When you think of high-end cycling gear, it's hard not to wonder if form and function are completely at odds. Brands like Castelli, Gore and Showers Pass make great gear that's wildly popular amongst Portland's bike commuter elite for good reason. But what if you'd rather not look like a neon-clad human SUV when you finally dismount and walk into a bar or a concert?
Fortunately for a lowkey everyman like myself who's just trying to stay dry, there's Chrome Industries. Discerning Spikes no longer consider the messenger bags that made them famous to be standard issue, but the pivot towards cycling-adjacent goods like shoes, pants and jackets has proven to be a worthwhile use of their brand's visibility.
A perfect example is the Storm Cobra 2.0, a jacket Chrome claims on the product's page to be "The ultimate riding shell. Period." It's a bold claim for a rather spartan offering for a market that's flooded right now, but a month with the jacket has me convinced that Chrome has absolutely nailed that elusive sweet spot between form and function.
Considering the former, one of Chrome's strongest design tendencies has always been an emphasis on distinct minimalism. Aside from a tag attached to the chest pockets reflective strip and small red embroidered griffin logo below the left hand warmer pocket, you wouldn't have any clue who made this jacket. For someone who thinks overly branded bike gear is gauche, this jacket is perfect.
This would all be rather pointless if the Storm Cobra 2.0 was a dud as far as performance is concerned, but the understated technicality of this jacket is worth the highest marks I can imagine giving it. First and foremost is the material, which is a coarse and heavy nylon that will feel familiar to anyone who's owned a Chrome bag. While its rigidity is a little uncomfortable at first, you'll immediately appreciate it when you're stuck in a downpour while biking through a gale of wind on any of Portland's bridges. Compared to the smooth and flimsy material of similar jackets from Columbia or Patagonia, this stuff feels downright indestructible. Paired with fully sealed seams and a generous hood that zips all the way up past my nose, I don't think I've ever been less concerned with getting wet while biking than when I was in this jacket.
Another great feature is the elastic closures around the sleeves. Rather than secure closed with an adjustable velcro band you have to mess with every time you suit up, a small stretchy section makes it easy to pull the sleeves over gloves quickly and easily.
One gripe I have is the lack of adjustable cinches at the bottom of the jacket. I'm a pretty skinny guy, so the bottom tends to blouse out and get drafty on cold and windy days. When I'm in the saddle, however, it's perfect. This coat is made for biking, after all, so I'll take it on balance.
All in all, the Storm Cobra 2.0 is a great option for a technical winter cycling shell that's durable enough to withstand a downpour, yet stylish and understated enough to not make you look like a total doofus in the process.
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