Chrome Industries Urban Ex Pannier 2.0 review

Stylish, robust pannier for modest loads, with a not-so-modest price tag

Main photo
(Image credit: Emma Silversides)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

The Chrome Industries Urban Ex Pannier 2.0 is a classy looking bit of baggage, perfect for city and town commuters. It's seriously well made and shouldn't worry its lifetime warranty. Internally padded pockets and 100% waterproofing offer superior protection for contents, though you may feel a bit short changed where capacity is concerned. Off the bike, functionality is excellent, which may go some way to justifying the very hefty price tag.

For
  • +

    Robust

  • +

    Stylish

  • +

    100% Waterproof

  • +

    Lifetime warranty

Against
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    Pricey

  • -

    Limited capacity

Chrome has a reputation for functional, durable, stylish kit. Much of it is designed with urban riding in mind. While the Urban Ex 2.0 certainly ticks all these boxes, it falls a little short in terms of capacity. Having had my hands on it for over a month, I’d say it’s a buy-once, buy to last piece of kit.  

Chrome Industries Urban Ex Pannier 2.0: construction

Chrome has used a proprietary welding technology (combing RF welding with a mechanical interlock) to create the 100% waterproof, roll-top Urban Ex Pannier 2.0. The lower portion features a rubbery material. Its surface seems more resistant to water and mud splatters than the rest of the pannier.

Wide, robust daisy chain loops have been added for attaching D-locks to, or other bits of compatible kit. The loops are reflective. There’s no further reflective detailing on the sides of the pannier, arguably a negative for urban riding.

A three-point Klick-Fix set-up attaches the pannier to any 6-12mm diameter rack- there are adapters for the smaller diameters. I’ve had no problems getting it on a range of racks. Adjusting’s not a tool-free job; you’ll need a Phillips screwdriver if you want to move the hooks to any of the four positions. The horizontal lower arm slides off the rail to switch direction- again a Phillips screwdriver is needed to tighten it off once you’ve got it in the right place.

Inside there are several padded sleeves. The largest will take a 13in laptop, (two) smaller ones are ideal for valuables, there are even two for pens/pencils, plus a key-ring loop.

Interior

(Image credit: Emma Silversides)

Carrying options are plentiful and practical: a single handle to use when the pannier is closed, an adjustable shoulder strap that can be attached below the buckles and two carry handles for when the bag is open. The latter sit inside the pannier when it’s rolled closed, so stay dry in the case of rain. Fabric best described as seatbelt material is used throughout, doubled over for smaller carry handles. It’s supple, robust and resistant to wear.

Chrome Industries Urban Ex Pannier 2.0: the ride

The Urban Ex 2.0 has been out with me in a variety of conditions. Without doubt, it’s 100% waterproof. Contents are very well protected from the elements.

Internal padding is excellent for tablets and smaller laptops. For me, a wider sleeve would be preferable - even just stretching to 14in devices would be a big improvement. The smaller sleeves and pen pockets make for an organised desk inside the pannier. It’s easy to see how the Urban Ex 2.0 will appeal to office-based workers and professionals.

Chrome suggests a 12l-17l capacity. You’ll only be getting 17l in if the kit’s malleable- so clothing, or if items are very small. It’s certainly not a pannier for bulky groceries; it’s narrow profile rules out getting more than four or five bigger items in it. Even a helmet stretches it.

Getting it on and off the bike is easy. The rail hooks are 'manual'- it’s not a lift and release arrangement. The variety of carry options is refreshing and convenient. A strong pair of magnets are positioned (inside seams) at the opening of the bag, it ‘clicks’ closed when you are using the two internally placed carry handles.

Access while the pannier is mounted is quick and simple. Off the bike, I rarely closed the roll-top; the magnet closure serves a purpose here and you have two very comfy options for carrying, simultaneously increasing capacity (by not rolling it down). In my opinion, the innovative magnet (superior to a Velcro closure) and multiple carry options make this a great off-the-bike bag too, more so than most other panniers.

Value

Robust, 100% waterproof panniers don’t come cheap. Comparable options include Brooks’ Suffolk Rear Pannier (opens in new tab) with an RRP of £105/$150, Arkel’s £127.50/$209.99 Commuter Urban Pannier (opens in new tab) and Ortlieb’s £85/$140 Roller Back Urban Line (opens in new tab).

With an RRP of £158/$170, Chrome’s is exceptionally expensive. Looking at warranties may help justify it- Chrome’s has a lifetime one. Brooks offers a two-year warranty, Arkel a lifetime and Ortlieb a five-year (plus one year on any repairs carried out).

Conclusion

The Chrome Industries Urban Ex 2.0 Pannier's rugged styling, practical carrying options and lifetime warranty all support of the hefty expenditure, even if they don’t fully justify it. It’ll be a case of deciding whether or not the modest capacity is sufficient for your needs. 

Specifications

  • Size: 18" rolled - 23" unrolled H | 12" W | 6" D 
  • Volume: 17 - 21L 
  • Weight: 1.9 lbs | .89 kg 
  • Bag Material: 600D Polyester with PU coating on surface and TPU backing, 70D Polyester lining 
  • Laptop Size: up to 13" 
  • Laptop Compartment: Top opening | Padded | 12" H | 11" L | Flat W | Headspace: 3" when rolled
  • Contact: https://www.chromeindustries.com/ (opens in new tab)

FAQs

Can panniers be fitted to any bike?

Panniers can be fitted to most bikes – although it is a much better experience to fit panniers to bikes that are designed for it. Many bikes come with mounting points for a rear rack and, with this sturdy foundation, can allow you to carry loads as heavy as 25kg.


There are options for racks which attach to the seatstays and seatpost for bikes that don’t have rack mounting points, but these typically limit you to lighter loads. 


Are panniers worth it?

For conveniently carrying bulky loads, panniers are absolutely worth it. Whether that’s for commuting or for longer distance cycle-tours. 


If you don’t have so much to carry and want to ride faster and more efficiently, bikepacking bags are much better solution. Attaching directly to the bike, they are a much lighter system and, being more in-line with the rider, they are a lot more aerodynamically efficient. 


Although the marginal gains of an aero helmet don’t make much of a difference at slower speeds, the huge sail-like profile of pannier bags very much aren’t a marginal factor. Adding 5 minutes to a short commute isn’t a big penalty, but it really does add up over long distances.


Is it hard to cycle with panniers?

It’s not hard to cycle with panniers, but the experience is different to cycling with an unladen bike. The extra weight on the back can make the steering feel a little light, so you may find yourself needing to adjust your weight distribution in the corners. If you have a handlebar bag, you might be more comfortable packing some heavier items in there to balance things out a bit.

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