Chrome's Welterweight Citizen is a capacious courier bag that's comfortable to carry and very well made, while being a bit lighter and therefore easier to live with than typical high-end courier bags. It's a pro-quality bag with a lot of well-thought-out details but by the time it's crossed the Atlantic, it's wallet-clenchingly expensive.
Chuck a bunch of stuff in the Chrome Welterweight Citizen, sling it over your shoulder and cinch up the straps and it feels just right. Its wide, padded shoulder strap sits smack-dab in the dip of your shoulder, so it's both stable and comfortable, and its quick-release/quick-loosen buckle makes it easy to get it off or swing it round to get at the contents.
It fends off the wet too, because it's made in two layers. There's the visible nylon outer shell and inside that there's a layer of tarpaulin. They're only stitched together at the edges so there's no path for water to get inside. This isn't unique to Chrome, it's a standard way of building a high-end courier bag, well executed here. The tarp liner extends into the flap too, and the front panel extends up the sides of the flap for extra protection against the weather.
The Welterweight Citizen is held shut by large Velcro panels and two straps with snaplock buckles. This is super-convenient and, again, fairly standard, though it's a design some bag makers inexplicably forgo.
Chrome has provided plenty of reflective material on the Welterweight Citizen, including a large slab on the flap, and reflective webbing for the buckle straps and the under-arm stabilising strap. It's plenty visible in car headlights, though of course the driver has to be actually looking where they're going, and that's too often not the case.
The single, large main compartment is accompanied by two flat outer pockets – one with a zip closure – and three small pockets for pens, wallet, phone and so on. There are also two larger pockets the right size and shape for bottles: cycling water bottles, wine bottles, even a litre whisky bottle will fit. We don't suggest the latter as on-bike refreshment.
When you need to unload it, the Welterweight Citizen is easy to take off, thanks to its seatbelt-style buckle. Chrome says it was the first courier bag maker to incorporate a seatbelt buckle into its main strap, and it's now a widely used idea that saves you the hassle of lifting a heavy bag over your head to put it on or take it off.
The Welterweight Citizen is very easy to live with, then, and its beefy construction suggests it'll carry on that way for years to come. The stitching is tidy, and there are dense rows of tack-stitching at load points like strap connections. It's become my go-to bag for nipping into town even though I'm usually an avowed pannierite.
You can hear that there's a 'but' coming, can't you?
The big issue here is the price. It feels like reviews on road.cc complain about price a bit too often, especially when we're dealing with the kind of high-end gear where you can surely make your own mind up about value for money. But it can't be avoided here.
In the US, the Welterweight Citizen costs USD140, which is about £110, and if you lived in the US you could get it delivered for free. That makes the £160 UK price look a bit steep, even when you take into account 20 per cent VAT. Comparable bags like the Timbuk2 Classic, will cost you about £100, while long-standing courier favourite the Bagaboo Standard M is about £120.
To drop this much on a courier bag you either have to be using it professionally or to really, really like courier bags. For a casual user or a short-distance commuter, the price means it's probably overkill, excellent though it is.
This is an excellent, easy-to-use bag that's beefy enough you could use it for genuine, paid courier work. But by the time it's crossed the Atlantic, it ends up prohibitively expensive.
Comfortable, top-quality courier bag with lots of thoughtful detail, but way too pricey
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Chrome Welterweight Citizen Messenger Bag
Size tested: 26L
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"Taking a cue from the toughest weight class in boxing we built the Welterweight Citizen with lighter materials for a leaner, meaner version of our classic messenger bag. Engineered to withstand both the elements and the daily rigors of the urban environment, the Welterweight Citizen is a streamlined version of our original seat belt buckle messenger."
That's about right. It's a bit lighter and less bulky than your typical freaking huge pro messenger bag, while still being big enough to be very useful round town and to allow you to think you're an urban street warrior instead of someone who's off to the shops.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Chrome lists these features:
FIT: The classic messenger style cross-chest strap for a stable, comfortable fit on or off your bike
Learn More: Welterweight - Ready to Rumble
Reflective straps for night visibility
Daisy-chain mounting loops for attaching carabineer or bike lights
Industrial-strength hook and loop accessory mounting shoulder strap
Accommodates up to a 17" MacBook Pro
Iconic quick-release aluminum buckle with integrated bottle opener
Lightweight 500x200d nylon
Weatherproof 300d tarpaulin lining
Commercial-grade, five-bar seatbelt webbing and nylon 69 thread
Low key but extra reflective TPU tarpaulin accent panel
DIMENSIONS AND WHAT IT FITS Width
The stitching is all dense and tidy. It's clearly built to last. The materials might be a bit lighter than the usual heavyweight fabrics, but they're a long way from flimsy.
It's comfortable and stable, and the seatbelt style buckle makes it very easy to take off when you reach your destination and just want to dump it.
It's early days, but after a few weeks' use there are no signs of wear.
Compared to similar-sized lightweight backpacks, and even some shoulder bags, it's still on the weighty side at almost a kilogram. But it's the old adage in play: Light. Cheap. Durable. Pick any two.
With a big slab of padding for your shoulder, the main load is comfortable. You do have to be a bit careful how you pack it, as anything pointy in the main compartment pokes into your back.
I think the US price is justified for the quality of construction, design and general attention to detail, but by the time it gets to the UK, it ends up rather expensive.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Extremely well. It's spacious, comfortable to carry and very convenient.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Attention to detail and ease of use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Prices for courier bags vary wildly. The cheapest we've reviewed in the last few years was the now-unavailable Howies Marloes at £45, while the other end of the range is occupied by the Trakke Wee Lug Mk2 for a whopping £220. This bag sits toward the top of the price range, then, but the detailing is better than the Trakke bag, and construction quality and feel is much better than the Howies.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, if it weren't so expensive.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a terrific courier bag, and if the price in the UK was on parity with the USA, it would be almost perfect. But the hefty price tag pulls the score down.
About the tester
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.