“When I was a kid I would make my own skateboards in my dads’ shop. I had a very deliberate intent to make them a certain way,” Ian Ritz matter-of-factly reveals as he wanders about the Function Junction headquarters of Chromag in Whistler, the bike brand he founded out of necessity and inclination.
Ian’s father was a carpenter and his mother an artist, providing him with a garage full of fabricating tools, arts supplies and two mentors to draw from. That combination of craftsman and artisan, hard wrought construction and visceral experience, shines through with everything Ian is and everything he put into starting Evolution Bike Shop, and then later Chromag.
Ian Ritz co-founded Evolution Whistler, the hip ski, board, bike, fashion store, in 1994. “Working on Evolution allowed me to tap into a desire to be creative with design. I wanted to do more and more. The Evolution dragon logo was designed by my mother, as well as the bear logo for Chromag.” Conversely, as artistic outlets were being realized, practical challenges were being raised.
Working in the bike shop wrenching everyday and sharing the trails with a core community of really progressive trail riders meant he got to see, firsthand, what was working and what wasn’t. Around this time the mountain bike market was transforming rapidly – the full suspension bikes were being experimented with and backs were turning on hardtails for anything other than cross-country racing, neither being optimum for aggressive and progressive riding that was being realized, especially locally. But Ian was raised to be a resourceful man, “I remember when I needed a special bolt for a motorcycle and instead of buying it my dad just made it.” So in 2002 he designed his own steel hardtail frame that resolved all the broken philosophies he saw in bikes available at the time. This frame was the genesis of Chromag.
In eleven years Chromag evolved with Ian’s desire to shape and fabricate. “As we started doing handlebars and saddles – things that you could put logos on – and using a CNC machine to put complex shapes into parts that I was able to express that artistic side alongside with construction engineering.” Chromag has morphed from personal project into a fully fledged business (Ian sold his shares in Evolution in 2003 to concentrate on Chromag), and as the product range has grown Ian has been able to merge art and technology so that the creativity and expression of both his mother and father’s influence has been balanced.