Chrome Industries Cobra Hoodie review

James Spender

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 – 07:18

All but perfect hoody for on and off the bike, but the price will prove the deciding factor

/ 5


You read that right. This is a hoody. It costs £170. It has some zips and a hood. But the Chrome Industries Cobra Hoodie is really, really good. It might even, justify its price tag. Might.

Chrome Industries sprung up from the US fixie-messenger scene in the mid-90s, and has since built a near-cult level following amongst hipster urban types, and wannabe hipster urban types.

Which is probably where I come in, a roadie who does occasionally ride in civvies to places such as local pubs and other people’s local pubs. But I do not have any tattoos (my mum said they would make me look like a thug), and I gave up riding fixed-gear just after I finished building the bike.

I have a lot of love for fixed gears, but brakeless fixed-gear bikes are inexcusably dumb, and I was inexcusably dumb for around 45 minutes one afternoon in 2004.

So that’s where Chrome finds itself, with a reputation for making solid kit but also as being something of a boutique brand. It’s a bit like how Dickies and Cahartt used to actually be worn by car mechanics and carpenters. Trouser hammer loop anyone?

I do not mean this in a disparaging way, because the upshot is the Chrome Cobra Hoodie gets the best of both worlds, fashionably stylish, functionally functional.

I can tell you this because, to my eyes, this hoody looks good on just about everyone, even me. It has a form-following but not skintight fit, is crisp enough to look smart, understated enough to look casual and all-round brilliantly versatile, including being perfectly cut and fitted for cycling.

Buy now from Alpinetrek from £158 now

From top to bottom the Cobra comprises hood, generously high collar with drawstring closure, tucked away zipper pocket on the right sleeve, two pockets on the sides and a two-sided, zippered ‘pass-through’ pocket that runs across the small of the back. There are also little thumb loops to make the sleeves act like half-gloves to keep hands warmer, especially when riding.

Usually, I’d baulk at that rear pocket – those ‘cycling inspired’ casual tops with jersey-style rear pockets are just… no (despite their eminent practicality for carrying two cans of Stella and a kebab wrap).

I’d also turn my nose up at thumb loops because usually you can see them. But like the rear pocket, that when empty and zipped up becomes invisible, the thumb loops are craftily cut so they disappear into the cuffs unless you push your thumbs through them.

The main point is the Cobra hides its cycling-specific features well (you can get at least one pint can of Stella or a rolled-up Sunday paper in that rear pocket), and this I like very much.

You would not know it had been designed with anyone but a fashionista in mind. A rich fashionista, of course, because back to that price, the Cobra costs a huge amount of money – more than twice what I’d ever consider spending on a hoodie. But wait one English minute…

Applicable to all

I have found myself wearing the Cobra Hoodie everywhere. Like all through the British summer for those less than summery days and evenings everywhere, in Iceland where the temperature dipped to low singles, up windy and rainy Pyrenean mountains, on oddly chilly Brazilian nights, and now, as I type this and the Great British Winter is hoving into view, cold, overcast London, with every intention to ride home in it later.

The Cobra has become my go-to piece of kit, stashed in a day-bag or suitcase even if I think I won’t need it, because it suits such a wide variety of conditions.

It is that heady blend of being breathable and really quite lightweight, but also really warm – pair it with a lightweight waterproof outer shell and you’ll survive a nuclear winter.

How? Because the Cobra Hoodie is beautifully made from 100% Merino wool.

Buy now from Alpinetrek for £158 here

Merino – from Merino sheep – is good. It is naturally anti-microbial, meaning odour-making bacteria doesn’t hang around (so less washing), it is much more breathable than other natural yarns, much softer and more water-resistant and less absorbent than regular wool.

In the Cobra the weave of the Merino is dense enough to offer good wind protection, and importantly, to provide natural elasticity that doesn’t get baggy and saggy when wet or through repeated washes.

This last point is perhaps the most important, as many’s the lovely svelte jumper I’ve tried on in a shop that ends up hanging off my frame like an old pair of curtains some months later. Washing seems to kill cheaper jumpers.

Of course, you would hope all this from such an expensive garment. But if you can stomach the price, I’d go as far to say this is the perfect hoodie for any cyclist or any one, whether on the bike, off the bike, hiking in mountains or just sitting in a pub.

World Championships 2019: Elite Men’s Road Race Shortened

James Spender

29 Sep 2019

World Championships 2019: Elite Men's route shortened by 24km after heavy rainfall

The UCI has taken the decision to divert the route of the Elite Men’s Road Race after prolonged heavy rain in Yorkshire, which has seen climbs such as Buttertubs under several inches of water.

Instead of the planned 285km, the race will now take place over 261km, bypassing the northern section of the route that included Bainbridge, Hawes, Buttertubs, Muker, Gunnerside, Reeth and Grinton Moor. 

The race will still start in Leeds, albeit 20mins later at 9am, however the route will be diverted at Bishopdale Beck, just outside Aysgarth, with riders directed to Temple Bank and along the A684 to Leyburn. From there the race will continue as planned, only riders will complete nine of the 14km finishing circuits in Harrogate as opposed to seven.

UCI Statement

‘The decision was made after extensive consultation with the UCI, our multi-agency partners, the environment agency and local mountain rescue teams,’ read a statement from the UCI. ‘We consider the safety of spectators and riders as paramount and want everyone to enjoy the racing, but the conditions in the Dales puts that at risk.’ 

Fans can still expect to see a thrilling – and gruelling – day’s racing, albeit those lovely eye-in-the sky images Yorkshire organisers were hoping for will be curtailed with the grounding on helicopters. And you can be sure of some difficult times ahead for commentators as they no-doubt end up struggling to name riders once the unbranded, all-black rain capes come out to play.

Chrome Industries Natoma shorts

James Spender

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 – 11:50

Commute-inspired shorts excel in comfort, style and practicality, but so they should for this money

/ 5


I love shorts. But shorts that perform well on a bike are few and far between. The majority start off lovely and crisp but soon seams stretch, threads pull and crotch panels wear. However in five months of testing (around 40km commuting per week), Chrome Industries’ Natoma shorts still look and feel like new. That’s pretty impressive.

Chrome Industries was born of a couple of friends making messenger bags in a garage in Boulder, Colorado, in the late 90s. Those bags became known for their robustness, so it’s little surprise that the Natomas shorts feel super sturdy – borderline overbuilt when I first tried them on. But over time they softened a tad and took on a much more comfortable fit.

The ‘Everest’ material (sourced from a mill in Taiwan that supplies brands such as North Face, Patagonia and Nike) has a good amount of stretch whilst having a canvas-like quality. This means the shorts hold their shape well, looking near-freshly ironed even after a ride.

The Everest material has a high-density feel too, and I daresay the Natomas would hold up well in a crash. At the very least it’ll take some serious miles or a Tony Martin sandpaper saddle before the backside wears through.

At that crucial crotch area, the material is double layered and gusset panels inserted to allow better freedom of movement for pedalling. But again, given the stretchy fabric, the shorts still cut a pleasingly slim-line figure off of the bike. Belt loops are also reinforced, meaning D-locks can be carried, and the two rear pockets and two hip pockets feel solid. The inside trim (visible with hem turned up) is reflective too.

Buy the Chrome Industries Natoma shorts here at £120. 

Day-to-day riding

As commuting shorts go, the fit and range of movement the Natoma shorts offer is just right. There’s a slight compressive feel at the top of the stroke when a leg is most articulated, but this isn’t inhibitive thanks to material elasticity and panel positions.

Weather-resistance is good. The density of threads seems the primary defence against the elements, which is good news long-term, as chemical ‘DWR’ weather-resisting treatments found on other garments fade through repeated washing – although there us a DWR-type treatment on the Everest fabric too.

The Natomas also do a good job of insulation, and don’t wet out or become overtly heavy and clingy if rained on, again thanks to their dense weave and synthetic material blend.

Find out

That said, on full-on summer days I found breathability to be a tad lacking, and would opt for lighter-weight shorts for riding and loafing around in. This last point is worth bringing out.

These shorts do look really good (I think), with a flattering cut, contrasting lining for turn ups and, as mentioned, a consistently crisp look thanks to the wrinkle-resistant material. Plus if this graphite grey isn’t your bag, they’re also available in dark red and black.

The only fault I can find in performance terms is that I’d have liked some form of button or zip closure on at least one of the rear pockets to secure my wallet when riding. However, as good as Chrome Industries Natoma shorts are, there will be many people reading this who will baulk the price.

Me, I’m in two minds. On the one hand, I do find it terribly hard to justify this kind of money to myself. But on the other, I see the false economy in buying cheaper shorts for riding in, and I have every reason to believe the Natomas will last as long as I can fit into them. So you pays your money and you makes you choice I guess.

Tour of Britain 2019 Stage 2: Matteo Trentin wins the sprint and takes GC

James Spender

8 Sep 2019

Matteo Trentin takes GC, narrowly catching Alex Dowsett on the line

Matteo Trentin (Katusha-Alpecin) takes the stage and the green jersey, narrowly catching a last-dicth Alex Dowsett breakaway just metres from the finish.

How the stage unfolded

Saturday was a memorable day for the Jumbo-Visma team, Dylan Groenewegen taking victory in Stage 1 of the Tour of Britain while teammate Primoz Roglic was busy riding high in the red jersey – and avoiding major crashes – some 2,000km away at the Vuelta a Espana. 

The Tour of Britain’s Stage 2 began and finished in the town of Kelso in the Scottish Borders, comprising a 165.9km anticlockwise loop taking riders over three category 2 climbs, Harden’s Hill, Scott’s View and Dingleton, before culminating in a technical finish over Kelso’s cobbles streets.

The breakaway took to its heels at 10km, and midway Pete Williams (SwiftProCycling), Gediminas Bagdonas (AG2R) and Sam Jenner (Team Wiggins Le Col) had established a near two-minute gap, but 55km to go and the peloton had slashed that in half. So far, so predictable.

The race came alive with 30km to go, Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) launching an attack to bridge to the break, joined by Lotto Soudal’s Frederik Freson. Jumbo-Visma, keen to carry Groenewegen into another sprint contest, gave chase.

The catch came and the peloton turned towards the final climb to up to Dingleton. The race’s second big move came when Team Ineos’ Pavel Sivakov disappeared over the climb, stringing out the peloton and putting immense pressure on Groenewegen, who slipped back looking troubled. A second group formed behind the Ineos rider, turning the screws on an ailing Groenewegen and frustrated Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), who found themselves one minute back in the main peloton with 10km. No coming back now, and surely a new green jersey race leader today.

In that lead group was Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin), and with just minutes to go to Kelso, the British National time-trial champion launched himself out of the front of the group and for an agonising two kilometres looked like he might just squeak a surprise win. But with Israel Cycling Academy driving the chase, the Briton was caught metres before the finish, and in the sprint melee, Mitchelton-Scott’s Matteo Trentin emerged victorious. 






Vuelta a Espana 2019 Stage 15: Jumbo-Visma’s Sepp Kuss triumphs, Roglic preserves lead

James Spender

8 Sep 2019

Vuelta a Espana 2019 Stage 15:

American Sepp Kuss, of Jumbo-Visma, announced himself today with a terrific stage win up an incredibly steep stage finish, with Team Ineos’s Tao Geoghegan Hart putting in a fine display to finish second. But ultimately the real winner on Stage 15 was Primoz Roglic, who rode with imperious fashion to preserve his 2:25 lead at the top of GC.


How the race unfolded


Another morning, another day pulling on the maillot rojo for Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic, who took a commanding 2:25 lead over Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde into Stage 15, which took riders deep into north-west Spain’s Asturias mountains. With four category 1 climbs on the menu including a stinging 7.9km, 10% ascent to the finish in Santuario del Acebo, the 154.4km route out of Tineo promised to deliver some GC-hustling action.


Useful time bonuses were on offer, 10, 6 and 4 seconds at the finish, and with Valverde if not poised then at least in a decent position to unsettle Roglic, the main drive today would likely be for the three riders in Roglic and Valverde’s wake to attempt to rearrange their GC rankings. Only 32 seconds separated third place Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates, 3:01 behind Roglic) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar, 3:33) in fifth. Sandwiched in the middle was Astana’s Miguel Angel Lopez (3:18).


As such it was no surprise to see Movistar controlling the pace early doors, and by midway the peloton had let a three minute gap open up to the break. With 40km to go the peloton sat over five minutes back, the chase group 1:35 behind a breakaway trio of Spanish rider Sergio Samitier (Euskadi-Murias), Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) and Daniel Navarro (Katusha-Alpecin).


As was to be expected for a multiple-mountain stage finishing on a stiff ascent, Jumbo-Visma, Movistar, UAE and Astana where happy to keep the peloton steady, letting the head of the race disappear while ensuring they delivered their main men to the bottom of the final climb safely.


Meanwhile, Samitier went clear of O’Connor and Navarro, who were caught by a 15-or-so strong chase group with Team Ineos’ Tao Geoghegan Hart and Vasil Kiryienka and Oscar Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias) in tow. Kiryienka joined Samitier, but as the first slopes of Puerto del Acebo to Santuario hit 25%, the Spaniard went clear. Could he somehow hold on for seven gruelling kilometres more?


No. Jumbo-Visma’s Sepp Kuss clearly had energy to spare, launching his own attack and leapfrogging Samitier, while further back the GC riders began to duke it out. Valverde launched an attack, and while the rest of the peloton stood still, Roglic reacted quickly and latched onto the Spaniard’s wheel, the pair going clear of their rivals but still three minutes off Kuss at the front.  Quintana began to lose time further back, while Lopez and Pogacar and sixth placed in GC, Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), continued their chase of Roglic and Valverde, who were attacking the race and sharing duties.

Geoghegan Hart took flight, joining another escapee, Katusha-Alpecin rider Ruben Guerreiro, in an attempt to close the gap on Kuss, who was still riding with intent, slowly stretching his 30 second lead up the road.

Kuss eventually crossed the line with a commanding 39-second buffer over Geoghegan Hart – a huge Grand Tour first win for the American. Roglic came home just ahead of Valverde, 2:13 down on Kuss, with Lopez coming in just ahead of Pogacar, meaning the Slovenian keeps his white jersey and podium position. If anyone lost out, it was Quintana, who come in 3:52 behind Kuss. 

It will take something monumental to wrestle Roglic’s red jersey off him now.