Alchemy is a Colorado-based company that’s long been known for building perfectly engineered carbon road bikes—finely crafted machines that are true works of art. The Alchemy crew has been building bikes for over 10 years but had yet to make a big leap into the mountain bike world—until now. Alchemy decided not to make that leap with a hardtail cross-country machine, one that was close in construction to the roadie speed machines it already made; instead, the company decided to go all in and design one of the toughest bikes there is to build: an enduro bike.
To tackle this lofty goal, Alchemy employed the help of one of the best suspension designers in the business, David Earle. Dave has been responsible for some of the most iconic designs in the sport. In fact, if you’ve ever ridden a Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) bike, you’ve experienced David Earle’s magic. This new Arktos comes to the trail with the carbon mastery of Alchemy and the suspension wizardry of David Earle. We simply couldn’t resist bringing one in to test out on our SoCal trails.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
This is a purebred enduro bike in every sense. It sports enough travel to hit everything—up to and including rocky downhill trails—but keeps the weight down with full-carbon construction and the efficiency high with the unique Sine suspension platform. This is a bike for the rider who wants to have his or her cake and eat it too. The relatively slack geometry is stable on steep and rough trails, and the suspension is built to gobble up any rocks or chunder that might get in the way. It also doesn’t need the help of a chairlift to find the top of the mountain.
Under the hood: The pivots ride on big cartridge bearings to keep the suspension running smoothly.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Alchemy bikes are all built in-house at the company’s Boulder, Colorado, facility. That sets these bikes apart from nearly every other carbon bike, almost all of which are imported from Asia. The hand-laid frames are meticulously constructed with tube shapes that put strength where it’s needed to handle the rigors a 6-inch-travel bike will be put through.
Sine under-carriage: Notice the slick internal cable routing to keep the frame’s shape clean and smooth-looking. According to Alchemy, the issues we had with rattling cables will be a thing of the past on all their production bikes.
The Sine suspension design is unique to Alchemy and is exclusively licensed from suspension wizard David Earle. It’s called “Sine” because the shock rate resembles a sine wave and is designed to feel different as the bike goes through its travel. In the first portion of the stroke the suspension is soft and supple to absorb small bumps and improve climbing traction. In the middle of the travel the bike firms slightly to provide support and keep from “wallowing.” Then, at the end of the stroke, it opens up slightly to allow the rider to use the full 6 inches of travel.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Boost it: The 12×148-millimeter axles, aka Boost, are quickly becoming the standard. The Arktos comes to the table with all-new amenities.
Our Arktos came with a hodgepodge of components, including high-end Enve wheels and cockpit, a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, and a Reverb dropper post. All the components worked flawlessly during our testing and allowed us to focus on evaluating the all-new suspension platform rather than worrying about components letting us down.
The bike also came with a very sweet Praxis crankset, presumably because Praxis is located in Boulder and employees from both companies probably run into one another on the trails quite often. The aluminum crank is clean looking, lightweight and stiff. It’s not a commonly spec’d part, but it probably should be.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setting sag: Alchemy built this bike with a new and sophisticated suspension design, but it’s still very easy to set up. The fork and shock both use an air spring with only one pressure adjustment. We set the bike to a matched 30-percent sag front and rear, and then set the compression and rebound adjustments to the middle of their ranges and hit the trails.
Moving out: The Arktos fits very true to size, with a lengthy top tube, short stem and plenty of standover. The bike has a snappy feel, loves to manual down the trail and isn’t afraid to come off the ground at any time. Even before we left the parking lot we felt compelled to toss the bike around a little bit, knowing that the on-the-trail performance would bring more fun.
Lively feel: Before we even made it to the trailhead, the Arktos begged us to take advantage of its playful nature with a few manuals. The front end comes off the ground remarkably easily, and the back end follows nicely.
Climbing: The lightweight construction helps this bike float uphill as well as any other respectable enduro bike. As a bonus, the Sine suspension delivers on the promise of small-bump compliance, which gives the bike improved traction on technical, short-burst climbs. The rear shock valving is very firm, so when the shock is set to the firm setting, the bike is almost locked out. This setting only works for pavement and the longest of fire-road climbs. For everything else, plan to use the middle or open modes to reap the benefits of the supple, traction-grabbing suspension.
Sure-footed: The slack and stable geometry does exactly what any solid enduro bike should—it corners with confidence, even when the tempo is high and the trail is technical. It’s also not so slack that it would stray away from a tight switchback.
Cornering: The bike sports relatively short chainstays and a long front end, which has quickly become the standard for enduro bikes. As a result, the Arktos handles corners as you’d expect, and that’s a good thing. The bike is predictable in choppy corners thanks to the active suspension design, and the dialed geometry handles the rest of the equation.
Sine us up: Although the Sine is a brand-new sus- pension platform, the designer, David Earle, has plenty of experience building killer bikes. We felt right at home on the Arktos, right out of the gate.
Descending: The Sine suspension delivers on the promise of a slight pedaling platform followed by a plush and controlled mid-stroke. When the bike is pointed down technical terrain, the suspension is very active, moving through its travel effectively to track the terrain. The slight pedaling platform means this bike is not as plush off the top of the suspension as some other designs, but the mid-stroke works so well you’ll hardly notice. The bike also works to dig deep in the stroke, which makes it feel as if you’re truly using every millimeter of travel.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Our first ride on the Arktos was on the original-development prototype. It was the first suspension bike Alchemy had made. It had some teething problems, including a suspension bearing that came loose, rattling from the internal cables and some cable rub that wore through the paint. Thankfully, Alchemy listened to the prototype feedback and made the necessary adjustments. This test bike is a full-production model and features improved cable routing that doesn’t rattle, extra guides to prevent cable rub and suspension bearings that didn’t come loose during our test period.
Alchemy proves with the Arktos that when a company known primarily for building road bikes takes its expertise and applies it to the mountain bike world, it can make a very successful transition. In this case, Alchemy brings its handmade carbon expertise to the aggressive suspension world with the help of one of the most well-known suspension wizards in the mountain bike community. The result is an aggressive enduro bike that handles exceptionally well, with a new suspension design that delivers on the promise of a truly efficient bike that isn’t afraid to dig deep into its travel on big hits.
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