Buyer’s Guide 2017: Alchemy Arktos Custom
Denver-based Alchemy bikes prides itself on its American-made Arktos, and after several rides on a variety of trails from chunky to flowing, from steep to rolling, we can say with some certainty the pride is warranted. It’s on the burly side of what we’d consider a trail bike, with 150…
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Denver-based Alchemy bikes prides itself on its American-made Arktos, and after several rides on a variety of trails from chunky to flowing, from steep to rolling, we can say with some certainty the pride is warranted. It’s on the burly side of what we’d consider a trail bike, with 150 millimeters of travel front and rear — for long days of climbing, it’s probably not the right rig, but if there���s an endless descent on the other end, read on — but its uphill abilities pleasantly surprised us, enough that it almost seemed feasible to own this as a do-it-all bike. Almost.
There aren’t any geometry surprises here: 66-degree head tube angle, 73.5-degree seat tube angle, and 438-millimeter chainstays. That translates into predictable handling that’s most adept on steeps. On the climbs there’s a bit of a loop-off-the-back feeling, but it wasn’t so bad that I felt any need to hop off and walk, as I’ve done with other bikes with similar travel numbers.
It’s clear the Arktos is designed to excel on the descents, which is why we were surprised at how well it climbed. No, we didn’t set any records on the hour-long grind up Belcher at White Ranch State Park, but the pedaling platform is surprisingly stable. You’ll get a bit of bob, but don’t expect that leg-draining feeling common among long-travel bikes. After your sag travel, the mid travel becomes very supportive, hence the stability you might not be used to on a bike like this. You could make this your everyday bike, even if your everyday ride includes some extended climbs.
Okay, enough about climbing. The fun part is going down, and man, does the Arktos rip. Even over chunky lines — I went out of my way for these, and often rode lines I’d never choose if I wasn’t testing a bike — the Arktos soaks it up with ease, and there’s no suspension buck toward the end of the stroke.
Which brings us to Sine suspension. Without getting too bogged down in details, the basic idea is to keep the suspension firm when it needs to be firm (during the mid-stroke) and allow it to become more plush when it needs to be plush (at the end of the stroke for that bottomless suspension feel). It’s counter to what your rear shock wants to do naturally (which is why so many rear suspension designs end up with a tight, wound-up feel at the end of the stroke), and it works remarkably well. The Arktos responds to big hits particularly well, which is surprising given how well the bike climbs. This sort of plushness at the end of the stroke is usually a trade-off on the other end, leading to a squishy feeling on climbs. Not so with the Arktos.
If you’re hucking drop after drop, the regressive travel at the end of the stroke might be a bit too squishy for you, especially if you despise that bottom-out feeling. You can tune the shock for a bit more progression at the end of the stroke, but big hitters might be disappointed a bit anyway. If you fall solidly in the Trail category, the Arktos might lend you a bit more bravery than you’re used to.
Ultimately, the Arktos would probably be best classified as an enduro bike, but it performs admirably as a member of the Trail category as well. Despite its impressive climbing ability, it’s still on the long-travel end of what I’d want for an everyday Trail bike. It’s hard to argue with that Sine suspension, though.