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Chrome Industries' Union 2.0 shorts have a relaxed fit and work well on and off the bike. They are made from a durable stretchy fabric that is perfect for cycling shorts and promises to last a long time. Just as well, as at full price they are not cheap.
Chrome Industries is best known for its messenger bags, used by messengers and commuters the world over – bags with a reputation for being extremely durable.
The marketing blurb says these are inspired by military shorts and mountain biking baggies and are designed to be functional and durable. The tag inside the waistband, which doubles as a loop to hang them up when you're not wearing them, says 'utility + mobility + durability' and that sums them up perfectly.
The 94% nylon, 6% spandex material, which Chrome Industries calls Everest, is a durable, four-way stretch fabric and is treated with a DWR coating; sewn up into shorts with a cycling-specific gusset, the fabric is obviously a good choice. It's comfortable and feels good next to the skin – never sticky or grabby when you're moving around.
The DWR coating means any rain beads off, at least initially (think water resistant rather than waterproof), and when it stops raining the shorts dry pretty quickly too. I would have expected issues with sweat because of that water resistance, but that has simply not been the case.
The fabric has proved easy to care for, too: a hydraulic oil stain I was a bit concerned about disappeared in a normal wash. I've always been a mucky pup, and I appreciate a fabric that is forgiving of dirt.
The shorts have two generous front pockets, with a small coin pocket on the left. They are mesh lined on the inside and big enough to swallow your phone. When you do have your phone in one of these pockets, the design is such that the phone always sits vertically and to the side, not getting in the way when you're on the bike.
The right rear pocket is zipped, and again is big enough to swallow your phone, and designed such that your phone won't be in the way when you sit on a bike saddle.
The left rear pocket is not zipped, and has a one-inch reflective strip on the inside. It's not visible when you're standing up, but visible when the pocket gapes open when you're on your bike. Clever. There's also a smaller reflective detail above the right rear pocket.
There are five belt loops, sensibly spaced and big enough for a decent belt. The stitching looks sturdy enough to take the weight of a D-lock stuffed down your belt, too, if that's the way you roll.
You get a quality YKK zipper and the shorts are available in black and Castle Rock (grey) as well as the Monks Robe brown on test – although some UK sites (including Always Riding, listed in the buying link above), have Wood Thrush as the third option, which looks a lighter shade than Monks Robe.
As the blurb says, these are inspired by mountain bike baggies. The fit is relaxed, but not exactly baggy – just right for actual cycling.
The inseam is quite long – they come up to just below my kneecap. My personal preference is for a slightly shorter leg length, but there's no functional reason for complaints here. For reference, I'm 178cm and weigh 78kg, and am testing a size 34, which Chrome's sizing chart indicates is right for my waist measurement of 86.5cm.
There are no waist adjusters, and the 34 is generous but not ridiculous on me. I wouldn't wear them without a belt, mainly because I don't wear my shorts as low as I used to. With a belt, they sit just where I like them. I can't take them off without undoing the button and zip, like I can with other shorts in 34 (I've lost a bit of weight) – Howies, for example.
The Union 2.0s have dropped in price on Chrome's website from £125 to £105, but even so they're at the top end for these kind of shorts, so it's just as well that they are well made, well designed and should last a long time.
They are available from a couple of UK sites for £70, which puts them more in line with the likes of Swrve, whose cycling shorts are around £70-£80, but for top value for money Neil reckons you can't go wrong with Galibier's Liberté Gravel Shorts, costing £43.66.
These shorts are true to their slogan that says 'utility + mobility + durability'. They are cycling specific, designed to give you freedom of movement, have pockets for your stuff that don't get in the way, and should last a long time. I've enjoyed wearing them both on and off the bike. At rrp on the US-based Chrome Industries website they are quite expensive, but if you shop around on UK-based websites you'll find them at more reasonable prices and on a par with other shorts we've reviewed. At that sort of price they're a bit of a steal.
Very good cycling-specific shorts that get the job done and seem very durable
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Chrome Industries Union 2.0 Short
Size tested: 34
Tell us what the product is for
Chrome says: "Inspired by military shorts and mountain biking baggies, we made the Union Short to be functional and durable. Updated with urban cycling features, the Unions rock a second rear pocket with a hideaway reflective hit that only shows when you're on the bike, a zip-close rear pocket and full-length gusset. Our durable 4-way stretch Everest fabric provides hours of comfort in the saddle or sitting on the grass at a show."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Chrome lists these features:
- Our classic 4-way stretch city & trail short
- Full-length gusset for on-the-bike comfort
- Zipper secure right rear pocket
- 4-way stretch with water/wind resistant DWR
- Relaxed fit with 14" inseam
See the review, the shorts size up according to the sizing chart.
A bit pricey at rrp compared with other similar shorts we've tested, but they are very good.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The care instructions say "Machine wash cold (30), do not bleach, tumble dry low, do not iron, do not dry clean".
In practice, they are easy to care for; a normal wash got rid of a hydraulic oil stain I was a bit sad about.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They work really well – durable, easy to care for, and provide freedom of movement and pockets for your stuff.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They just work for doing Cyclist Life.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing to dislike.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Going by the rrp on the (US-based) Chrome Industries website, they are quite expensive – more than other similar shorts we've reviewed. Shopping around on UK websites, they can be had for less.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
These really deliver on their slogan of utility + mobility + durability, which is exactly the sort of thing I'd look for in shorts. They are a tad expensive at rrp, which is what we judge review items against, and so I feel I have to give these excellent shorts a very good 8 rather than a 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Ribble Endurance SL disc
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Zwift