Alchemy Arion Custom Carbon Aero Road Bike – Unboxed, Weighed & First Rides!

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

Ever since spotting Alchemy’s Arion aero road bike at NAHBS, we’ve all had a crush on it. Now, finally, we have one in on review.

While all of Alchemy’s bicycles are full custom and handmade in Denver, CO, ours was not custom made for us. It’s one of their personal bikes and was built for crit racing. This description of the build came in an email stating that this bike has been ridden hard and put away dirty. Funny thing is, you can’t tell. The frame looks gorgeous, not a scratch on it. And it’s wicked fast…

ACTUAL WEIGHTS

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

The test bike came with its own wheels, but we swapped them for the ENVE Smart 6.7 clinchers we have in on review (laced to DT Swiss hubs with Panaracer Closer tires mounted). The complete bike without pedals came in at 16lb 5oz.

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

Put together in normal (for me) riding fashion with a seat bag, blinky light, Speedplay pedals and a bottle cage, weight was 18lb 1oz.

Alchemy’s Dave Ryther says it only has one bottle cage mount because it was built just for crit racing, you can get more if you were to order one of your very own.

FRAME DETAILS

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

What’s most striking about the Alchemy Arion, besides the stealth fighter looks, is the detailed aesthetics worked into the carbon layup. The logo is a perfect example: It’s strands are just aimed in an ever so slightly different direction than the tube it sits on, giving it a ghosted appearance. Other parts of the frame aren’t as subtle, and depending on how the sunlight’s hitting the frame, you’re in for a dark prismatic treat.

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

At every joint, the carbon wraps are cut, shaped and laid in tight, sharp geometric patterns that accentuate the fighter jet look. Seriously, pictures don’t do this justice. Even Sweetie did a double and triple take on this one. And she never does that for road bikes.

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

It’s not just good looks, though. The downtube, seat tube and post use NACA-inspired airfoil shapes, and the layup… well, the layup is whatever it needs to be to suit the customer. But this particular bike is proof that it can be as rock solid as you want and still look good.

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

The headtube stays lean for aerodynamics with a slight flare at the bottom to accommodate the 1-1/4″ lower diameter. It comes spec’d with an ENVE 2.0 fork.

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

They also use ENVE’s saddle rail clamp on their own seatpost, and our test bike came with matte black ENVE handlebar and stem, too. Honestly, I can’t imagine any other bar and stem on this bike, they just match up too perfectly.

Why the love affair with ENVE parts? Alchemy’s carbon tubes are made by ENVE, and this particular bike started life as a collaborative project between both companies.

The frame shape was designed by Matt Maczuzak, Alchemy’s R&D/Design manager and the person who started their carbon bike program. Before he came on board in 2010, they were building with only titanium and steel, and he was a design consultant for consumer electronics and medical devices.

The Arion’s design started with NACA air foil theory and was tweaked to be more aerodynamic where the tubes see the most wind frontage. Other parts were widened, like the bottom bracket, to provide the stiffness they wanted. It wasn’t designed in the wind tunnel, but Maczuzak says they’ve since put it in there and the results were quite pleasing.

Ride quality was an equal priority to aerodynamics. Ultimate stiffness wasn’t an overriding concern, and Maczuzak says because they’re built one or two bikes at a time, they can pay extra attention to the layup. Before that happens, though, the tubes have to be made, and that’s where ENVE comes in:

“We had been selling them round tubes for some of their other bikes, and they approached us with the concept for the Arion,” said Jason Schiers, ENVE’s founder. “We helped them develop the tooling, which is proprietary to us, and optimized the shapes to make them more ‘carbon friendly’ when it came time for production. From there, we would give them a few layups and resins, they’d build a couple bikes to test it and send us feedback. It was a very collaborative process. We have a lot of experience on how to get to the end result quickly, so we really helped them choose the right laminates, fiber orientation and wall thicknesses for the finished tubes. We provide all the raw tubes, then they do the assembly.”

Each base tube (top, head, down, seat and both sets of stays) are created in three standard layups with varying degrees of stiffness. Herein lies the big benefit of custom: Not only can the layup and geometry be tailored to your particular size and riding style, but the actual tubes themselves can be mixed and matched within the frame to give it the exact ride characteristic you want. The final touches, of course, come with the layup, and Alchemy’s award winning Arion has some of the best we’ve seen.

“Every piece of carbon on the frame is providing a service,” Maczuzak says. “Even on the top tube, those angular cuts of carbon are placed to provide a certain benefit, we just cut them to provide an aesthetically pleasing finish, too.”

On this particular bike, which is Maczuzak’s personal crit bike, he used standard tubes plus a few extra layers of overwrap to give it a ride feel somewhere between their standard and stiff tubesets.

Alchemy Bicycles Arion custom carbon fiber aero road bike is made in the USA

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

My first two rides on this bike were with tired legs. Yet, as soon as I was warmed up, it just begged to go fast. So I did. And it was good.

The bike is incredibly stiff fore, aft and everywhere in between. The usual handlebar-shimmy-test yielded less headtube flex and shake than any other bike I’ve ridden. Hard pedaling, whether seated or standing, simply translated into forward motion. I get the sense that nothing’s wasted on this bike. Even with tired legs, I felt consistently faster and stronger on the flats and hills.

All that stiffness does come at a price, though. On anything less than smooth roads, you’ll feel it. Not so much in the hands, but in the arse. Some of that’s likely due to the deep aero wheels, but it is, after all, a bike built for crit racing. The nice thing about full custom is they can build it however you want it to ride.

My latest ride was a solo 79 mile trip home from Fuquay Varina, NC, to Greensboro, which faced plenty of headwinds and a gradual uphill route. The bike was great, making the constant onslaught of winds bearable and plowing along despite my increasingly slow tempo.

I’m looking forward to riding this thing quite a bit more to see if the good (fast!) vibes are just early infatuation or an honest benefit of the stiff, aerodynamic build.

PRICING

Cost: $4,300 for frame, ENVE 2.0 tapered fork and Cane Creek 110 IS headset. Considering that includes full custom geometry and layup, that’s pretty fair. Lead time is about 6-8 weeks.

Comments

CW - 10/24/12 - 4:51pm

sweetie. . .lol

Evan - 10/24/12 - 5:05pm

When I see a bike like this I wonder why the manufacturer didn’t just go one small step further and put in mounts for fenders. It just seems like they are turning their backs on a potential market segment. It wouldn’t be much trouble, they wouldn’t need to change the basic bike they made at all, just have some way to add fenders. I’m not trying to single out this bike or this manufacturer, I see it from most manufacturers.

Jacob - 10/24/12 - 5:12pm

Fenders… On an aero bike. Why?

john - 10/24/12 - 5:13pm

Wait, what?

First, this is all kinds of ‘race-bike’ – fender/rack mounts really aren’t to be expected on such a steed.

Second, these are custom bikes. While custom bike manufacturers, by nature, turn their backs on a large segment of the market, those who DO order them can get them any which way they want.

diehipsterdie - 10/24/12 - 5:14pm

looks like a venge, probly ride like every aero road bike,like a board

Xris - 10/24/12 - 5:18pm

You’re funny Evan. Fenders…lol. Custom frames man, you can get fender mounts, rack mounts, and a kickstand put on there if you ask nicely enough I’m sure.

Henry - 10/24/12 - 5:51pm

I thought they moved to Denver???

RUSTYDOGG - 10/24/12 - 6:12pm

Beautiful looking. I bet it is stiff as hell.
Is it noisy? I ride a Felt F series and it is silent. I’ve ridden with these aero bikes and some resonate something fierce. Might be picky, just wondering??

Dex - 10/24/12 - 6:28pm

By far the best looking naked frame that I have ever seen. It would be an injustice to the bike to cover up all the detail of the layups. The only thing I wish they did different was the seat clamp. If they did something that was integrated like the Bianchi Oltre or Orbea Orca it would look much cleaner. Otherwise this bike looks sick. However I wouldn’t ride this bike in a crit unless I was going off the front after the first prime and did everything I could to stay in a break. Riding this thing in a pack would negate the aero and risk crashing a $$$$ bike. It would be like entering a Ferarri in a demolition derby. This is why I race my Caad 9 and do fast group rides and solos on my Pegoretti.

Tyler (Editor) - 10/24/12 - 6:29pm

Actually, their website says Denver. Fixed the post, they used to be in Austin, good catch all.

A Texan - 10/24/12 - 8:37pm

nice Venge knockoff

anon - 10/24/12 - 8:43pm

@Evan

Fender mounts are increasingly hard to find on any road bike, production or otherwise, unfortunately. Seems they’re relegated to the touring market.

David - 10/24/12 - 9:31pm

Beat the Venge in the wind tunnel. I’ve seen both up close and the Alchemy’s foil is much more pronounced. More of a knife like edge and larger foil. No way could you produce that shape consistently in a production bike. The Venge is a Venge is a Venge no matter whoch one you buy. Alchemy custom lays the carbon to give it the feel you want and stiffness you want. Can’t compare to a Venge, this bike takes it to another level!

Quickie - 10/24/12 - 9:39pm

Awesome bike. Black is awesome, flat black is double awesome.

Jack & Adam's Racing Team - 10/24/12 - 10:13pm

We’ve raced this bike all year. Nothing short of amazing. Easy to write it off as venge “copy”, but it’s nothing like it. You won’t find a stiffer, smoother and faster bike (it’s quiet too). This frame is equally at home in NRC crits as it is on the steep climbs in Denver and Boulder. The pictures don’t do the craftsmanship of this bike justice. The guys at Alchemy make a bike that is second to none. Great to see them getting much earned praises, here at Bike Rumor!

M.C. Slamer - 10/24/12 - 10:15pm

Venge knockoff?… Isn’t the Venge itself a Soloist copy-cat?…

Jason - 10/24/12 - 10:21pm

I own an older model Alchemy (2011) like this one but with a round seat tube and it’s FAST. I’ve never ridden a bike where it feels like every single bit of power I am trying to lay down makes it all the way to the pavement. I’m a bit bigger (6’2″, 195lbs) than most of the guys around me and my older bikes would flex to no end. Not this one.

Crits, road races- it’s a great bike for both.

Jason - 10/24/12 - 10:23pm

Oh and about the Venge comments … After this bike won at NAHBS it was Specialized that copied Alchemy with the flat black “limited edition”.

Devin - 10/24/12 - 10:24pm

Oh man Evan, you hit the nail on the head there. Nothing says rain bike potential like a custom aero road frame with very limited tire clearance and a layup optimized for stiffness.

Not to dog pile on you, but there are many bikes that would benefit from some hidden fender eyelets- this one happens to not be in that category. But you know what- it’s custom and I’m sure they’d do it if you asked.

Tom - 10/24/12 - 10:40pm

Pretty cool looking aero setup. But boy does this ever draw attention to the ugliness that is the DA crankset.

Speedy - 10/24/12 - 11:48pm

This bike is pure hot hot sex! I’ll take two. One with fender mounts please hahahahaha. Oh wait, were you serious Evan? If you really want fender mounts on your carbon aero race bike, hit up Ruckus Components. They’ll set you straight.

Steven - 10/25/12 - 1:56am

That is one ugly bike. I love that they made the seatpost look like one of those revers forward angle posts. Awesome!

Inspector Gadget - 10/25/12 - 8:19am

Nice looking well made frame and they put what looks like a boat anchor of a seat collar on it. How much does that thing weigh?!?

Ck - 10/25/12 - 8:28am

I nominate Evan for the best BR troll of 2012. The rest of you need to step it up.

The idea of showing the exposed layup is cool, but it looks like a 4 year old built it out of black construction paper and paste. Some beautiful things should be left un-seen.

RAB - 10/25/12 - 9:10am

Since it is a custom build anyway, I’m really surprised they didn’t just go with an ISM so they wouldn’t need that chunky collar. Wonder if they could do that upon request (moot point for me since I could never afford it anyway).

Andre - 10/25/12 - 9:32am

Evan’s comment is word for word the exact same comment posted by Gear on the Ibis Hakkalugi story from 10/14. Something weird going on there…

Boner - 10/25/12 - 9:53am

Forget fender mounts…why are there no RACK mounts on this thing? Can I option for carbon cruiser style bars? This bike neglects the aero weight weenie grocery shopping commuter segment.

ant1 - 10/25/12 - 10:53am

does it come in a recumbent version?

Tyler (Editor) - 10/25/12 - 11:02am

Andre – yep, that comment’s shown up on a few lately, including the Anthill custom Trek Session, which is ridiculous. We’re looking into it.

Nathan - 10/25/12 - 12:17pm

Wow. Another matte UD frame. How ordinary.

Lars - 10/25/12 - 12:30pm

Sexy. Yes.
Foil? Wind Tunnel? Who cares.

Just F’in Ride.

Alchemy Pete - 10/25/12 - 12:40pm

Hi Guys,

Pete from Alchemy Bicycle Co. here.

Thanks for all of your comments and conversation. I would like to take a minute to answer some of the questions and reply to some comments above. Here goes…

1. We are a full custom builder and can put fender mounts, rack mounts, whatever you’d like into our builds per our customer’s request.

2. A couple of people mentioned similarity between the Arion and the Venge. For the record, we launched the Arion @ NAHBS in February 2011 and won the best carbon bike award with the Arion @ NAHBS 2012. If I’m not mistaken the Venge launched in Spring 2012.

3. Ride quality of all of our carbon frames can be tuned specifically to meet our customers needs and desires. The Arion is traditionally stiff, but the carbon lay-up can be manipulated to provide a more plush, comfortable, vertically compliant ride.

Thanks again!

greg - 10/25/12 - 1:17pm

fenders are more aero on open wheeled cars and motorcycles. i wonder if the uci has rules specifically against “aero” fenders?

Jordan - 10/25/12 - 1:25pm

@greg Firing up ProE now to model me some aerodynamic advantage fenders :P

Krank - 10/25/12 - 7:10pm

The UCI has already put the kibosh on fairings

dale - 10/26/12 - 12:22pm

Haha fenders. Well, to each his own.

Him - 10/26/12 - 1:02pm

I like the short headtube

ewitz - 10/26/12 - 11:47pm

2. A couple of people mentioned similarity between the Arion and the Venge. For the record, we launched the Arion @ NAHBS in February 2011 and won the best carbon bike award with the Arion @ NAHBS 2012. If I’m not mistaken the Venge launched in Spring 2012.

Matt Goss won Milan -San Remo in March 2011 on a Venge.

thebikegnome - 10/28/12 - 6:16am

Seriously? venge ? This bike looks as similar to the venge as a Fuji sst. or a felt aero bike, or a scott foil. completely different .

MTBR12 - 11/22/12 - 6:22pm

I realize one race team guy said it climbs good, I was hoping a few people with practical knowledge as well as Alchemy Pete could comment on its climbing ability. I like the looks but need to be able to climb too. Thx

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