Gravel Grinder News: Sea Otter ’19- Lunch With Alchemy Bikes – by Grannygear
Or: A lunch with Alchemy bikes and the custom bike quandary.
The day before Sea Otter ’19 began I was invited to a lunch highlighting some new steeds from Alchemy Bicycles, a custom frame builder based out of Colorado. While custom bikes built for steel and Ti are pretty common, US built handmade bikes in carbon are more rare, and full custom, meaning geometry, etc, in carbon, even more so.
Alchemy has a fairly wide range of bikes…no steel though… ranging from enduro rated MTB to XC hardtail to road to all-road to gravel. It is quite a quiver, really.
What I was focusing on at the presentation were the Ronin and Ronin Ti gravel bikes. They share the same standard geometry (full custom is a one grand upcharge in both Ti and carbon) but obviously they will have quite different ride personalities with the different materials. It’s an interesting problem to have: Ti or Carbon? Which is ‘best’? There is no easy answer to that question and Alchemy says that most customers come to them already knowing what they want.
The Ronin is what I would consider to be middle-of-the-road gravel bike geometry and by the numbers looks to be a very solid all rounder, with the needle on the dial just a bit towards the sporty side of things dimensions wise. Room for 700×45 or 27.5×2.1 tires, 3 water bottle mounts, and Bento box mounts add an air of practicality.
I was told that the carbon frame has 30 hours of time into it’s construction. Wow. I wonder how much time it takes to make the typical, Asian sourced carbon frame? Not that much, I bet.
The Ronin frames are lovely to look at and seem to be well thought out. Cost? The price is not for the weak of heart or pocketbook. $4,000 is the starting price for a frameset, available in two colors and with standard geometry. Full custom paint begins at an additional $1,000.00. Custom geometry adds another $1,000.00. The complete bikes use some heady build kits, all Shimano Di2 and Enve. Pretty much we are looking at a ‘stock’ bike in the 9 grand range. Then there is the customer who had his frame color matched to his special edition Porsche. Of course.
Is that a lot of money? Yes it is. It really is. But the new Specialized Peter Sagan Special Edition S Works Roubaix is what…12K or something like that? So you can spend that kind of cash and get a (limited) production, very nice bike, that is still not full custom geometry, or full custom paint.
The internet will be full of people who will shriek in horror and disgust at the thought of this type of purchase when a Surly will be “just all you need to ride gravel.” Frankly, they are on to something as no one ‘needs’ a bike this costly although one might argue that no one needs a gravel bike at all.
So here is the thing…if you can afford it, buy it. For many cyclists this is not a stretch and making it into a moral issue is a bit difficult. Glass houses, just at different levels.
So here is the real dilemma…is it worth it? Is it that much better to pay $4,000 for a non-custom geo, carbon frame, when 4 grand will buy you a very good and complete carbon gravel bike from, say, Giant? I am not sure. Ti is a bit easier to quantify in that regard. A cheap Ti frame is heavy and not really all that great to ride in my humble opinion. And most Ti custom frames are at that 4K+ level anyway.
Is the Alchemy carbon bike all that and a bag of chips? Maybe, but until I ride one, I have no way to know. I have found that, with steel at least, that cheap steel can be pretty good. Mid level steel, like maybe a Ritchey, can be very good. Full-on hand made steel with carefully selected tubing, not to mention the correct fit (cannot ignore that factor), is superb really. I suppose not everyone can tell the difference, but it’s there or it should be.
I would be very curious to see what that upscale attention to detail means in carbon when the rubber meets the…gravel…road.
Alchemy offers ownership of something made by hand in the US of A. You won’t see one on every coffee shop ride. It’s exclusive and it’s made just for you, one at a time. Want your name on it? That can be arranged!
Riding Gravel would like to thank Alchemy Bikes for their time. We appreciate it.
About The Author: Grannygear hails from SoCal and spent most of his cycling days as a mountain biker from the formative years of mountain biking all the way up to the present day. His day job is in the tech sector, but he has spent time writing about off road 4X4’s, 29″ mountain bikes, and cycling in general. Grannygear and Guitar Ted have worked off and on together since 2009 after a chance meeting at Interbike. With gravel cycling on the rise, Grannygear has been exploring how this genre’ works in SoCal and now does guest pieces for RidingGravel.com in his spare time.