Alchemy's passion for bespoke performance bikes is backed by collective bike building experience spanning the beginnings of the US mountain biking scene and the introduction of carbon. A combination of traditional metalwork and innovative carbon construction has seen the company build an enviable reputation stateside as a crafter of truly fine bicycles that are now available to UK riders.
Founded in 2008, Alchemy Bicycle Company set up shop in Austin, Texas, with the goal of crafting beautifully engineered bespoke bike frames. While the brand first became known for genius working of steel and titanium into custom-geometry masterpieces, it was the addition of industrial designer and composites expert Matt Maczuzak to the team in September 2010 that laid the foundation for Alchemy's now peerless standing in the world of high-end custom carbon bicycles.
Where most bespoke carbon builders use cut-to-length pre-made tubing, Maczuzak designed the tube shapes himself, using fellow US brand Enve for fabrication. Maczuzak had faith from the outset that Alchemy could be as strong in the field of carbon bike manufacture as any player in the world – a belief since proved time and again thanks to Alchemy's uniquely precise Techne-Craft construction process.
Finished tubes are meticulously cut, with exact tube-to-tube configurations achieved via the use of a special jig that maintains custom geometry throughout the frame building process. Lightly glued in place, the precision of the tube alignment all but eliminates the need for joint filling compound, which often 'deadens' the feeling of a carbon frame.
Each junction is then expertly wrapped in carbon to create a unique frame that perfectly reflects each customer's desired ride characteristics, making for an exceptionally special finished product – the pride of any rider's collection.
This construction method was lauded at the 2012 and 2013 North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS), where the Arion aero road bike took home the award for Best Carbon Construction.
In October 2012, founder Ryan Cannizzaro moved operations from Austin to the thriving cycling scene of Denver, Colorado, and a new 12,000 square-foot headquarters with on-site coffee house – Chroma Café – servicing the ground-bean cravings local cycling community.
Alchemy began to increase in-house design, mold cutting and carbon lay-up, giving further control over ride characteristics. The brand has also branched out into stock frames, an ideal solution for customers unwilling to wait for their new bike and for retailers who can sell bespoke frames off the stock sizes, as well as hold more stock.
Though a large proportion of Alchemy frames are made from carbon, metal also remains a key part of the business and one that Alchemy has recently worked hard to reinvigorate. Maczuzak's frame design expertise has been applied to the overhauled range while Cannizzaro's headhunting of expert frame metalworker – and heavy metal fan – Jeff Wager from US custom builders Serotta, means the designs are perfectly realised.
With a three-strong team of the industry's finest painters – Shane Haberland and Phil Harwood and graphic designer Nick Hemendinger – Alchemy has expanded this area of the business into Ethic Paint Works, offering custom paint jobs for Alchemy and other builders as well as direct to customers.
With the rugged backdrop of the Rockies close to Alchemy's Denver HQ, the call of the mountains grew ever louder, and the brand soon set about transferring its high-end carbon expertise to a true MTB line. Even at an early stage, the Arktos was marked for greatness thanks to the expertise of Alchemy and industry legend David Earl combining to create a totally new full-suspension bike.
As the US's foremost name in high-end custom carbon as well as creators of beautiful titanium and stainless steel bicycles, Alchemy's combination of bespoke performance and made in the USA quality makes it an ideal Saddleback brand.
When it came to the company's all-important first full-suspension MTB – the Arktos – Alchemy enlisted the help of industry stalwart David Earle in the creation of a totally new rear suspension platform.
Santa Cruz's VPP system – found on the original Blur and Nomads, Yeti's 'Switch' system, Mountain Cycle's Turntable linkage and several other patent-pending suspension systems are all products of Earle's CAD workstation.
Exclusive to Alchemy, Earle's Sine Suspension (a naming nod to the shape of the leverage ratio curve) makes its debut on the Arktos. Sine features variable response throughout the travel to absorb small bumps and maintain climbing traction, helping to prevent mid stroke wallow whilst still permitting full utilisation of the Arktos' full 150mm travel when needed. Sine is also designed to minimize chain growth when the bike is traveling, aiding pedalling efficiency and keep the suspension active under braking.
The bike has certainly casued a stir; the design winning the Best Mountain Bike award at NAHBS 2016.
The Helios gives the perfect combination of light weight, aerodynamics and stiffness to create a bike that climbs like a dream, holds speed with aplomb and accelerates fast under sprinting power – while still maintaining all-day comfort.
The frame's design sits between the round-tubed Xanthus and the aero-road Arion, resulting in an exceptional all rounder. The Helios features an aero top tube and a specially shaped proprietary down tube, which is flared at its ends to increase stiffness at the key head tube and bottom bracket junctions. A round seat tube and traditional back end make the Helios both comfortable and extremely responsive.
The Helios is available as a fully bespoke frameset as well as in stock sizes and comes complete with headset and ENVE Composites 2.0 tapered fork.