Australian Mountain Bike
Alchemy Arktos 29
Alchemy Bicycles started manufacturing bespoke steel and titanium frames for the discerning customer back in 2008. After teaming up with an engineer whom made carbon frames on the side, the company relocated the company to Denver Colorado and continued to develop their carbon offerings. With the mountains calling, it was only a matter of time before Alchemy focussed their attention to creating a premium do-everything thoroughbred trail bike.
Rather than the super raked out, low slung enduro bikes that we see popping up everywhere the Arktos is a more refined and finely crafted all-rounder that doesn’t pigeon hole itself into any one category. Its focus being more on build and ride quality than on pushing extremes and polarising opinion.
There are fewer highly capable mid travel 29ers than you might think, some of the standouts currently would have to be the Transition Sentinel, Specialized Stumpjumper 29, Yeti SB130 or the Evil Offering. All these bikes can still be pushed hard yet retain a certain ride feel that can be lost on a long travel 29er.
The build quality of the Alchemy Arktos is stunning, overbuilt yet retaining a slender appearance. From the beautifully machined Sine Link through to the flawless paint job to match, the Alchemy Arktos is no “off the production line” kind of bike. Each frame starts its life as five hundred individual pre-preg pieces of carbon meticulously laid by hand in Denver, Colorado. At the heart of the Arktos is the Sine Link which lets Alchemy call the Artkos as one of the best pedalling bikes in the world with unrivalled capability on descents. The Sine Link is the latest brain child of Dave Earle, a man who has worked on or conceived many links used today: VPP, Infinity Switch, Horst Links, faux bars - he has done it all.
There is no denying at a glance it does work a similar way to the Infinity Switch found on Yeti’s range, however the lower link is smaller, tucked away and not sliding on two shafts. Sine Link’s name derives from the suspension curve when graphed, as it creates a sine wave. Initially there
is a regressive spring curve, with super supple small bump sensitivity before ramping up into a progressive rate resisting from blowing through its travel until a slight regressive curve again at bottom out which will work best with an air shock which tends to reach a halt at bottom out. Our Arktos is paired with a Fox DPX2 shock which is the perfect match for this bike given its climbing pedigree.
Stiffness was high on the list for Alchemy and Earle, and the Super Boost rear hub spacing and a gigantic Sine Link are employed to keep the back end tracking straight on the 140mm travel 29er model. Setup is easy on the Arktos with a setting of 30% sag being just right for going both up and down.
We had a size large on test with a Fox Factory 36 fork, Shimano XT 1x11 drivetrain and Enve M730 build kit, the Arktos tipped the scales at a scant 14kgs exactly. It does feel bigger than other size “large” 29ers we have had on test, mainly due to the height of the head tube and seat tube. Size large came with a Fox Factory Transfer dropper post in 125mm length, which I was a bit bummed about, but after setting up the bike, I wouldn’t have been able to run a 150mm drop anyway due to the very long seat tube when compared to the reach or top tube length. How this relates on the trail, we will have to see.
ON THE TRAIL
It is immediately apparent when riding the Arktos that it pedals incredibly well for a bike this plush. It has a relatively steep 74.5 degree seat tube angle which puts your weight right over the centre of the bike and feels comfortable when paired with the 452mm reach. The cockpit is comfortable and clutter free with the RaceFace Aeffect 35 bar and stem combo and a minimal Fox Transfer underbar lever. It is worth noting that our build was fitted with Ergon’s GE1 Enduro grip highlighting the fact that Alchemy are very serious about building the ultimate bike and not cutting corners.
As mentioned previously, I found the Arktos taller than I am used too. The head tube and seat tube are on the tall side for a size large, and although the top tube is swept downward nicely, both knees have bruises in the same spots from getting squirrelly in the rough stuff. The seat tube measures in at 483mm and head tube 125mm which will need to be considered if looking for longer dropper posts. As a reference I am 178cm with an inseam measurement of 820mm and saddle height of 910mm (top of pedal to top of saddle).
As our test bike was specced with the latest offering from ENVE, the M730, and lightweight Maxxis EXO casing tyres the Arktos was obviously going to climb well. It was only fair to switch these out for the equally as lust-worthy Crank Brothers Synthesis wheels which we have fitted with dual ply DH casing tyres and an insert in the back adding over 1200grams of rotating weight. Even with this ridiculously heavy trail setup, the Sine Link is really very good. There was no need to use the climb mode on the Fox DPX2 shock sticking with descend and trail only. The regressive curve off the top gave ample traction on technical climbs while not getting bogged down like most longer travel bikes do.
I thought that the climbing prowess of the Alchemy would be its most redeeming quality, but pointing it downhill it does feel like more bike than your average 140mm travel bike. The suspension ramps up so smoothly towards the point of bottoming out with no harshness at all. This lets you charge rocks and jumps alike while remaining in control and not bouncing or skipping off line.
With such an overbuilt and stiff chassis, the Arktos does corner extremely well but again the added height and 125mm dropper was putting me further above the bike than I am used too. This may not be an issue for taller riders, but
“POINTING IT DOWNHILL IT DOES FEEL LIKE MORE YOUR A VERAGE 140MM TRAVEL BIKE. THE SUSPENSION RAMPS UP SO SMOOTHL Y TOWARDS THE POINT OF BOTTOMING OUT WITH NO HARSHNESS A T ALL. THIS LETS YOU CHARGE ROCKS AND JUMPS ALIKE WHILE REMAINING IN CONTROL AND NOT
something to remember if you are on the lower side of the sizing scale. Another issue that arose for us cornering was the huge stays and how they didn’t offer much clearance for either the rear tyre or the heel of shoes when hoofing turns.
With the turns churning our test bike started to feel a little vague and tyre buzzing could be heard from the back of the bike. We found that the upper pivot bolt was migrating loose and despite out best efforts, it kept coming loose each ride. A quick phone call to the importer Super Sports and we had a new bolt sent via FedEx from Alchemy in only a few days and we were back out and flex free.
As expected the Arktos 29 feels most at home going fast through the rough stuff and it is super playful when just out for a trundle in the hills, it’s a bike that you can feel instantly comfortable on and is very easy to ride.
Alchemy have worked hard to build a true all-rounder that both pedals and descends while being uber plush and supportive at the same time.
O U R TA K E
The Alchemy Artkos 29 pairs a super-stiff frame with an incredibly plush suspension system. It means this hard-hitting 140mm travel trail bike pedals capably and bombs descents with precision and sure-footedness. It feels as if the there is more than 140mm travel on the downs and less on the ups. The Arktos 29 does have a tall seat tube and head tube, so riders may not be able to run a 150mm+ dropper post, it really depends on your fit on a specific bike size. Bear in mind that the Sine Link designed to work best with air shocks, and does not use the more recent metric shock standard. That said, the Sine Link is a neat and well-sealed unit that will outlast more complicated systems with more moving parts.
The Alchemy Arktos 29 will suit riders looking for a boutique trail/enduro/all rounder that has bespoke build options, a stunning finish and delicate handling. But if you’re looking for a long and raked out bike for plowing steep rock gardens and gnarly chutes – then you’d be best served looking elsewhere.
We would love to see the seat tube dropped a bit in height for any frame updates in the future. It would mean you could run a longer dropper post, and add a little more standover height too. But as it is, the Alchemy Arktos 29 brings a capable and durable suspension and frame package to the trail market that demands climbing ability to match descending prowess. The frame has a high-end build quality and should last for many seasons to come.