CHROME again, CHROME again... The Bikization of all things good continues apace, with numerous companies stepping up to improve everything you, the rec cyclist/commuter/messenger, need to get through your daily rounds. I've touted CHROME Industries as a leader in this movement... because, well, they are. They've got plenty of company, but the San Francisco-based outfit keep expanding further into apparel, and making quality stuff at every turn. It's gotten to the point where I have to think for a second before I remember that they started out just making messenger bags.
Next up, just in time for the colder months, is their WARM line. This comes on top of a few other worthwhile innovations. The STORM line is just one item, a hardcore rain jacket, but reviews are very positive. Then there's the WIND line, also one item, a lined flannel shirt. Seems nice enough, until you check the MERINO line, which is obviously wool products and which is more my style for light fall wear.
But it's the newest line, the WARM items, that get me somewhere I haven't gone before: insulated outerwear or layering for cold-weather riding. I have down and polyfill coats. Even a puffy vest somewhere. But those aren't cycling gear. This is:
This is the vest I received, and which is pictured above in its reversed setup (I wear it with the grey/black side out, as shown in the top photo). To hear them tell it, the big selling point is its versatility. You can wear it with either side showing. You can count on the reflective strips (and the orange side) to help keep you visible. You can even fold it down into this:
All of that is nice -- and while the orange isn't my color, I can tell you that the zipper and design makes it truly and easily reversible. But the reason I love this vest is far simpler: it's perfectly shaped and weighted to be an outer cycling layer. The world is full of nylon vests, but too many of them are meant to go over bulky clothes, or just made to be puffy. This vest has no spare folds of material, so it won't flap in the breeze. The shoulders are done right to accommodate riding on the drops, with your arms forward. The neck zips right up to your chin, eliminating the possibility of a breeze down your front. The back hangs a bit low, like all gear meant for torsos bent over a bike.
As for the weight, it seems incredibly light, and you'd wonder if it can live up to its all-caps name, but it does. I've worn it on the bike, where we provide our own warmth, and the WARM vest holds the heat in nicely. I've also worn it (a lot) off the bike, over a thin fleece, and the two are good to go throughout the Northwest fall season. Come winter and cross-country skiing, this will make a brilliant addition to the light, slim layers that sport demands. As far as rain goes, the WARM vest doesn't keep water out any more so than ripstop nylon ever does. But even if you're getting soggy, the poly-fill insulation is just enough so you aren't likely to freeze.
They also make a WARM Work Shirt, which is basically the Vest with sleeves, if you prefer. I don't -- vests are brilliant for cycling and XC skiing -- but reasonable minds will differ. If you like the Vest more for off the bike, the Work Shirt makes plenty of sense.
I know I tout CHROME stuff a lot, and obviously it has to do in part with getting a chance to try out their goods. But the fact is, they are consistently putting out excellent quality clothing, with a look that I personally prefer, and with all the details you'd hope in stuff designed for cyclists. This isn't a company that suddenly woke up and decided to start marketing to us. It's a cycling apparel company, who've been thinking about our unique needs first. Whether it works for your climate zone is another matter (me? definitely), but considering that stylish bikeable gear transitions to off-bike use so easily (excepting lycra), that's a pretty good business model.