Alchemy Atlas Road Frameset - 2018 $3,999.00
From carbon, art.
Usually when we think of artisanal frame craftsmanship in the cycling industry, we think of steel. We think of thin, round, hand-welded tubes. We think of a jig labored over by a reclusive Italian legend or a tattooed IPA enthusiast from the Pacific Northwest. The Alchemy Atlas Road Frameset—which we'd definitely call "artisanal"—doesn't meet any of those expectations. In not meeting them, the Atlas also proves that those expectations are admittedly outdated or inaccurate. After all, any good frameset is ultimately about the details: material, geometry, construction, and the finishing touches that may appear subtle to the untrained eye but ultimately define the experience of riding a bike that transcends the border between sport and art.
Whether you opt for a painted model or a clear coat to show off the artful layup, the Atlas is gorgeous. But let's leave that aside for now and focus on what really matters: the ride quality. As much as we love the classic lugged frames ridden by the likes of Coppi and Merckx, there's a good damned reason why they hang unused on the walls of shops peddling mostly carbon bikes. Carbon has simply become the material of choice for bikes from GC contenders to gran fondo endurance riders, and Alchemy's size-specific layup schedules demonstrate why.
Each frame size receives its own unique layup, which means that cyclists on a 60cm frame don't have to suffer with a wagging bottom bracket because the tubes are simply elongated versions of those on a 52. Instead, the carbon is applied in order to maintain the same ride quality regardless of size. The Alchemy won't be earning accolades as a pure stiffness-to-weight bike, but it's also a hell of a lot more fun to ride than a too-harsh race machine designed for emaciated Euro pros. We're not saying the bike is heavy; we're saying it's less interested in posing on a scale and far more interested in making sure you enjoy a comfortable, efficient ride whether you're racing or cruising or doing something in between.
The Atlas' all-around mindset is further embodied by the round tube profiles, which eschew the wacky shapes of "aero" bikes in favor of a silhouette that would be at home on the wall next to one of Copppi's old rigs but that's still well-suited to any cycling discipline. Generous tire clearance also encourages you to push the boundaries. Or at least, it encouraged us to do so, as the option of throwing 28mm tires on opens up the world of gravel and dirt roads to those of us looking to buck the tarmac tyranny.
The climb-happy road warriors among us are just as happy to stick with 25mm tires, though, as the bike's ability to transition from climb to sweeping descent is uncanny—almost like getting a bike change after summiting and before tucking in to the drops. And once you're in those drops with the wind vest on, the Atlas really shines. It's ride quality seems to only improve the faster you go. It exhibits confident stability without any of the harshness we've come to associate with lightweight climbing bikes.
If any fact demonstrates Alchemy's confidence in its own carbon fiber abilities, it's this: the Atlas is tested to tolerances far in excess of CN safety standards—150% of those standards, to be exact. The result is that Alchemy has registered no Atlas frame failures due to manufacturing defects, so the brand's lifetime warranty is more ornamental than anything else. The frame is finished with a tapered head tube that mates with an ENVE fork, completing the made-in-USA mantra by pairing the product of Alchemy's Denver workshop with ENVE's Northern Utah production facility.
- A frameset that proves there's art in carbon
- Size-specific layup schedule maintains ride quality across sizes
- Alchemy dropouts balance comfort and drive stiffness
- Sense of grounded stability increases with speed
- Clearance for 28mm tires opens up rough roads
- Alchemy Bikes produces practical art in its Denver, CO workshop