7mesh lies at the heart of the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, stretching from Horseshoe Bay near Vancouver through Squamish, Whistler, and into the Pemberton Valley beyond. Though the character of each community varies, they share exposure to the beautiful geography and geology of the region and the expansive Canadian wilderness beyond. The unusual Coastal/Mountain character of the Sea-to-Sky has attracted an amazing collection of craftsmen and creators who are defining their own niches in their chosen professions. “CORRIDOR” showcases the creativity and artisanship of the men & women that inspire us.
A fairly nondescript building in Whistler’s Function Junction area houses mountain bike brand Chromag. Launching in 2003 with steel hardtails engineered for the demanding Whistler trails and moving into components a short while later, Chromag has become a player in the global bike scene while staying close to their Whistler roots. We talked with founder Ian Ritz to discuss what makes Chromag roll.
How did Chromag come to be? What brought you too the Sea to Sky region?
Like most people in the area, I came here to be a ski bum. As a teenager coming from the prairies I was in awe of the mountains. It wasn’t hard to decide to stay permanently and living here I soon discovered mountain biking. I started a bike shop in 94’ and soon got interested in frame building. I met a great welder and some local machinists and everything just fell into place.
Describe the culture of Chromag? How big of a part does music play into? Who gets to choose the office playlist or does it just flow throughout the day?
Everyone who works here is really into music and so we’ve made it a theme of the workplace. Our speaker collection is a little out of hand…Yeah there are definitely battles over the playlist!
What was the idea behind the annual show and shine ? How long as it been going?
We started the show and shine nine years ago and it was just an impromptu thing at the end of our loonie race. Back then there were maybe eight bikes and we were just like ‘who bike is the best looking?’ After that it got more and more competitive each year and now it’s a serious affair with people building custom displays, lighting, backdrops, props etc.
What is the process of building a Chromag product and who does the majority of production?
The process starts here at Chromag. All of our designs are created in-house and selfishly, we start with our own desires. When designing we also draw heavily from our riding community at hand and that’s been a primary part of making products that people can relate to. When it comes to manufacturing, it really depends on the product and how it needs to be made. We make products locally and abroad and for each one, we look for a partner with the best capabilities and experience required to make it.
Do you prefer steel or stainless steel?
Different products need different materials. We use a little stainless steel but frames are made primarily of Chromoly steel.
Do you ever see Chromag moving into full suspension frames?
Not any time soon. We have our hands full with hardtails and a pretty broad component list.
Describe the best Chromag bike build up you’ve ever seen?
One of our machinists wanted to paint his frame to resemble a classic Gibson guitar. A Les Paul model. We did a fade on that one that blended between rich butterscotch and a deep mahogany. I spent a full day just building the lettering to match the font of the original guitar. It was of course built up with a nice selection of Chromag parts but the oiled leather saddle was the finishing touch. Each year people do more and more creative things to build their own special bike and the benchmark keeps going up, but this one is my current favorite of all time.
Hardest thing about starting a business?
I think when you start a business, and especially when it is just you, the hardest thing is meeting the demands of being all things that a business needs you to be. You get pulled in a lot of different directions.
Biggest fad that is in mountain biking now but won’t last?
I’m constantly surprised at what lasts.
If Chromag wasn’t based in the Sea to Sky area, where would it be?
Its hard to imagine it any other way. Chromag was born from the Sea to Sky.
If you could change one thing about the Corridor what would you?
An alternative long distance transit system (other than the highway)
What makes you proud to live in the Sea to Sky Region?
We have an incredible sense of community here. I’m proud to be part of that.
Describe your perfect ride.
An alpine to valley ride on a summer day that starts with a big breakfast. It would have to include some snowfield crossings, a trail top swim at a lake with a glacier melting into it, a ripping singletrack descent and beers at the back door of Chromag.
What was the last big group ride you did?
See the previous answer. We did that last Friday!
Favourite activity outside of cycling?
Right now, swimming in the lake. Its bloody hot out! But Jam nights are fun too.
Have you had a memorable customer that really stands?
We get some characters here but I’m not naming names.
How many five year olds can you take in a race?
At this point, almost all of them…but here in Whistler, when they are five it won’t be long till they are leaving you in the dust.
Where will Chromag be in 10 years? In 25?
We are really happy where we are at now. We are a small team with jobs we love. We make product that we are excited and proud to use and we can compete on a global scale. I hope to continue refining our products and pushing our values while having fun and listening to loud music for as long as possible!