Chromag – Back to the Roots of Mountain Biking
Why do you ride? Where do you ride? What kind of riding do you do? What kind of riding do you plan to do? These are all questions that every rider has thought about and for sure has been asked at the local bike shop. This review will try to shed some light on the Chromag Rootdown and how this mountain bike responds to those questions.
Right now trying to pick a new ride in the biking world is more complicated than ever. Bikes have become elaborate, full of bling and sometimes complicated. On top of the technology, component and design changes every year bikes have also become very “niche”.
This year I found myself riding my existing bikes more than ever. I was also riding to the trailhead instead of driving. Often rides had me pedalling 10kms on gravel, pavement or packed trails to just start my ride on the mountain. My aggressive full suspension bike just wasn’t fun or efficient riding long flat distances. My old cross country hardtail was great on the flats but was not built to handle the rocks, roots and steep descents of west coast BC.
The Chromag Rootdown – Keeping Mountain Biking Simple
I found myself riding my old hardtail more and more each week. I wanted the efficiency of fast rolling to get to the trailhead. Then to make up for an under-built bike for our technical demanding PNW terrain I found myself riding more deliberate on the trails. I had to ride smooth and I needed to make smart line choices, add some finesse and lots of body fluidity on the pedals.
With this style of riding making me smile more each ride and the full suspension bike sitting for weeks on end I realized I needed one bike that could do it all. Was there a bike that could put simplicity and capability back into riding?
Fortunately I live in the mecca of mountain biking, the west coast of British Columbia. This allowed me access to plenty of riders, great bike shops and a solid network of skilled riding friends who helped me explore what was out there. After two weeks the all around bike was discovered. it did exist after all. Best part was that it was a local Canadian Company, I settled on a bike frame from Chromag Bikes out of Whistler BC.
Why The Chromag Rootdown ?
As soon as it was clear what made me happiest on a bike and the diversity of riding I was going to do, the Chromag Rootdown checked all the boxes. Best of all as mentioned above, the bike is built by locals who live and breathe MTB on Canada’s west coast.
From the Chromag Bikes website
“We are a passionate group of mountain bikers who have chosen a lifestyle centred around mountain biking. We value quality products that are suitable for our style of riding, we are creative in our style and our sport, and we are committed to providing exceptional customer service. That’s how we started, by making the frames and parts we always wanted. It starts with our own personal use and extends to the community in one of the best testing environments in the world, here in the rugged Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada.”
What was my criteria for my new build? The bike had to roll fast and efficiently on flat hard packed surfaces. I ride at a capable intermediate level so the bike needed to handle technical double black downhills, this meant a slack front end. The last wrench in my needs was a bike that could be used for bikepacking in the future. (yes my backpacking passion is spilling over to my riding).
Did I mention I wasn’t buying a complete bike? This would be my first time buying a frame and building a mountain bike piece by piece to suit my needs and style. Chromag is primarily a bike frame builder first and foremost although you can order completes direct from them.
I am not a mountain bike mad scientist, I can’t explain head tube angles nor do I know much about seatpost geometry. What I do know is the Chromag Rootdown is hella slacked out for tackling steep descents. It has a short rear chainstay and easily takes 29 or 27.5+ tires. It is made from 4130 Chromoly steel, yes I sold a full suspension carbon fibre mountain bike to build a steel hardtail.
Check out all the official Chromag Rootdown Frame specs for yourself; https://chromagbikes.com/collections/29-27/products/frames-rootdown-20
Following several chats with my friends Vik (Vik Approved) and Morgan (Found in the Mountains) I had a solid idea on the parts I would need. To make all of this reality Cowichan Cycles would be doing the custom build for me. Grant is an awesome bike shop owner and his mechanic William is also happened to be Rootdown owner.
One might think you are tough and a sucker for punishment going with a hardtail or that you are nostalgic. The thing is that because Chromag are all riders first and foremost is that they created a frame that can handle anything on the mountain. When you add this to the modern technology of tubeless plus size tires and beefy cush front forks you have a bike that soaks up all the impacts.
So I knew the bike would descend well but the Chromag crew lives and rides the same terrain I do, we need to be able to climb. They nailed it somehow and I won’t question their talents. Add on a dropper post and modern 1×12 gearing and this bike climbs like Spiderman delivering contact precisely and continuously as you grind your way to the top.
Chromag Rootdown Build Kit
For this build I chose the M/L frame as Chromag offers a slighter larger frame than your standard medium. The slightly larger frame was picked as I have plans to do a lot of bike-packing with this rig and felt the longer frame would benefit me here but not affect my single track shredding days. It might not be a perfect fit but you need to remember I am doing my best to build a “single bike quiver killer” here.
The Rootdown frame is fitted up front with the dependable 160mm RockShox Lyrik Select front fork. For no other reason than I have always had good luck with them, all my drivetrain is Shimano SLX M7100. Technology can be rad and I went the SLX 1×12 drivetrain, seriously 12 rings in the back is awesome. I have a 32t sprocket in front with the 10-51t rear cassette. Speed on flat terrain and big climbs are easy to accomplish with the wide range and of course that huge cog on the back.
Tires needed to be aggressive enough for some good ole west coast gnar on the descent and yet be fast rolling for getting to the trail and bikepacking. For this reason I went with the Maxxis Rekon in the volumness size of 27.5 x 2.80. Mounted on WTB asym i35 rims these tubeless Maxxis with their low pressure soak up all the trail bumps while providing maximum traction.
Stopping power was a departure for me and on the recommendation of Grant at Cowichan Cycles we went with the TRP Slate4 with 180mm Shimano XT rotors . These 4 piston hydraulic brakes use mineral oil, shimano pads and feel just like my old Shimano Saints. They are good enough for Aaron Gwin so who am I to be picky.
The seat department is done with a WTB volt saddle mounted to a dropper post from another Canadian Company, One Up Components. I also have a OneUp stem holding my Chromag Fubars in place. At my feet (flats for life) is OneUp Components again with their flagship aluminum pedal.
Getting Root “Down” To It – First Impressions
Wow I was not expecting what I got on my first ride after picking the bike up from Grant and the crew. First off, they nailed all my requests for parts and the freedom on small components to complete the package and it was damn sexy. Adjusted the dropper post, tweaked the saddle and set the tire pressure at a supple 14psi I rolled out for my first ride.
The bike was fast, like seriously fast and efficient on flat hard pack gravel. How is this possible on such fat tires and a mountain bike that looks like it should only be pointed down the steepest of descents? Next up, how was it so nimble and easy to pedal. While my first ride location wasn’t a double black it did offer rough terrain, soft loam, endless nasty big wet roots and some steep climbs. The bike overall, along with the components I selected created the perfect package and I can’t be more happy.
I have had the bike for a few weeks now and it has seen some long rides to the trailhead. Ample 600m plus climbs mixed with doubleblack bomb runs. It has even already seen an overnight 160km bikepacking trip. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly and already beat my old PRs set on my previous full suspension carbon fibre downhill ride on my favourite runs like Phloem on Maple Mountain.
I plan on doing a followup long term review on the Chromag Rootdown. We will dig into all aspects of how life on a modern hardtail has affected my riding. What types of riding did I tackle and would I build a bike like this again.
Stay tuned for that post in the future. In the meantime if you have any questions on the Chromag Rootdown or my build choices let me know in the comments below.
I can’t just leave this post without sending you away with some classic Beastie Boys ~ Now get out there and “kick it rootdown”