The Cycle Life

One Perfect Thing: Chrome Industries Union Shorts

Simple, smart, and bomber

One Perfect Thing: Chrome Industries Union Shorts

These Chrome Industries Union shorts are arguably the best cycling shorts around. Photo: JJAG Media

Every major bike brand these days makes one or more pairs­­­­ of baggy riding shorts. I’ve ridden in a lot of them—sometimes several per week—but I always find myself returning to my seven-year-old Chrome Union shorts.

Made from a four-way stretch nylon, the Union does everything you want a good short to do and nothing else. The fabric has a soft hand that drapes well yet is as tough as a canvas tarp—no holes, scrapes, pills, or blown seams after all these years. The tailoring is trim but not tight, meaning the shorts don’t flop around when you pedal but don’t make you look like some costumed weirdo off the trail. The front pockets are deep, and the single rear pocket has a button to keep your phone or wallet in place.

That’s pretty much it.

There are much higher-tech shorts with many more features. If you want lots of zip pockets and vents and adjustment mechanisms at the waist, the Unions are not for you. They don’t come with a chamois, which I consider a boon because I’d rather not pay extra for a cheap pad I’m just going to pitch anyway. And though there are belt loops, there’s no belt. Again, that’s fine by me because I can ride with a nylon sport belt like the Bison Pure Trek, then swap to leather with a nice buckle for going out.

This versatility is the thing I like most about the Unions. These are shorts that are good for both biking and everyday use. I live on the road and have very limited packing space. The Union is the one pair of shorts I’d never give up because I can wear them on the bike, to the bar, in the pool, and, in a pinch, even to bed.

The fact that Chrome is still making these shorts—pretty much unchanged since their inception except for a slightly trimmer tailoring—speaks to their quality and staying power. And while I’m often tempted to buy another pair just to have them around should Chrome, God forbid, ever discontinue them, my originals are in such good shape that there’s no need. Planned obsolescence be damned.

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