Man, I wish that messenger gear looked this cool when I was riding for a living. Back in the day (really not that long ago) we were making do with road gear while attracting appalled stares from office staff and bar patrons in our Lycra and polypro. Ten short years later, companies like Chrome have done loads to make cycling clothing and messenger equipment not only socially acceptable, but actually appealing. When fall’s first chill arrived this year, I put in a request for Chrome’s merino wool Cobra hoodie- and have worn it non-stop since it arrived.
Slim without being tight, the medium Cobra fit my 6′, 140lb frame with enough room for a long-sleeved tee underneath- but without so much extra material that it feels loose without one or can’t fit comfortably under a rain shell. Though it’s not particularly thick, the wool fabric is incredibly cozy- though it looks like a normal sweater knit on the outside, the inside surface is a wool fleece that feels great on bare arms. The slightly dropped tail and long arms work well on the bike, and though I’ve never taken to thumb holes while riding, they aren’t overly large and somehow make the Cobra feel cozier off the bike. There are a pair of zipped hand warmer pockets, a side-accessed “poacher’s pocket” across the back, and a very cool valuables pocket just above the right arm. That valuables pocket has a key loop that is long enough to allow for bike locking/unlocking without removing the key- probably my favorite feature. All of the pockets are lined with red mesh, allowing for some measure of ventilation while open and (more importantly) looking cool.
Though it’s not really suited for long rides (the wool fabric can’t keep a strong breeze off), it’s really well suited to bike-enabled errand running, bar hopping, and movie watching. Under a Gore-Tex shell, I found the Cobra perfectly comfortable while spectating at a local night ‘cross race despite temperatures in the low 40s. The wool will also stay reasonably warm when wet and won’t stink after extended periods of use- something that can’t be said of either cotton hoodies or more technical apparel.
So far, my only real complaint about the Cobra is the way that the metal zipper on the tall neck can irritate my (admittedly large) adam’s apple when fully zipped and the weight of the hood pulling it back. It’s not a deal breaker, but certainly worth noting for anyone who likes to be zipped up tight. In any case, a zipper garage should probably be in order for the next revision. Then there’s the $160 price- the apparent quality of the Cobra’s construction and the high-end fabric deserve most of the responsibility there, but it’s really not out of line with what other good quality jackets or wool jerseys command. And if you’re like me, you’ll want to wear it enough to get every penny’s worth out of it. If a significant other is looking for gift ideas that you’ll actually use, now’s the time to start dropping hints…