maximize durability and weatherproofness, every Mini Metro is made twice. The inside liner is made with 18oz truck tarpaulin. The outside is made with abrasion-resistant 1050 denier military-grade nylon."
We won't argue with the durability and weatherproofing of the Chrome bags. They are rugged, durable, and built to last a lifetime. The Mini Metro performed very well in the rain, with very effective overlapping flaps on the corners that seal the bag shut. The fabric is rugged and water repellant. And of course, there is the commercial-grade, five-bar seatbelt webbing, and old school, heavy metal seat belt buckle.
Chrome bags are stylish, urban messenger bags. Put one on, and it almost feels like it's a part of you, the way it hugs your back. It is expandable enough for a simple commute (not quite big enough for your after work gym getup).
The main reasons to buy a Chrome bag is if you like the way it looks, it fits you well, and you do a lot of bike commuting. This is not a bag for the business person, or the over-packer, or the light-and-faster. But it sure is fun with the iconic quick-release buckle and the integrated bottle opener.
The Mini Metro is on par with messenger bags of this size. At $120, it is competitively priced but doesn't perform as some of its price-tag peers. Its value increases with use as a bike commuter bag.
Chrome and Timbuk2 share a lot of attributes as this review's most traditional and iconic messenger bags. Chrome has a distinct and fun style that is reinforced by the way they hug your body; these bags almost become a part of you. If this looks like a bag you'll like, it will undoubtedly last a lifetime if you take care of it. These are some of the most rugged and durable messenger bags out there with a double-engineering method that essentially layers two bags into one. This is not your fast-and-light, Jack- or Jill-of-all-Trades, but if it suits your needs, it will surely please you for years or miles to come.
— Lyra Pierotti