Denver’s Alchemy Bicycle Company is bucking the built-overseas trend and handcrafts high-end carbon and titanium bikes in the U.S.
Just steps from south Denver’s Cherry Creek bike path sits an unassuming warehouse. It’s a building you would never notice if you weren’t looking for it. But inside is one of the most innovative and homegrown bicycle brands in the world.
The company was founded in Austin, Texas, in 2008. It relocated to Denver in 2012, “mostly for the weather,” they told me.
This spring Alchemy won an award at the annual North American Handmade Bike Show, a venue that highlights the best bike makers in the world.
Custom bikes aren’t necessarily news. But Alchemy’s bikes are relevant now because its bespoke titanium, steel, and carbon frames are sold at prices lower than most of its competitors.
Competitive Price, Not Cheap
Make no mistake, Alchemy is not after the everyday cyclist. This is a top-shelf brand competing for top-tier dollars.
“An Alchemy bike is more than a bike,” company founder Ryan Cannizzaro explained on a recent visit to the shop.
“It is about crafting a piece of art that is an extension of the customer’s body. Not only will they try to ride it every day, but when they are not riding it they will want to hang it on the wall and enjoy the beauty of the craftsmanship.”
“Obviously we’re not going to compete on the lower end, but for the $6,000 to $10,000 range, we try to keep the prices realistic to compete with some of bigger brands that just manufacture bikes overseas,” said Cannizzaro.
And for the same price as a commercially marketed, mass-produced elite-level bike, Alchemy will make a carbon or titanium frame to riders’ individual anatomical specs and riding style.
Plus, the work is done right here in the U.S.
Alchemy also offers a few frames as non-custom stock builds. And while those are designed at its Denver warehouse, the stock manufacturing does take place overseas.
Pricing on these bikes can be confusing. For example, a custom Arktos MTB is built in Denver with 15 color options and costs $3,799 for the frame alone. You then choose from five Shimano component build kits, including the Fox front fork, ranging from $3,200 (XT) to $5,200 (Di2).
The non-custom Arktos — builds have 27.5 and 29 wheels — is available in four colors and the frame alone retails for $2,999. These are available more quickly through regional specialty bike shops, versus waiting eight weeks for a custom build.
Alchemy Bikes Test
I couldn’t leave my tour of the shop without nabbing a ride. The team had one of its U.S.-built Arktos mountain bikes ready to go. It was a carbon beast with upgrades that typically retails for $6,999.
The wheelset I rode was a pair of Enve M70s—a $2,000 upcharge. Stock wheels were Praxis AL24s. The medium-size frame has a modern but not un-typical 66.5-degree head tube angle, 73.5-degree seat tube angle, 17.2-inch chainstays, and a 13.6-inch bottom bracket height.
“You’re gonna notice the difference,” Cannizzaro told me. “It’s going to be a more comfortable bike in general than what you’re gonna find off the shelf. We’re really able to dial in the ride characteristics of the bike.”
As Cannizzaro said — and as I later found out while testing the Arktos for two weeks around my home in Nederland, Colo. — you can feel the difference in design with this mountain bike.
I did my best to thrash this thing on the world-class trails out my back door, including the super technical Sugar Magnolia, the lesser-known (and gnarly) Plants and Animals, and Sherwood and Reload singletrack around Mud Lake.
Simply put, it made the downhills seem easy; although compared to the carbon hardtail I typically ride, the almost 30-pound bike took a little getting used to on the uphills.
The Mad Science Behind Alchemy
Having toured a dozen made-in-America factories from Reynolds Wheels in Salt Lake City, to Cascades Designs in Seattle, to Moots Cycles in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Alchemy was among the cleanest and best-flowing factories I’ve seen.
“We started off in metal and steel, always knew we wanted to be in carbon fiber,” Cannizzaro told me. “We couldn’t do it in house in 2008, and could have gone overseas like everyone else. It wasn’t until 2010 that the technology was there that it made sense to start making a carbon-fiber frame in the U.S.”
By 2012, Cannizzaro said, everything went in-house. Since then very little has changed, except adding thru-axle and disc brake options.
There are a few things about these builds that help Alchemy stand out. Awards speak to this. The brand produces each of its custom bikes by hand, entirely from scratch — this includes the CNC molds, bladder systems, and every detail.
Alchemy doesn’t use any epoxy on its carbon layups. It’s all tube-to-tube construction followed by a unique overlaying process with more carbon fiber at each joint. Cannizarro said he dialed the brand’s custom layup schedules by “testing and riding, testing and riding.”
Choosing The Right Alchemy Bike
All of Alchemy’s bike models are named after Ancient Greek Gods and their horses. Producing only 750 to 1,000 bicycles a year, you’d think these would easily be $10,000 and up. And some of them are, depending on how many upgrades and paint options you desire.
The most popular bike Alchemy sells is the Helios with an Ultregra Di2 Disc componentry group build. It’s a $9,999 road bike. A 10-year anniversary Helios bike is now available as well.
The least expensive road option from Alchemy would be the steel Kyros, at $2,999. Road groups range from SRAM Force 1 at $3,600 to SRAM Red at $5,000; and Shimano 105 at $1,500 to Shimano Dura Ace Di2 at $5,000.
And if you insist on going over the $10K mark, check out the carbon Arion (and aero bike) or carbon Boreas (a time trial bike) both $6,000 for the frame alone.
Surprisingly, most of Alchemy’s customers are not team riders, just very competitive recreational riders or weekend racers.
In addition to a few gravel options, both custom and stock builds, you’ll spend from $2,799 to $4,999, not including the build kit. If you are more of a cross-country rider looking for a hardtail 29er instead of the 27.5 Arktos, check out the carbon Oros or titanium Furies, both $3,199.
Pay a bit more for paint and component upgrades. For example, custom colors and painted logos range from $50 to $80. But hey, if you’ve got something you want, go for it. The estimates are free.
–Aaron H. Bible is a contributor to GearJunkie, Gear Institute, Backpacker, Men’s Health, and Bicycling.com. He has covered the outdoor industry for two decades. Follow his adventures at @ahbible.