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.
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 more: chromeindustries.com
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.