Alchemy’s newest cyclocross offering at NAHBS 2014. © Iain Banks
by Iain Baker
After seeing the Alchemy Bicycles ’cross bike at the 2014 NAHBS in Charlotte, we sat down with Cody Baker of Alchemy, who just happened to be the bike’s owner, to find out more. Originally a Texas-based company, a move over a year ago took them to Denver, Colorado, which accounted for some of the choices made on this bike, designed to be a winter-ready ’cross machine. We’ve profiled Alchemy’s ’cross bikes in the past, most notably Nicole Duke’s Balius model in the 2012 season, and Alchemy was also part of our Considering Custom series with a stainless steel ’cross bike tested last year.
Iain Banks: The Alchemy ’cross bike has certainly been getting some attention at the show. How did you come up with the design and build?
Cody Baker: Thanks! Basically, the frame started out as our standard Chiron (ti ’cross bike with disc brakes). I collect vintage track bikes and so I wanted a very minimalist appearance to the bike.
IB: And the new SRAM CX1 set-up is perfect for that?
CB: I wanted to go with a CX1 up setup because I rarely shift my front derailleur. I don’t know if it’s the just the way I ride but I wanted to cut that out of the equation.
No surprise here, 11-speed is the new norm in cyclocross, as are disc brakes. Alchemy at NAHBS 2014. © Iain Banks
IB: The tubing is different from the standard Chiron and is certainly distinctive. Is that design for function or aesthetic?
CB: As we kept looking at the tubing, I talked with Jeff Wager—our welder—about doing some squashing of the tubes to add a unique visual aesthetic as well. We ovalized the top tube, and for the down tube, we ovalized it vertically at the head tube and it gradually switches to being ovalized laterally at the bottom bracket for added stiffness. That and some beefy 7/8th chainstays with our own Alchemy dropouts to really get great power transfer to the rear wheel.
IB: Why internal routing?
CB: Throughout the process we kept stepping back and thinking of how we could make it even more unique. Once we started talking about routing—always important on a ’cross bike—I knew I wanted internal routing on the top tube. Since it was just the rear brake and derailleur that needed to be routed, we wanted a symmetrical look. That’s when our tube production guy Christian stepped in and gave us the idea of running full ti guiding all the way through the seat stays. Genius!
Alchemy went for a shinier paint scheme than preview Balius models for NAHBS 2014. © Iain Banks
IB: But going fully internal also meant the need for the ISP (integrated seat post)?
CB: It’s an elegant minimalist look, but how do we do it? We had to go with an ISP. I didn’t want a topper and that’s when Jeff came up with the idea to do the one-piece mast using an Enve clamp. Even more genius. We triple-checked our measurements before the making the cuts. I typically run my seat slightly lower in ’cross, about 5mm lower, so we had to nail the design of the mast. We also had to make sure the seat would be perfectly aligned once our mitre was made. Jeff nailed it.
IB: The paint scheme is probably the first thing that draws people to the bike and then they see the all the details once they get up close. How did you come with the paint design?
CB: Once the frame was done, I started on the paint design. I wanted something to match the frame, simple and elegant. It started out with putting a twist on the colors of the Belgian flag. I deepened the red and changed the yellow to gold. Our painters Shane Haberland and Nick Hemendinger both have years at Serotta under their belt so they put a gold base layer under the red, which turns to almost copper in bright sunlight.
IB: The component build is almost as impressive as the frame. All personal preference for racing in and around the Boulder area?
CB: As I said, we went with the new CX1 for the build, which was perfect for the minimalist look. 11-32 in the rear and 42 up front. Custom painted Enve bar and stem, as well as Rotor cranks. The levers are set-up moto style (Euro) with the left controlling the rear and leaving my right hand free to do the last-second shifting that cyclocross demands. We finished off with TRP HY/RD brakes for the best of both worlds. We often race in sub-15 degree weather, so I didn’t want to go fully hydraulic. We used ENVE XC tubulars to DT Swiss 240 hubs and some gold bar tape from Zevlin to top it off.
IB: And the full race design with no cage mounts!
CB: I also left out the option for bottle cages, because to me they seem to be useless on a ’cross frame. It is a thorough-bred race machine. All the bells and whistles you want, absolutely nothing you don’t need.
Check out our cyclocross, gravel and general bike eye candy from NAHBS 2014 in the past weeks.