Chromag Primer

Words Pete Roggeman
Photos Dave Smith
Date Jul 1, 2016

Where hardtails are concerned, there are three categories of rider:

Those that want one (includes those that have one).

Those that want to want one.

Those who wonder what the hell is wrong with the other two.

I have dabbled in all three groups. I spent the least amount of time in group 3, though. Partly because I’m old enough to have owned four different hardtails back in the 90s. Once I saved up enough money to trade in the last one for a first generation Heckler, I never looked back. I sure as hell appreciate steel tubes and the simple joy of a sloping top tube, but I was pretty comfortable as a member of the ‘want to want one’ group for a long time. And then I’d jump on my dualie and forget all about it.

The Chromag brand has a lot of seductive elements, but the various head tube badges may be the most perilous to your finances. If you’re worried about your wallet, do not look a Chromag in the eye.

But, seeing a Chromag here and there stirred up some old embers. They didn’t burst into flame until I had a closer look at the Rootdown BA. I liked the thought of a smaller-wheeled, more playful hardtail, but common sense took a turn with the mic and convinced me that if there was a place for big wheels, even on a hardtail with aggressive intentions, this was it.

And then Rebecca Ritz, the wife of Chromag owner Ian – I guess that makes her an owner, too – told me they had something new coming out. We had been talking about putting together the right test bike for some time, and I would always ask if they had a plus-sized frame ready yet. That day had finally come.

The Primer has the same similar geo to the Rootdown BA (the head angle is one-degree slacker at 65 degrees), but it was designed to switch hit between 27.5+ and 29″ wheels. The beauty was that I didn’t have to commit to one wheel size or the other. So I could put big tires on there and yank ’em off and sub in 29s if I didn’t like ’em. No flip chips or fork swaps required. A wheel & tire dabbler’s dream hardtail. With Boost, of course.

Enter the Chromag Primer.

The geometry is…quite aggressive (same as the Rootdown BA):

Chainstay 16.3″ 415mm

Headtube 4.1″ 105mm

Head Angle 65°

Seattube Angle 75°

BB Height 12.6″ 320mm (with 29″ tires)

Seatpost Size 31.6mm

Headset Size 44mm/56mm

Ft. Derailleur Size N/A – not intended for FD

BB Shell BB92 *measured with a 160mm fork. Optimal 120-160mm.

I’m 6’1 and opted for a size Large. Complete geo chart can be seen here.



M: 5’ 5″- 5’ 10" / 165 – 178cm

M/L: 5’ 8″ – 6’ 2″ / 173 – 188cm

L: 6′ – 6’ 4″ / 183 – 193cm

XL: 6’ 3″ – 6’ 7″ / 190 – 201cm

M: 603mm / 23.75″
M/L: 622mm / 24.5″
L: 648mm / 25.5″
XL: 667mm / 26.25″

M: 432mm / 17″
M/L: 470mm / 18.5″
L: 495mm / 19.5″
XL: 533mm / 21″

M: 428mm
M/L: 447mm
L: 473mm
XL: 492mm

M: 653mm
M/L: 653mm
L: 653mm
XL: 653mm

This picture does justice to everything about the Primer. The colour, the lines, the long top tube, and yeah that fork looks long because it’s a 160mm Fox 36 made to play nice with a 29″ wheel.

It gets better. The Primer is made and painted in Canada. Welded by Squamish native Mike Truelove – here’s a brief interview with him on the 7mesh site – and painted by Chris Dekerf. The Primer has a rather special pedigree.

An overwhelming percentage of Chromags that you see in the Sea2Sky corridor are built up with SRAM 1x groups and Pikes up front. So I was happy to build it up a little differently. Yes, it’s 1x, but it’s XTR. Note: the Primer is intended to be built up with a single chainring only.

I was hoping to have an 11-46 cassette on there, but they’re not quite ready yet. This 11-42 paired to a 30t ring up front will serve well.

For wheels, I opted to start with 27.5+ because they’ll ease the transition to a hardtail. I’m old enough now that I get to coddle myself a bit, right? DT Swiss Spline ONE wheels featuring 40mm wide rims make for a stout combo. The 29s will go on soon enough so I can compare the two.

Beautiful dropouts, junctions, and brake mounts. XTR Trail brakes and 180mm rotors front and back.

Chromag components where possible, naturally. We opted for a 35mm HiFi stem.

Primer goes both ways. Hardtails are an area where plus tires may have a bright future. I suspect I’ll settle on 29 most of the time, but I’m looking forward to playing around with both.

The first batch of #longlivechainsaw stickers sold out in 12 hours. Pick some up here…

The DT Swiss Spline ONE 40mm wide rims + WTB Bridger 3.0 tires are a super wide combo. This is how much clearance was left after a rear wheel re-dish. Probably best to stick to about a 2.8 and 35mm rim width max with the Primer.

The Race Face Turbine dropper post will get a good test on the Primer. Hardtails are good test beds for components.

Maybe not here, but the cable routing looks better in side mode. If you zip ’em to the middle, they look like they protrude from the down tube.

I’ve been using this Chromag Trailmaster LTD for about a year. It’s just getting broken in. A steel hardtail deserves a leather saddle and for me, the classic look of this one fits perfectly.

150mm drop Race Face turbine.

There is enough fork clearance with the Fox 36 – barely.

The Primer isn’t hard to look at from any angle.

Just like the Rootdown BA, stealth dropper post cable routing. Nice touch, Chromag.

The new WTB Bridger 3.0 is a proper 3″ tire. Which means it looks more like a mid-fat than a Plus tire.

We have some pretty sexy test bikes in the stable right now, but so far everyone that sees the Primer has expressed just a little more interest than usual.

Sure, this will be a review. Of the bike in 27.5+ vs 29″ form. Of going back to a hardtail after not having ridden one in some time. Is this some kind of masochistic manifestation of mid-life in crisis, or just the next phase in my infatuation with bikes?

There aren’t many of these out there in the wild, yet.

Trending on NSMB


Cr4w  - Aug. 9, 2016, 8:53 p.m.

Is there going to be a follow-up to this?


Chopalot  - July 6, 2016, 11:33 a.m.

I have been on my new Chromag Primer for about two weeks now. I love this bike. Here's some comments I just sent a friend whose looking at their new Surface which has a similar geometry to the Primer and Rootdown BA ( 65deg head angle like Primer tho).

Here's the good:

-great descents. So much more control than my Santa Cruz Tallboy its ridiculous

-great in technical climbs. Alot of this has to do with such a comfortable riding position when you are climbing. I dont feel the need to pin the seat tip to my ass so much. There are comments that this is a long bike. Maybe it is but with the steep seat angle and slack head tube I feel that the handle bars are a perfect distance for my reach.

-plus size wheels add a level of comfort for me. A little extra suspension and better traction for sure. Its funny tho, its now been a while since i've been on "small" wheels/tires so I kind of forget if there are advantages besides weight!!!!

-wickedly awesome in technical descents Victoria's hartland road is full of these. I can ride stuff I have NEVER ridden before. Huge plus here.

Now the areas where I am a little challenged:

-the seat position on straight stretches feels too far forward. I have yet to try to push it back a wee bit because I love it for climbing. I suspect this is a trade off between comfort in climbing and comfort on straight sections. On descents i am almost always out of my seat but when on it, its great.

-its not a fast turner. With a plus size wheel and slack head geometry you have to factor this in when riding. Again, this is what you trade for all the above benefits so I am keen to learn how to deal with it!

Pete Roggeman  - July 18, 2016, 11:15 a.m.

Thanks for sharing Chop! What other plus-sized wheels and tires have you been running and on what bike?


Chopalot  - July 18, 2016, 11:47 a.m.

I live in Edmonton now. Two years ago i bought a Borealis Fat Tire bike near the end of the summer. I preferred it to my Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC ( on the stock 4″ 45-Nrth tires, 80mm rims) so i decided to try 50mm carbon 29″ rims with Bontrager Chupacabras. I love it. It climbs just fine and was a monster truck in the descents. Huge rollover and tons of fun. At the beginning of this summer I tried my Santa Cruz again to see if I wanted to keep it. Couldn't find a thing it did better for my preferences and this terrain.

This Chromag is different than the Borealis. Its better at climbing and "most" descents (technical and steep). I notice the difference between 29″plus and 27.5″plus. MOre monster truck rollover on those huge diameter 29er's and that suits some of the fast trails we have around here. Very interested to see how this Chromag does in the snow too. My Borealis 29plus tires were fine for packed at up to 3″ fresh snow. Anything more and it was wild and had to switch up to the 4″ tires.

Pete Roggeman  - July 5, 2016, 9:57 a.m.

Couple of updates after speaking with Ian at Chromag (these will be added to the First Look article above):

1) Primer frame cost is $1600 CAD / $1250 US.

2) Headangle is 65 degrees - one slacker than the Rootdown BA. I had originally been told it was the same geo, but that was awhile ago. Incidentally, the 2017 Rootdown will also have a 65 degree HA.

3) BB height is based on beefy 29″ wheels like a Minion or Hans Dampf. 27.5+ can change things and of course it depends on tire volume, but generally you're going to end up slightly lower - to the tune of ~3/8″ (9.5mm). Therefore BB height can be between 12.25″ and 12.6″ (311 to 320mm).

4) The Primer is not made to be used with a front derailleur.


steve low  - July 2, 2016, 1:37 a.m.

So this new primer is made in Canada so im assuming that the price will be double the price of the Taiwanese made Rootdown BA (frame only). Just like the price of the other 29er the Surface. Surface is made in Canada and retails for $1600 and the Rootdown BA is $850!
Could someone please convince me of why i should spend (almost) twice the price for a similar frame!
$850 is a terrific deal given the r+d and pedigree but $1600 just to be able to run 27.5+ tyres??? Anyway im a massive fan of Chromag and ride a Cotic Bfe 27.5 now so im a diehard hardtail idiot!!


Vik Banerjee  - July 2, 2016, 6:12 p.m.

If you don't want to run plus tires and you are happy with the bike you have there is no reason to buy a new bike.


steve low  - July 2, 2016, 9:19 p.m.

Im on a 27.5 steel hardtail now and also have a 29er carbon xc and am considering a steel long slack low 29er so am looking at all my options. All i really want to know is with the Chromag range are the made in Canada frames that much better than their Taiwanese frames. Im not for or against 27.5+ but if that is the only factor in these two frames and performance/weight etc is pretty similar then its quite a lot of money just for that option of 27.5+ !


Morgan Taylor  - July 4, 2016, 7:46 a.m.

Make no mistake: Chromag's Taiwanese-made frames are excellent bikes. I have the original Rootdown and it is super rad.

But, the Canadian frames are made with a closer attention to detail and have traditionally been built with lighter tubesets. They are also built and painted by guys who have been building bikes in BC for decades – that has its cachet.

You can't go wrong with a Chromag.


Nat Brown  - July 4, 2016, 2:19 p.m.

Cachet was a wisely chosen word.


Merwinn  - July 5, 2016, 11:54 a.m.

And prolly not to the same numbers at the Tai-made bikes, I would guess. Mr. DeKerf has other things on his plate, I would imagine.


Chopalot  - July 6, 2016, 12:02 p.m.

My understanding was that the tubes are identical between hand-made and Tai- made. Chromag folks will tell you that the Tai made bikes are just as good. Not sure if the welds are a nice and with the hand made you can pick your colour.


Cr4w  - July 1, 2016, 3:22 p.m.

Remarkably tall stack numbers for such a tiny head tube! My bike runs the same fork and has a head tube that's 34mm taller but somehow only has 6mm more stack than the Chromag. Curious.


Poo Stance  - July 1, 2016, 12:56 p.m.

Minus the Plus wheels/Boost ass-end this is the frame I want Chromag to make. Just need a Surface rear triangle mated to this Primer front triangle. I'm impressed that it is able to take a front derailleur as well! My lack of gorilla arms would put me in the Medium size camp.

I assume BB92 is a PF BB, but what else is it? I continue to see bikes/frames equipped with this. Does it take a standard 68/73 crankset spindle?


Aaron Billcliff  - July 1, 2016, 6:56 p.m.

BB92 and BSA 68/73 result is the same overall width, BB92 includes the bearing seats where as the BSA adds the thickness of the BB cups to each side.
Likewise with BB107 and BSA 83mm.


Poo Stance  - July 4, 2016, 10:45 a.m.

Thanks for the explanation. King Q&A has even more info that I wasn't able to find earlier.


ExtraSpecialandBitter  - July 1, 2016, 7:05 a.m.

Oh wow. I saw the teaser picture of that. Where's the "take my money" button?
Those stack and reach numbers though! My M/L Samurai 65 is 602 and 420… quite a step up. It'd be interesting to hear how sizing works out.
Also, be sure to keep that seat post insertion well greased… dissimilar metals yo.

Pete Roggeman  - July 1, 2016, 2:08 p.m.

I'm 6'1 but have short legs by proportion - my inseam is 32 at the most - so my longer upper body and arms like all that room to stretch out on. I'll absolutely have more to say about it after I've ridden it a bunch and reviewed it. The bike's long reach is very obvious, and stunning to look at. It feels good so far but I haven't really ridden it off road in earnest yet.


Poo Stance  - July 4, 2016, 10:42 a.m.

I've had no issue with dissimilar metals on my first run Surface. Helps that I sprayed the inside of the frame with a rust inhibiting film before build-up I'm sure. Or at least I tell myself that…


ExtraSpecialandBitter  - July 4, 2016, 2:52 p.m.

That spray would most definitely help. I know of more than one case where a dropper was installed in a steel frame and after a year or two it could not be removed without destructive means.

Pete Roggeman  - July 5, 2016, 9:57 a.m.

At first I thought: "is that reminder necessary?" but I've been riding since steel was the standard choice, and I grease or use carbon paste on everything. Always good to remind the folks out there, so thanks.


Poo Stance  - July 19, 2016, 10:35 p.m.

Easy as a morning poop removing my Reverb outta my first run Surface this Spring for servicing. 😉


Ken Leggatt  - July 1, 2016, 6:01 a.m.

So nice! Makes me want to upgrade the Wide angle!


Daniel Lees  - July 1, 2016, 1:32 a.m.

I have a mk1 Rootdown that I love but looking at that I'm starting to have thoughts of newer model… this isn't going to be cheap is it… especially with the UK pound in the crapper.


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