Chromag - Whistler born and bred

Nov 28, 2011
by Lee Lau  

Chromag is eight years old, and it is already hard to think of another bike company that is so quintessentially Whistler. This is an article about Chromag components. Indeed, not a product review, because what can one intelligently and honestly report about handlebars, stems, chainrings or seatpost quick release clamps?. Instead, I offer a paean about the inception of Chromag and how its name became associated with quality products and the art of bicycle componentry.

Ian contemplating his first bike

Ian Ritz contemplating the first bike he ever designed: the Chromag TRL


The story begins with founder Ian Ritz and his vision of a simple, steel-framed hardtail designed to flourish in Ian's back yard, which happens to be the Whistler Bike Park. Ian's journey into frame-building soon inspired a modest range of components which were shaped and proven on the mountain's uber-technical trail system. Chromag's products soon attracted a following among Whistler's top riders. Before we get started on Chromag components, however, if you doubt the capability of a steel-tube hardtail in the world's most famous bike park, watch the following video:

Jinya Nishiwaki Killing it in Whistler on His Chromag Hardtail
Views: 39,489    Faves: 388    Comments: 53

The Birth of Chromag
Back in 2003, Ian Ritz was a co-owner and head mechanic of Evolution Bike Shop (still going strong in Whistler). Recall that this was the age of Kooka, Syncros and Race Face. The Whistler bike park was in its infancy. Disc brakes were still new-fangled and the Marzocchi Shiver fork was the big thing. Working in a place where the sheer concentration of hard-charging riders is hard to imagine gave Ian the opportunity to see an extraordinary volume of broken bikes and parts - an education that no doubt, would assist the soon-to-be bike designer when he eventually left the bike shop to found Chromag.

Chromag's Headquarters: (clockwise) Ian Ritz and Julian Hine • Ian and Marlowe • the workshop • and a Chromag fan admiring the showroom.

At the time dual-suspension bikes were coming on strong and Whistler riders were the early adopters. However, the hardtail still played a role. To save their suspension mechs, some would start the riding season on hardtails as the snow was melting. Suspension was in its infancy and unreliable, so more commonly, riders would break their fullys and spend some time on their backup hardtails as they were waiting for replacement bikes. That said, by the time Ian decided to make custom frames, most Whistler riders had adopted dual-suspension bikes, and hardtails were nearly forgotten.

Jordy on Frisby Ridge Revelstoke - Chromag Stylus seat and handlebar

Chromag hardtail in its natural environment - Revelstoke


As manufacturers switched research and development resources to full-suspension the hardtail ceased to evolve beyond its cookie-cutter NORBA geometry, steep angles, short-travel fork and and generic aluminum frame tubes. Ian wanted to bring back the elegance of hand-built hardtails, but reconfigured for longer-stroke forks and with geometry suitable for the Pacific Northwest. Enter Mike Truelove. Mike was one of the original welders at Brodie Bicycles who was underutilized in his home workshop in Squamish. In 2002, the consummate craftsman (Mike) and the enthusiastic designer (Ian) sketched out a design for the first Chromag TRL steel hardtail frame, with details such as a relatively slack head angle, an oversized seat-tube, a low bottom bracket - details that seem self-evident now, but were quite visionary for the time. The first production run of eight Chromag hardtails emerged in early 2003 and were immediately spoken for. It's a testament to Ian's foresight that Chromag hardtails haven't changed all that much and remain competitive in the present resurgence of the genre.

Chromag TRL

Chromag hardtail high above Vancouver. While steel hardtail frames are still their roots (watch out for a new 29er), components have become and will remain Chromag's bread and butter.


Chromag Ventures Into Components
Fast-forward three years: Ian met the guys at North Shore Billet - like-minded craftsman who take pride in their North American manufacturing. Once based in North Vancouver, North Shore Billet is now located close to Chromag's headquarters in Whistler's Function Junction industrial area. NSB's extensive CNC-machining experience allowed Chromag to produce and market quality components, first with stems and later, with a line of seat post clamps and accessories.

Chromag all-mountain components dressed up a Transition Bandit: (clockwise) Chromag Moon saddle, seat quick release, Ranger Stem and Acute bars • Chromag Lynx DT saddle • Chromag Ranger stem overlooking Revelstoke lake • Ranger Stem and Acute Bars over Mt. Revelstoke National Park

Far from its modest eight-frame hardtail run, Chromag has become an international business that manages almost 300 individual parts that make up its component lineup. Hand-built steel hardtails are still its signature product, but since breaking into the component market in 2004, frame sales have become a fraction of the company's business. Chromag now has four full-time employees and over 270 individual products to manage. Chromag remains a tightly knit, grass-roots operation with a very family feel. Ian’s wife Becky manages Marketing and PR.. Ian's mother Kathy Long is the artist who helped craft the 'twin bear' Chromag logo. Chromag is very involved in Whistler; organizing many events including trail work days, a twoonie race and the annual Chromag Family Gathering (Watch the Family Gathering video).

New leather seat
New Trailmaster leather saddle on Ian's Chromag 29er hardtail

Chromag is one of those brands that has that ephemeral quality attached to its products. There is a Whistler Zeitgeist for those who can look beyond the shopping malls there. If I may be hippy-poetic -- one of intense joy in pushing personal boundaries, of living life to its fullest, and to play for the joy of the activity. I would argue that wanting to be associated with that Whistler buzz is what makes riders from California, Switzerland, Japan and from Vancouver put Chromag parts on their bikes. Of course, there is also substance to the bikes and components. The colourful components (colors are ink-transferred, laser-etching is used extensively and parts are sand-blasted for visual effect) does not derogate from their performance. The primary focus of Chromag's product design is on strength and reliability, so be warned that Chromag components are not for weight-weenies.

For an article on Pinkbike
Chromag Twin Bear logo designed by Ian's mother.

Chromag First Impressions
It would have been disappointing for my Chromag components to under-perform. Rather than the usual reviewer schtick of trying to find something trivially negative to complain about, I'll sum it up to say that I was not disappointed. The Chromag Moon saddle in particular was astonishingly comfortable. Its smooth surface allowed me to slide back and forth easily. The all-mountain Ranger and Acute stem and bar combo looks sharp and feels stiff. The QR seat collar feels solid and smooth and has no plastic bushings to wear our and no sharp edges to tear skin. - Lee Lau

Santa Cruz V-10 carbon with Chromag Fubars OSX Chromag Director stem Lynx seat
Chromag was one of the first brands to offer ultra-wide handlebars - Santa Cruz V-10 carbon with Chromag Fubars OSX

Features and prices of Components in this Article


Description

MSRP (Cad)

Weight (tested)

Misc

Acute Handlebar (All-Mountain)

 $100

265g (1" rise  - uncut 710mm)

•  Black, Gun-metal, Polished
• 1" rise
•  31.8 clamp diameter
•  5deg up, 7deg rear sweep
•  710mm wide

OSX Handlebar (DH)

Anodised $100
Paint $110
Chrome $120

310g (1" rise - uncut 760mm)

•  Black Chrome,
•  Paint White, Paint Red, Paint Gold,
Satin Nickle, Silver, Dark Bronze, Orange, Black, Red, Blue, Lime, Purple, Polished Gold.
•  31.8 clamp diameter

  • 5deg up, 8deg rear sweep

Ranger Stem (All-Mountain)

 $140

153g
(70mm)

•  Black, Pewter, Red, Gold, Green, Blue, Purple
•  31.8 clamp
•  40, 50, 70, 80 & 90mm lengths
•  Zero degree rise

Saddles (Lynx DT and Moon)

Moon
$130

Lynx DT
$95

240g

 

275g

•  Black, white, grey (Moon)
•  Black, White, Blue, Green, Red (Lynx)

Chainring

$55

 

• Black, Pewter, Red, Gold, Blue, Green,


Contact Chromag








80 Comments

  • 30 0
 all these company reviews give a really good insight into how they do it, another good pinkbike blog Smile
  • 2 4
 His hands will be sore at the end of the day! Can you say arm pump?
  • 5 0
 if you ride HT's for long enough your fore arm muscles tend to get stronger and you dont get arm pump as easy
  • 7 0
 its funny how on the poll the only yes answer to 'does your bike have any Chromag parts?' ends with 'love my chromag parts'
its like Chromag knows us bikers dont need any other option!
  • 2 0
 But is Chromag manufactured in Whistler ???
I have a OSX bar that works fine but the lime green anodized finished has faded out under the sun...

So yes I have Chromag parts on my bike but not 100% satisfied.
  • 1 0
 ALL coloured ano fades in the sun Rolleyes theres no way around it Blank Stare
  • 3 0
 well I had an Answer handlebar in red for 3 seasons and it never faded...
  • 1 0
 Coloured ano doesn't fade in England, cos there ain't no sun Razz
  • 2 0
 lol...
  • 15 0
 Chromage is a dope company. Period.
  • 9 0
 sick parts all around, and hats!
  • 31 1
 who wouldnt love this company? their logo is a bear grabbing his junk
  • 12 70
flag DH-Til-I-Die (Nov 27, 2011 at 15:42) (Below Threshold)
 I think the hype of "it's made in canada" is getting old
  • 25 1
 you dont live in canada, so you dont know what pride we have in canadian products.
  • 16 1
 It means that there quality made parts made by people who take pride in their work instead of mas-producing crap so they make the most money which usually falls apart after the first week.
  • 9 3
 Dear DH-Til-I-Die, Get out!
  • 10 0
 Its not so much that its made in Canada but more-so that its DESIGNED in Canada. When mountain biking started to catch on in Canada (specifically on the west coast) riders began to see SO many issues, the bikes that they were riding were built around trails in places like northern California where the steep head angle and short travel fork proved adventageous. Sure Gary Fischer was very instrumental in getting thing started and Jonny T could shred those bikes in California but they were so drastically different than what became required for BC/Washington trails. Bikeparks were also a very Canadian thing, there wasn't many places doing what Whistler was doing in the late 90s/early 2000s so that lead to an entirely new need and instead of waiting for people designing bikes in other parts of the world to figure it out test it and get on board Ian decided that he would forge ahead on his own project. That's where Chomag was born, born out of necessity. I think that is really what people take pride in. Things in the market today don't need to be built in the homeland especially with bikes you are going to take a frame no matter where it is made and load it up with Sram or Shimano parts built in another country.

My understanding of Kieth Bontrager's company seems to show the exact same thing, a company born out of true necessity

I personally love my Chromag parts there are parts that when I go to build a bike will take few other considerations I've met Ian and Julian twice and they really struck me as two people who are whole heartedly involved in what they do. It really is a second family to those guys.
  • 8 0
 @ DH-Til-I-Die, last time i check you brits hype hope a whole lot, and IMO most of them are fairly nice(love my hope brakes). but there are others im not too found of.

end of, dont go bashing us, when you do the same thing's for companies that are native to your country.
  • 2 6
flag Antron (Nov 27, 2011 at 22:22) (Below Threshold)
 "Merica!
  • 3 2
 actually, i believe it would be 'merica, not "merica
  • 18 0
 Thats the most ridiculous grammar correction i've ever seen on pinkbike
  • 5 1
 Why does everyone immediately assume that if its mass produced overseas then its going to be worse quality?
  • 5 0
 Made in Canada isn't hype, it's a refreshing alternative from seeing everything made in Asia...
  • 1 0
 bigtard, i agree with you, and im the one who did it lol
  • 4 0
 dh till i die - its means its made by people that ride world cup worthy trails to get to work...
  • 3 0
 mayynnn quiet with the bitchin' let canadians have pride in canada and let us have pride in hope Wink
  • 3 0
 Hope hubs rock!!!!
  • 1 0
 They didn't when the axles broke on a monthly basis. And i'm not lying about this one at all. If you rode hard. You broke axles.
They're good now though.
Hope does a good job of making good stuff. And you gotta respect their commitment to doing it in house.
You couldn't always say that though. Their brakes used to do a terrible job of handling heat and always used to pump up. And they still have a hydraulic hose banjo situation that is incredibly easy to knock free that ruins all chances of having a functioning brake.
Their headset was always good though. Always used a compression ring style top race as opposed to just copying Chris Kings failure of a headset design like a lot of companies(since solved after years of denying the problem)
  • 5 1
 I feel like the generic statement "Made in canada" has been confused with "Not mass made." Just my two cents.
  • 1 0
 That is true in a lot of cases with a lot of Companies... A good sized portion of Chromag's lineup though is made in BC. just not any of the "low end" stuff and none of the bars.
  • 3 0
 you done goofed pissing off us crazy canucks
  • 10 1
 Hardtails FTW!!!!
  • 2 0
 I wish i could ride hardtail that hard.
  • 6 0
 Hold the phone. In 2003, Kooka was LONG gone, Shivers were being replaced by 888's, and disc brakes were pretty much on every gravity bike... Jus sayin.
  • 4 0
 I got a bit carried away there
  • 7 0
 Sweet article and i Love my Chromag OSX bar!
  • 6 0
 Agreed Chromag bars are awesome
  • 7 0
 This company is LEGEN... wait for it... DARY.
  • 2 19
flag gouty (Nov 27, 2011 at 15:48) (Below Threshold)
 no
  • 2 0
 owwww. look ive ridden a hardtail dh and it hurts like no ones business. you fingers hurt like heck cracking your knuckles every time you go over a jump or drop or rocks. thats why i just got a full sus Smile but as for the Cromag company i would love to try some of the parts out
  • 2 0
 Same here, I rode DH for 4 years on a SS hardtail and I would never do it again even if I could be as fast as I am now on a full suspension bike.

HARDTAIL = OUCH !!!
  • 2 0
 North Shore Billet was working with Chromag right at the beginning. Including the dropouts for the initial run of TRL's. That was prior to NSB having a shop of their own, and was one of the key factors in making that shop happen.
  • 1 0
 Sorry pete - thanks for the correction
  • 5 0
 Single best thing they make is their Seatpost QRs, love mine so much.
  • 1 0
 possibly the best seat and wheel qrs !!!!
  • 2 0
 i think thats about as punk as mtb gets. pink goggles, shredding dh on a hardtail, and some old school NOFX. sick vid! and btw, wow at 3:25. crazy skill! inches if that from clipping bars on that tree
  • 5 0
 chromag is to canadians what hope is to us brits.
  • 2 0
 Sorry, but the description of mountain bike technology in this article is off by at least 5 years. NORBA geometry? Kooka? Disc brakes were still new-fangled? That's all 90s talk!

Love ya Lee Smile
  • 1 0
 guilty of poetic license
  • 1 0
 i rode whister on a hard tail for 4 day straight had to keep up with fullys... well a pair of handle bars and fulface later funest/roughest riding of my life HARD TAILS FOR LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 1 0
 made in canada i hope they will make some bmx stems cranks ,,seat post stuff i love to own some ,,i ride mtb to ,,,but more bmxer ,,i hope he does ,,some thinking i wish ,,,made canada wow love it makes me so pround ,,u guys rock ,cheers
  • 1 0
 Not really having been seriously mountain biking since...well,since the days of Kooka, that video just blew me away. Damn on my old 90's bike with 2" os travel, I'd been on the brakes the whole way but this guy was flyin'! Very fun to watch and impressive. Nowadays I live in the city and simply don't have the cash to get a bike capable of that kind of stuff. I'm kinda content with my simple old Rocky converted for street but watching that does make me wish for a new machine. That vid sells the sport.
  • 2 0
 My favourite bike is my Chromag Monk! its never broken down, and always delivers the fun!
  • 1 0
 I want a trailmaster leather saddle !!! When are they available through QBP in the USA ?? Love my stems !! Nice stuff and keep up the core, rider owned, zen work !!
  • 3 1
 Chromag parts are so soul-destroyingly expensive though!...
  • 3 0
 Im pretty sure they're right in line with what almost anything else high end costs. mountain bike riding isn't exactly for poor people. But you totally don't need to buy the expensive stuff to have fun. However if you can, you're bike will look way cooler. go chromag! way to keep it real boys!!!!!!
  • 3 0
 Common problem with most sports... Starts sort of small and rebellious and eventually only the high-dollar elite can afford to participate. Its hard to keep the "grassroots" feel in anything anymore when there is a chance that someone can suck dollars out of the participants.
  • 2 0
 ... and eventually, the "high dollar elite" offload this year's stuff for next year's stuff, and then you score. Any sport is as expensive as you want to make it. Chromag parts are in line or cheaper than Straitline and Loaded ... and they make good products.
  • 2 0
 c'mon rock guy. i'm not sure if you're pooping all over life in general or just Chromag. Mountain biking was always expensive. At least now you get a good product as opposed to ten years ago when your dollar got you crap like a Race Face SYstem or XY seatpost. Don't poop on Chromag, they're the good guys doing it for the right reasons.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, they make quality parts, that I'm sure of. I just don't think I could ever justify dropping £100 on a stem, even if i was feeling pretty flush!
  • 2 0
 Thats the beauty of choice, you don't have to. Go buy a cheap stem it won't change the way you ride, you're bike just won't look as nice. You're usually gonna shred better than the rich guy who can afford all the fancy stuff anyway!
  • 1 0
 all the parts from Chromag i see in shops are consistent with RF pricing... which is less than twenty6...
  • 1 0
 ...c'mon bigtard... Im not pooping on anyone! I love that there are small guys out there who make great gear. Years ago when I worked in the bike shop, I would have had this stuff all over my bike if they were around. And you are correct that mtb has always been pretty high end. Stop craping on RF though. I had both of those products on my bike, and still have them. Sorry your experience wasnt so good. The one thing I cant figure is how can anyone justify $130 for a damn saddle. Kinda have to side with sam264... "sould-destroyingly expensive".
  • 1 0
 would the Moon be good for all mountain (ie: good amount of sit and spin) or stick to lynx or trailmaster??
  • 2 0
 The Moon works well for AM. It's not supersoft so its best to be someone who likes a hard seat. But its got a sloped nose so if you have to move forward a bit on the seat you won't numb yourself
  • 1 0
 I'd love to go see chromag's facility in person next time I go up for the day
  • 1 0
 Best thing they make is every component, loving my Ranger stem, Acute Bars, and TrailMaster DT Saddle.
  • 1 0
 come to Whis at the end of bike season. All the chromag parts in every store are at least 30% off. Bars were 40% off!
  • 1 0
 chromag stuff is really nice looking, but i don't understand why they are some of the most expensive parts available.
  • 2 1
 chromag should make a dh bike instead of all hardtails
  • 29 1
 Chromag does make DH bikes, they just happen to be hardtails.
  • 3 0
 no doubt stustinky... but they are more famous for their components than their dh bikes.
  • 1 0
 Best parts for your bike for sure.
  • 3 2
 The 98 people that said they weren't interested....... Retards.
  • 1 0
 Great story. Love my Chromag bear!
  • 1 0
 probably my favourite mtb company ever
  • 1 1
 ya but hard tails are stexy 4 dh why cantthey make at traditonal dh/fr bike it wood look so sick!
  • 1 0
 my FAVORITE BRAND,period
  • 1 0
 that really kills it
  • 1 0
 i rade a hardtail in w

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