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The Chrome BLCKCHRM 22X Yalta 3.0 is a well-made, capacious, weatherproof and comfortable roll-top backpack with the extra practicality of an almost-full-length side zip to really enhance access. Add in some other unique features and you've got a bag that's just as good for the weekend shop as the daily commute.
I've never been totally sold on roll-top rucksacks because the ability to chuck everything in rather compromises the necessity to keep order of busy lives. But, coming from the same company that created the eccentric Kojak Convertible waterproof coat, it's no surprise to find the BLCKCHRM 22X Yalta 3.0 is jam-packed with details, some of which address this particular issue.
So let's go through its features. Roll top for easy access and secure waterproofing? Check. Sturdy nylon sailcloth construction? Check. Multiple external and side pockets including specific options for phone and water bottle? Check. Internal 15in laptop pocket? Check. Chest strap? Check. Zipped side access for courier bag convenience? Er, check. Detachable waterproof inner tote bag? What?
Those last two concepts are a little unusual. I've only ever used roll-top bags in pannier form, where essentially they act as a sack with little much in the way of enhanced functionality. But the Yalta 3.0 is a 26-litre roll-top backpack with an almost full-length side access zip alongside the padded back panel. So, open the zip and you have access to the bag's side-mounted inners – including its laptop sleeve, three zipped pockets and one mesh pocket – just like a courier bag.
On first opening of said zip, though, things can be a bit confusing because there's a profusion of Chrome-branded material in the way. Which leads us to the second quirk: a removable tote bag that can be Velcro-ed in place around the inner of the roll-top rucksack. Once you know what it is, it's quite clever and provides added usage, although in day-to-day use you may want to remove it for commuting and then refit it for shopping or transporting sweaty clothes.
In terms of practicalities, there are a couple more factors to consider. The Yalta 3.0 passes the first, weatherproofing, with flying colours as the nylon sailcloth material, waterproof zips and super-sturdy construction prevent any moisture getting through. But in the case of the second, reflectivity, it could do better. There are a few flashes of reflective highlights here and there, on the roll-top-closure-retaining strap and shoulder straps, but – as its name suggests – it's 'BLCK' everywhere else.
When it comes to on-the-bike performance, the Chrome Crossvent rear padding is good and provides decent airflow – even after a tough hour in the saddle, my back wasn't much more sodden than normal.
In fact, my main complaint is the sheer size and specifically the length of the pack. With the design as it is, I find the roll-top pushes against the back of my helmet, especially when trying to sit a bit more upright for looking ahead on urban commutes. It's not so bad if you ride a drop bar bike but you'll want to position it correctly for flat bars.
Comfort generally is good, though, with wide mesh and padded straps holding the Yalta 3.0 securely in place. Stability is excellent, too. As with most cycling-specific rucksacks, the Yalta 3.0 features only a chest strap rather than a hip belt. However, I think there's an argument that, being such a sturdy bit of kit with substantial carrying potential, it in particular would benefit from one. After all, Chrome seems to have included every other feature on its spec sheet.
"A hundred and sixty quid? Blimey, that's a lot for a rucksack," said my 12-year-old son when he saw me testing the BLCKCHRM 22X Yalta 3.0, and he's not wrong. But that price is not unheard of. The semi-hardshell Jack Wolfskin Neuron I tested recently costs £140 and offers much of the same functionality as the Chrome, albeit in a more traditional form and with a funky built-in lighting system. Meanwhile, the Trakke Wee Lug is very similar to the Chrome in terms of feel and build, but costs a whopping £220.
So I'd say the Yalta 3.0 is quite a nice middle way between something with mass-produced levels of practicality, weatherproofing and design, but also just a hint of boutique-style construction and eccentricity. Add the chuck-it-all-in simplicity of a roll-top pannier to the easy accessibility of a courier bag, and you've really got the best of both worlds.
Fantastic on-the-bike pack that is built to last and ultra-functional – in fact, you might never need another bag
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Chrome Blckchrm 22X Yalta 3.0 backpack
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?
This is a super-sturdy roll-top rucksack with a huge range of practical considerations designed probably mostly with commuters in mind.
Chrome says: "Born from necessity, BLCKCHRM explores innovative materials and new methods of craftsmanship to blow past the limits of carrying and moving in the city. Inspired by technical sailcloth material and the 22-degree bias that gives it strength to resist tearing. The BLCKCHRM 22X Yalta 3.0 is forged from the toughest and lightest material we've ever made."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Weatherproof rolltop with 22X nylon
Cordura TPX Durable Laminate Technology
Removable taped waterproof tote liner
Quick access phone pocket with waterproof zip
Padded laptop sleeve fits 15in Macbook Pro
Size: 20in x 11.5in x 7in
One of the best-made products I've tested for a long time.
Comfortable on the bike and excellent functionality.
This is built to last forever – owners of previous versions of the Yalta have happily used them for years and years.
Although the material used is a lightweight version of its type, this isn't a particularly light rucksack.
I was impressed with the rear padding – the length of the rucksack is my only complaint.
It's decent value because it's also almost-boutique quality and performs so well. But it's not cheap.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I've been really impressed with the Yalta. Its side-opening function makes it a great commuting option when you need a bit of organisation, while in roll-top form it's great for almost anything else.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The side-opening zip and overall construction.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd like it to have a hip belt/strap and a bit more reflectivity.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The semi-hardshell Jack Wolfskin Neuron costs £140 and offers much of the same functionality as the Chrome, albeit in a more traditional form and with a funky built-in lighting system. Meanwhile, the Trakke Wee Lug is very similar to the Chrome in terms of feel and build but costs a whopping £220.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The BLCKCHRM 22X Yalta 3.0 is a really fantastic option for on-the-bike carrying, whatever your daily requirements. The fact that it's built to last and offers a range of uses means you'll probably never need another cycling bag. Only a few minor points prevent it being 'perfect'.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure