“Our designs prioritize real life function before style, something that I think is actually uncommon in bike manufacturing,” says Chromag Bikes founder Ian Ritz. “Fancy machining is cool but it better not cut my cheek if it doesn't have to.” In 2002 Ritz launched Chromag – a small, specialized company offering steel hard tail frames and components that are being embraced by rippers and spreading like a virus within BC’s dedicated riding scene.
In Whistler BC, where Chromag was developed and where Ritz has been pedaling for over a decade, ‘real life function’ is a relative term. In this neck of the woods; from Vancouver’s North Shore, through the cult town of Squamish, teaming Whistler, Pemberton and all the way to the dusty Chilcotin Mountains, the terrain naturally epitomizes the word ‘varied.’ Within a day’s drive, trails go from stunt laden jungle-style singletrack on the Pacific coast, to steep and rocky high alpine riding, man-made whoops, berms and dirt jumps to fast and flowing singletrack in an arid desert landscape and everything in between. And the weather is no walk in the park either: when it rains it pours, when it’s sunny it’s baking hot, when the mosquitoes arrive, keep moving or else.
The riding community in this part of the Coast Mountains is large, active and hungry to ride. The result are trails; hundreds of them, and hundreds of good riders that are constantly pushing the limits of their capabilities, pushing the limits of trail design and the bikes and parts they ride.
In 1994, at the age of 25, Ritz and a business partner started Evolution Bike shop in Whistler Village. Evolution soon became a focal point and gathering place for a many locals who’s lives revolved around mountain biking. “It was at the shop where I began thinking about products – watching and listening to what riders’ wanted, what worked and what broke.” For nearly a decade he ran his shop and rode constantly. Over the years Ritz and other Whistler locals went through different styles of riding – from the biggest possible DH bikes and massive hucks to lighter freeride bikes and all-mountain bikes. The local trails evolved and changed, as they continue to do. In 2003 he left Evolution and Chromag Bikes was born. As the Chromag web site describes, “A bike that would be durable enough for the rigors of new school trails, long travel suspension, and the more advanced brakes, tires, and components that allowed the rider to be more dynamic.” The result is a line-up of 3 frames: the TRL, the Samurai and the Gypsy and 2 different stems and a set of bars. A simple line up that has quality on the forefront.
Ritz’ personal style is reflected in Chromag’s philosophy. Beyond functionality, the frames exude a crisp and solid style. He’s a world-class athlete meets eccentric artist; an engineering geek meets big city DJ. He thinks he can do everything himself and, well, so do his bikes. Last year, Ritz came 9th in Whistler’s infamous technical death-march race, the Samurai of Singletrack – in just under 6 hours. Ride with him from his house and find yourself hiking your bike to the front door, eating a big ‘ol breakfast, and then hiking it straight up out of the back door. His backyard is a labirynth of some of Whistler’s most technical trails.
There’s no doubt that ‘real life function’ that Ritz refers to means different things to different people, depending on your environment, riding style and a million other factors. Judging by the backyard trails, community and approach of Chromag Bikes, ‘real life function’ has taken on a whole new meaning.Check out: www.chromagbikes.comChris Winter runs Big Mountain Bike Adventures: www.ridebig.com