Before it saw dirt: Nicole Duke’s new custom carbon Alchemy Bicycle Company Balius cyclocross bike. © Matt Simpson
Nicole Duke is back in full-force, premiering her new custom carbon cyclocross bike from Alchemy Bicycle Company at CXLA a couple weeks ago, racing again at the USGP races in Bend, and then taking the Colorado State Championships by storm. It seems like the team switch she made mid-season was the best thing for the racer and mom of two. We snagged some photos of her new rigs and chatted with her about how the new bikes ride.
According to Duke, “We designed the first bike with measurements and angles in mind, looking for a responsive, stiff front end for aggressive cornering and a softer rear to absorb some of the bumps. We also lowered the bottom bracket significantly for more control, and the PF30 bottom bracket still gives it great rigidity and response from the pedals.”
But rather than creating two identical bikes, Duke went for a slightly different effect with bike #2 (see specs below for the differences). “We refined the second bike by shortening the top tube by 6mm and shortening the head tube, because I wanted the front end to be lower for cornering. The second bike turned out absolutely perfect. It’s everything I need: light, responsive, aggressive, yet supple. The bike in total with disc brakes is just under 17lbs.”
And as for her return to the SRAM family (see her in the Gangham-Style SRAM video), Duke adds, “I’m happy to be back on SRAM as my shifting is flawless and the Zipp wheels make a huge difference in weight and snap out of the corners. Now that I have gone with the discs and I don’t have a weight difference, I will never go back.”
One other interesting note on the componentry of the bike is her handlebars: at 46cm, her handlebars are wider than most. When we asked her about her selection, she simply explained that as a former downhill racer, she prefers a wider profile for better handling.
Zipp 46 cm bars allow Duke to have a “downhiller feel” to her bike. © Cyclocross Magazine
Matt Simpson of Alchemy explained the process of making the frames. “We used our Alchemy Bicycle Company proprietary molds to blow the tubing (we miter our own tubing, join with our choice resin system, and hand lay up each fiber of carbon) and proprietary disc tab. We also used our signature tube-to-tube lay up schedule with specific stiffness characteristics to how Nicole wanted the bike to ride (stiff in front end, and softer in rear).”
Perhaps most impressive was the turnaround time on the bikes: “Each bike was hand-built in less than five business days, including the proprietary disc tab, machined and molded in house, the mitering of each of our tubes, resin system joints, hand lay up, and the finish work.”
Simpson added, “We finished Nicole’s bike with a choice of black-and-white for paint. The color choice was incredibly deliberate for us. A great metaphor for Nicole.”
Nicole Duke’s Alchemy Bicycle Company Balius Cyclocross Bike Specs:
Frames: Balius from Alchemy Bicycle Company (990g.) **frame one and two specs described below**
Fork: ENVE Cross 1.5″ Taper disc fork, raw carbon finish
Handlebar: ZIPP Service Course SL Traditional Bend / 46cm. o-o (44cm. center-to-center – with Duke’s downhiller background, she prefers a wider handlebar than most)
Bar Tape: ZIPP Service Course CX Tape
Stem: ZIPP Service Course SL / 100mm
Brakes: Avid BB7 SL Road Mechanical Disc Brakeset / SRAM HSX Rotors
Wheelset: SRAM Rise 60 Hub / ZIPP 303 Firecrest Tubular Rim (Black Box)
Tires: Challenge Team Edition Tubular Tires 33mm – Fango, Limus and Grifo
Shifters: SRAM Red DoubleTap Controls-2012
Rear Derailleur: SRAM RED Rear Derailleur-2012
Front Derailleur: SRAM RED 2012 YAW Front Derailleur
Crankset: SRAM RED 2012 Compact 110BCD BB30 Crankset
Chainring: Wick Werks 44t x 34t Compact Chainrings for SRAM Red 2012 Crankset
Cassette: SRAM XG-1090 12-27 Cyclocross Cassette
Chain: SRAM 1090 Chain
Seatpost: ZIPP SL Speed Carbon Seatpost / 20 Degree Setback
Saddle: Prologo Scratch PRO DEA saddle
Bottom Bracket: PF30
Pedals: Shimano 980 XTR Pedals
Total Weight: ~17lbs.
HT-113 (where biggest change was made)
Simpson explains the changes to the second frame: “We reduced the second bike reach by 4mm, by reduction of (509-505 saddle tip to bar horizontal) to give her drop and shorter TT. This allowed us to offer a modest change (gain) in cornering aggressiveness and more race fit aggressiveness without ride characteristic.”
Can’t get enough Alchemy? Check out Cyclocross Magazine Issues 17 and 18 where we talk about their custom bikes, and stay tuned for the conclusion of the Considering Custom series in Issue 20!
Looking for a new ride of your own? Check out our Bikes Directory to find your future rig.