Has your jaw just hit the floor? Mine did when I collected Alchemy’s Arion from Mosquito Bikes, the new UK distributor for the custom US carbon fibre manufacturer. The brand has been raising eyebrows over in the States for a few years, and last year won the coveted Best Carbon award at the prestigious North American Handbuilt Bike Show.
London bike shop Mosquito has carved a niche as purveyors of fine brands like Pegoretti, Zullo, Moots and Independent Fabrication, but wanted a high-end carbon frame to add to their offering. The Alchemy fits the bill. The company isn't a name many will have heard of outside of the US, but that's set to change. This is the first bike to arrive at the store since the annoucement a couple of months ago, and I've been given an exclusive first ride on it. Lucky old me.
Alchemy started life in 2008, first setting up business in Austin, Texas before moving to Denver, Colorado. They specialise in making carbon fibre frames in the US, completely in-house with no outsourcing to the Far East. There’s only a small handful of US companies that do that. They have a strong partnership with Enve Composites, who supply the carbon tubes and forks. They use the tube-to-tube method for some of their frames, much in the same way that Parlee and Legend do.
But Alchemy are ambitious, and they're going a step further: they’ve invested in their own mould-cutting CNC machine. Producing moulds is an expensive business, and that alone shows Alchemy are serious about making the highest quality frames, and keeping the entire manufacturing process in the US.
Being able to make their own moulds means Alchemy can get much more creative than tube-to-tube allows. This Arion is a perfect example. There's barely a round tube in sight. And by keeping all the manufacturing in-house, they're able to offer a high level of custom design for each customer, something they're very keen on offering.
By making the frames in-house Alchemy can offer a customised bike made for the individual, including laying up the the carbon fibre specifically for each rider, to tune the ride and feel. They also offer stock geometry frames with a range of sizes, if you don't want to go down the custom route.
And what a bike the Arion is. Its aero credentials are immediately obvious the moment your eye is drawn to the NACA-inspired airfoil shaped down tube, and the seat tube which curves around the rear wheel.
It’s a tapered head tube up front. The top tube is a slender bow shape, very small diameter profile in the middle and flaring at the ends to form a large junction with the head tube and seat tube. This is a Di2-specific frame, with the wire entering the underside of the down tube just behind the fork crown. It exits neatly at the base of the seat tube for the front mech and atop the chainstay for the rear mech. The rear brake cable is routed through the top tube with elegant cable stops. The battery is packaged tidily away on the non-driveside chainstay.
A clearcoat finish lets the carbon fibre construction of the frame show through, and displays the precision of the layup. Sharp lines of the carbon fibres form funky geometric patterns. The detail around the bottle mount is particularly elegant, they’ve clearly indulged in a little flourish of elegance. The finish is extraordinarily good. This is real top-end quality. You need to see this bike in the flesh, the photos don’t do it justice at all.
You can specify options like press fit or threaded bottom brackets, as on this sample. An Enve 2.0 fork is included in the price.
They offer five stock sizes in all, but they can do a custom frame if you desire. This is a stock 56cm - my size as luck would have it. Tape measure out and it has a 56cm effective top tube, 54cm seat tube, 18cm head tube and 1000mm wheelbase. I measured the head angle at 73° and the seat angle at 73.5°.
Mosquito Bikes will be selling frame only packages and will also build a bike to order, and offer just about any build kit your imagination can stretch to. This is far from a modest build, but a frame of this calibre demands some top-draw components to bring its performance potential out. This bike arrived direct from Alchemy with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset, and SRAM Red cassette to save a bit of weight.
An aero frame deserves a pair of fast wheels, and the Enve SES 6.7 carbon clincher wheels are the newest design from the company. They use the latest rim shape, fatter and more bulbous than the previous generation of deep-section wheels. The front rim measures 60mm deep while the rear wheel is 70mm. The rims are laced to Chris King R45 hubs and the pair weigh 1,551g.
And it’s Enve carbon for the stem and handlebar too. Alchemy have produced their own aero seatpost and use Enve’s one-bolt seat clamp at the top. There’s a carbon railed Fizik Arione saddle and Continental GP4000 tyres completing the build. This is a pricey build, with a total running to just over £8,000. Mosquito will build you a bike to any specification though, and they'll also fit you as well. That's included in the price.
Which all makes for a very fine bike I’m sure you’ll agree. The weight? It’s 7.4kg (16.31lb) so certainly very light. Aero bikes usually carry a small weight penalty. Ultegra is clearly far from the lightest groupset option, and the wheels too aren’t climbers' hoops.
As you might imagine, building in small quanities in the US doesn't come cheap, and with a price tag of £3,495 for a stock frame and £3,850 for a custom, it's right at the top-end and lives with some exotic company. It's one of the most expensive frames we've ever featured on road.cc. Alchemy offer a lifetime warranty on all their frames and a crash replacement policy.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.