NAHBS 2014: Alchemy Gets on the Gravel w/ New Bike & Fork, Plus 700g Helios SL & Serotta Designed Titanium
We just toured Alchemy’s Denver, CO, factory last summer, and thought we saw a lot. They must’ve been keeping several projects hidden, though, as there were quite a few surprises at NAHBS!
Shown above, the Helios SL takes their very good looking road bike and drops a whopping 25% off the frame weight! By using a large proportion of lighter, military-grade hi-mod carbon fibers, designer Matt Maczuzak was able to shed considerable grams without having to change the molds. But the result is something he says is one of the very lightest “production” frames available today. As in, it comes in as light as 700g for a 54cm equivalent frame.
Of course, there are tradeoffs to making such a light frame. Read on to see what they are, and see what’s arguably even more exciting than a 700g frame…
The new carbon is a stronger fiber, so they can use a lot less. Hence the weight savings. It’s a much higher modulus fiber, so it’s less flexible and will make for a stiffer frame ounce for ounce. But because they use less of it, Maczuzak says the ride feel is comparable to the original (and still available) Helios.
So, what are the tradeoffs? For now, it’s rim brake only. And it’s available with an 1-1/8” compatible headtube only. And there’s a 185lb weight limit. And there’s an up charge on the standard Helios pricing. But hey, 700g frame. Worth it.
ALCHEMY AITHON GRAVEL RACER
Somehow, I managed to not take a photo of the complete bike, you can see it in the background of the titanium ‘cross bike at the bottom of this post. This is the new Alchemy Aithon gravel racer, and it brings a couple killer new features to their tool kit.
Perhaps the biggest item is their new fork, designed and made completely in house. Maczuzak says it was “near impossible” when asked how hard it was to do, but they wanted complete control over the ride characteristics and final geometry of the Aithon. It’s a single piece molded fork with single strain carbon from tip to tip.
The design is pure gravel racer with a 45mm rake, 40mm tire clearance and 385mm axle to crown. Normal road is 370-ish and 395 for ‘cross, so it really splits the difference. Weight should be around 440g in final production trim. The back of the crown will have a threaded insert for a fender, and they left enough room to fit a fender even with 40c tires.
Tapered only, and for now only to be sold with their bikes. No word on whether they’ll sell it aftermarket, and it’s not customizable like the frames.
On to the bike: The front triangle uses the same tube shapes as the Helios, but the rear triangle is entirely new.
The dropout section is a hollow bladder molded piece that extends beyond the axle to make room for the disc brake caliper to go inside the rear triangle. It’s a killer feature that’ll likely make it’s way to future ‘cross bikes, too.
The seat stays are bowed in both planes, offering a bit of compliance. Normally, gravel bikes have a bit longer chain stays than road bikes, and depending on the use, the BB can be a little or a lot higher. But, since we’re talking full custom, they’ll discuss your riding style and goals and help dial the performance for your particular flavor of gravel. They can build in fender mounts for the rear, too, though they may not come stock.
Available for preorder now, shipping in late May. Price TBD, available with or without the fork in case you wanted to customize the geometry to make it a cyclocross bike. Oh, and Aithon is named after an immortal fire breathing horse from Greek mythology.
AIOLOS TITANIUM ROAD RACE BIKE
The Aiolos is their new titanium racing road bike, designed by Ben Serotta and built in Denver.
“With all the acclaim that the Helios and Xanthus frames have been receiving in the last couple years, the titanium line was becoming a little lost in the carbon shadows,” Serotta said. “So Ryan asked if I’d be interested in helping to steer development of a new flagship titanium frame. Titanium is far and away the best metal for building a serious race bike, when spec’d properly, it can outperform the best steel bikes with timeless durability and of course, lower weight.”
“Every detail is thoroughly considered for pure functionality with a choice of PF86 or PF30 bottom bracket, thoughtfully placed cable and wire routing, and non-tapered head tube,” continued Serotta, “this is a serious racing tool, built the way a modern metal race bike should be crafted — without a single silly detail.”
But it does have cool details, like the head tube port for electronic drivetrains, routing it around the steerer and straight into the top tube. Maczuzak says this eliminates any weak points in the main tubes, and a little grease on the wire keeps the steerer’s minimal rotations from wearing it down.
The head tube is oversized and designed around an external lower BB cup and tapered fork. Tubes are butted to save weight and tune the ride, and the stays are swaged to improve comfort without giving up lateral stiffness.
The Eros titanium ‘cross bike gets the new dropouts designed for the Aiolos. And check out that Aithon in the background!
Didn’t take long for folks to throw SRAM’s CX1 rings on other cranksets.