Alchemy is a weird name for a bike brand. According to this definition, alchemy is “a form of speculative thought that, among other aims, tried to transform base metals such as lead or copper into silver or gold.” The idea has been around since at least the 12th century, and despite hundreds of years of trying by countless “scientists,” no one has actually been able to transform a base material into a precious one.
Or have they? Carbon is one of the most common elements in our galaxy, and over the past decade Alchemy (the bike brand) has found a way to spin fibers of the basic material into high-end mountain bike frames. I have the short travel Alchemy Arktos in for test and for some reason, the bike has a sticky label attached that says Xena. So, I guess it’s up to me to see how this warrior princess performs on the trail.
Alchemy started out hand-building carbon bike frames in Colorado, though today much of the production has moved overseas. The company still designs and prototypes carbon frames in Colorado, and they’ve developed award winning carbon layups which gives them the confidence to offer a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects (crashes and normal wear and tear are not covered), According to the brand’s marketing materials, lateral stiffness is prioritized in the layup design, as are lightweight and overall reliability.
Sine Suspension System is Alchemy’s patented suspension platform, designed by David Earle. You can read about the details here, but the tldr; is the design seeks to minimize pedal bob. That, paired with a focus on lateral frame stiffness, promises to make for a bike that climbs really well, while (hopefully) remaining capable and comfortable on the descents.
The linkage on this Arktos 120 model is very compact and mates seamlessly with the carbon frame. Oversized pivots promise plenty of strength and durability. This Arktos model offers 120mm of rear suspension and is designed with a 130mm fork in mind.
Naturally, the frame features internal cable routing through the down tube. The derailleur cable briefly exits the down tube, then jumps into the chain stay to keep things nice and neat. Cables and hoses exit above the bottom bracket, rather than below, keeping them farther out of harm’s way.
On the size extra large bike I’m testing, there’s more than enough room for a full-size water bottle inside the front triangle. Alchemy also provides mounts for a second bottle cage on the bottom of the down tube which is a nice thought, though in my experience it’s not all that practical.
There’s a flip chip to adjust the bike’s angles by 0.75°. The 77.75° seat tube angle is on the steep and progressive end for a trail bike, while the nearly 66° head tube angle is about average for a short-travel bike. The reach and wheelbase — 520mm and 1272mm, respectively, for the extra large model I’m testing — stand out as relatively long among trail bikes. The 333mm bottom bracket height is slightly lower than the 2021 trail bikes I’ve looked at, but not by a lot. The lowish bottom bracket, combined with the frame length, should make for a progressive and stable descender.
Alchemy sells complete bikes direct to consumer through their website.
Looking at the Arktos 120 builds available, one of the first thing that stands out is the suspension package. All of the builds, from the least to most expensive, feature a Fox 34 Factory fork with a GRIP2 damper and a Factory DPX2 shock, both in all their Kashima-coated glory. Yet (and I’ll likely get some admittedly deserved flack for saying this) the starting price of $5,499 isn’t as expensive as I would have guessed with all those gold-colored stanchions. Putting together build kits is an act of balance and compromise and the fact that all three builds feature Fox Factory parts shows that this is an area where Alchemy chooses not to compromise. It’s a bold move, and it sorta makes sense given how much suspension can affect a bike’s performance and ride feel. The downside is that keeps the price out of reach for many buyers.
The bike I’m testing has the brand’s middle build that features a 12-speed Shimano XT drivetrain, priced at $5,999. The brakes are Shimano XT too with four pistons and 160mm and 180mm rotors front and rear, respectively. Alchemy specs this version of the Arktos with matching 29er wheels which are Industry Nine Enduro S wheels with their fast engaging Hydra hubs. And while the rims may not be carbon, they are 30.5mm wide internally for a good fit with wider tires down the road.
Speaking of the tires, the build I’m testing includes a 2.3-inch Maxxis Minion DHF up front and a 2.3-inch Minion DHR II in the rear. Both tires feature an EXO casing which makes sense given the bike’s light-trail intentions, however, harder-hitting riders may want to upgrade to something burlier.
Just like the suspension components, Alchemy also specs a Factory-level Fox Transfer dropper post on all of the builds. I’m not sold on the performance benefits of a Kashima-coated dropper post, but at least it matches the suspension in name, if not always tint.
At the front end of the cockpit there’s a set of 800mm Tag T1 alloy bars and a 35mm Tag T1 stem. The bar and stem have really helpful markings for getting everything aligned and dialed which is nice. For hands there are DMR Deathgrips, and for butts, a Selle Italia Base-X saddle.
All told, my extra large size build weighs 31.24lb without pedals.
I’ll be testing the Alchemy Arktos 120 over the next several weeks to see how far I can push it. The brand suggests the bike is designed for a “down-country” style of riding, but I suspect it may be capable of a bit more when it comes to riding rough. Stay tuned for a full review later this fall.