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Despite its rather nondescript appearance, Chrome Industries' BLCKCHRM 22X Lako 3-Way Tote bag is actually a very well made and fairly practical general use bag. However, it's a bit lacking in Chrome's normal interesting innovations and it's just too pricey.
Rather ironically, as I write this review I'm wearing a T-shirt with a quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau that says: 'If I am not better, at least I am different.' That could be the brand motto for Chrome Industries, whose sometimes eccentric products – ranging from bags, to clothing and footwear – often approach old problems in novel ways. Sometimes they are better, sometimes they are just different.
The BLCKCHRM 22X Lako 3-Way might be the exception to the rule, though. It looks disappointingly normal compared to some other Chrome kitted we've tested, such as the fab BLCKCHRM 22X Yalta 3.0 backpack or the quirky Urban Ex Pannier. At its heart, it's simply a roll-top tote bag, with an internal padded laptop sleeve, some internal organiser pockets, a Velcro'ed wet/dry compartment, an open large outer pocket and two compression straps on each side.
As is customary with Chrome kit, it's made from a tough nylon outer with a waterproof tarp liner, although in this case – because it is part of the limited edition BLCKCHRM 22X range – it benefits from a particularly rugged '22x nylon shell with Cordura TPX Durable Laminate Technology'. For £20 less you could have the same bag in standard black nylon.
In terms of design, probably the most interesting thing is that the two ends of one of the tote handles extend to the bottom of the bag and can be used as rucksack-style shoulder straps. The '3-Way' in the Lako's name refers to the fact that you can carry it by its leather handles, over one shoulder, or over both shoulders.
Although those straps look rather rudimentary with no padding or appreciable breathability, on the bike they're comfy with even quite heavy loads. If you're wearing a few layers to cushions things, all the better.
The bigger issue is that any weight you carry sits quite low on your back, even after tightening the straps plenty, which isn't ideal. With no hip or chest strap, there could be questions over stability too, although, in fairness, I never felt that was a huge problem.
Organiser pockets inside the bag is perhaps a step up on a normal tote, but they seem a little daft. Looking inside the 17-litre Lako is very much like peering into a black hole – I can quite imagine somebody who uses it regularly finding things disappear into its depths never to return. It's deep, dark and space is a bit restricted, so using the smaller pockets is a little impractical. As it's a Chrome product, I kept expecting to find a hidden side zip somewhere to allow easier access to the internals, but no, this is just a tote bag.
I was also slightly disappointed not to find any way of attaching the Lako to a rear rack. To me, tote bags seem the perfect shape and design to be makeshift panniers, but that's not possible here.
However, all that moaning about design aside, overall build quality is faultless. It's supremely durable, completely waterproof and does feature a couple of handy extra details, such as the reflective stripes down each shoulder strap, and a pair of D-rings on each shoulder, too.
Here comes the kicker, though, because £110 for a fairly straightforward – albeit very well made – tote bag seems excessive. That's even more the case when, for £12 less, you could buy the Hill and Ellis Rusty Bag. This has many of the same technical qualities as the Lako, can be carried over one shoulder and – crucially – can also be attached to a rack.
Of course, if you'd rather have a Chrome tote-style bag that does attach to the bike rather than your back – and you've got another £30 available – the Urban Ex Pannier I mentioned earlier is an option.
Perhaps I was expecting a little too much from the Lako 3-Way. Certainly, all Chrome's usual super-durable, high-quality construction is as evident here as ever, but it just seems to lack a little innovation to enhance practicality. It's great to go shopping with – if you're happy to pay £110 for a bike-friendly shopping bag. And if your dream bag is a tough tote that doubles as a basic rucksack, then look no further. But I think there are better bike-friendly options out there.
Super-tough take on the bike-friendly tote bag that you can carry on your back, but it's expensive and a bit boring
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Chrome Industries BLCKCHRM 22X Lako 3 Way Tote
Size tested: 17 litres
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 tote bag that sort of transforms into a rucksack. Chrome says: "A bag built for the city. If you're simplifying life to one bag, Lako is the one. Part of our Heritage line, the Lako is a versatile tote that converts easily into a pack. It's built twice, has separate wet/dry compartments, a padded laptop sleeve, and a quick access phone pocket. Lako fits right in at work, the market, the gym, and of course... the bar."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
22x nylon shell with Cordura TPX Durable Laminate Technology and 1000d tarp liner
Versatile three-way carry tote
Padded laptop sleeve fits 13in Macbook Pro
Internal organisation with wet/dry compartments
Tote carry handles convert to backpack
Volume: 17 litres
It's really hard to fault the build quality of Chrome's luggage products and everything in the limited edition BLCKCHRM 22X range is put together extremely well.
It's a decent bag with good internal separation and feels decent when carried on the shoulders. But it would be nice if it really excelled in one area.
With its enhanced, tough 22x nylon laminate exterior, this is a bag that will take a bit of a beating. It also features Chrome's lifetime warranty on workmanship and materials.
At just under 1kg it's not too bad.
On-shoulder comfort was better than I expected considering the basic nature of the straps. If positioning could be improved so it sits higher on the back, it would get another point.
It's certainly not cheap. At £98 you could have the Hill and Ellis Rusty Bag with many of the same qualities, or £90 will get you the basic Chrome Lako tote without the enhanced materials.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a tote it's tough, strong and durable, and it converts quite nicely into something very like a rucksack. But it's not as secure on the bike as a dedicated backpack.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Price and no provision to attach it to a rack.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Hill and Ellis Rusty Bag is £98, while the Chrome Urban Ex Pannier – which is very similar but can be attached to a rack instead of carried on the shoulder – is £140.
Did you enjoy using the product? So so.
Would you consider buying the product? Nope
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Possibly, if they had very specific requirements.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Build quality alone puts the BLCKCHRM 22X Lako 3-Way Tote above being 'just' a tote bag, and the added practicality of the shoulder straps also help its case. For regularly carrying a few bits on and off their bike, it wouldn't be my first choice, but it's good to go shopping with.
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