Back in October the fine folks at Chrome sent a pair of knickers my way for testing and I am happy to say I have had adequate time to wear them and prepare a review.
The fit on these knickers is a bit slim. I have been told that my body type resembles a garden hose and to compensate I generally choose to wear clothing that is a bit on the baggy side. Most of my hacked knickers are pretty loose fitting and extend well below my knee. When I first started wearing these knickers I could not get used to how they looked and they felt a little short and tight.
Over time however I have gotten used to them and the look has grown on me. I do wear them "loose" at the waste rather than cinching them tight. My body type is a bit odd in that I am long and very skinny. I have a medium pair and the Chrome site says the waist should fit a 34. I am more like a 30-31 and I like the way the medium allows for the loose waist fit. I have commuted in them over a number of weeks and the fit is in no way detrimental to my comfort in the saddle and the length with the loose fit at the waist is okay for me. The knickers also feature a gusseted crotch. Basically this means a bit more comfort while you are in the saddle. I do ride with padded cycling shorts underneath the knickers - the knickers do not have any sort of padding built in to them.
The fabric is stretchy blend of nylon and spandex which is different from all of my hacked knickers which are just old wool or cotton pants. I don't see a major benefit to the stretch so I am kind of ambivalent about how the fabric moves.
The Chrome web site bills the knickers as water resistant but do not confuse this with waterproof. I have come upon a sudden shower and water beaded up on the knickers, however I have ridden through a major rain storm and the fabric gets very wet. Now that I think about it though, I guess where the stretch in the fabric is nice is that when I do get wet, the fabric does not stick to my legs as much as cotton does. The fabric does dry quickly. After riding through a major storm one night I hung them over my bike and they were dry when I woke up for my commute the next morning.
The following picture was taken after a ride to work in moderate rain. The thigh area takes the brunt of the water and that area was a bit soaked, but you can see the water resistant nature of the knickers at work as well.
I encounter quite a bit of wind on my commutes and the fabric stands up to the wind nicely. In colder weather (around freezing) I have tossed on a baselayer under the knickers and been quite comfortable. If there is major rain in the forecast and you are interested in staying dry I would recommend going with a quality rain pant.
You could say that these are "bare bones" knickers when it comes to features. They basically are like normal pair of pants - two front pockets (mesh lined), two back pockets, zipper and button, and belt loops. No cargo pockets, no gimmicky loop for your U-lock, no coin pocket. For riding I think bare bones pants are the way to go. Who wants a bunch of stuff shifting around on your legs while pedaling? There is a mobile phone pocket on the right, outside part of the thigh but I do not ever see myself using it. I ride with a vest where I carry all of my stuff (thus the "puffy" nature of the jacket fit in the first picture).
There is reinforced stitching on the pockets and as I wrote before, the insides of the front pockets are mesh to help with breathabilty. There are also some metal rivets at the points where the pockets are likely to take the most abuse. The only flair of sorts is the Chrome logo on the right knee and the name you see below above a rear pocket, which is high enough that no one is ever likely to see it. The logo on the knee is pretty tight if you ask me. Here is a shot of the top of one of the back pockets.
Over the past several years my opinion on the price of items has changed a great deal. The turning point for me was the first merino wool t-shirt I owned, provided by Outlier. The shirt was priced at $80 at the time and when I saw that number I almost choked on my coffee. However, I absolutely loved the performance of the shirt and two years later I still wear it all the time.
Not to get too much into my wardrobe, but shortly after getting the Outlier shirt, I dropped $65 each on two Icebreaker merino wool t's (different weights for different temps) and the three merino shirts are pretty much the only t-shirts I wear other than white cotton t's under dress shirts. I have gotten rid of 90% of my old cotton or blended fabric recreational t-shirts. I basically only wear cotton or blended shirts now when I know I am going to get really dirty and don't care what happens to the shirt.
So while some might think I am crazy for paying a premium for t-shirts, I have reduced my wardrobe, don't have to do as much laundry, and am a comfortable cat.
Priced at $100 on the Chrome site I think it is appropriate to say that many people will be scared away from the Chrome knickers. Yes they are expensive, but they do perform well. I can't speak to durability because I have only worn them for about a month now but based on my experience thus far this is a knicker that is going last many, many years.
The thought that has kicked around in my brain is that I could likely hack 7 or 8 pairs of knickers for the price of one pair of Chrome knickers. I do however see myself wearing the Chrome knickers and can honestly say that I think you would get your money's worth if you decided to drop the 100 bones for a pair.
There is something to be said for enjoying what you wear and if want a quality knicker that performs well and looks good, you likely would not be disappointed. However, if you would rather drop $100 to make your bike perform better I would not fault you. If I had not been given a pair I likely would have never purchased a pair, but I said the same thing about merino wool t's and now I have no problem spending what some would consider to be "too much" for a t-shirt. Others with Chrome experience, knickers or otherwise, are welcome to comment or submit your own reviews.