When we think of custom bikes we think of steel and occasionally something really exotic like titanium or scandium. We imagine an old Italian man hunched over a jig, torch in hand, or a guy with a handle bar mustache and a Rapha cap working out of his garage in Portland. When it comes to customizing carbon most of us think in terms of stem length and seat height. After all, it’s tough to customize a frame popped out of a mold.
The guys at Alchemy Bicycles are redefining what a custom bike can be. Why not carbon? Why not aero? Why not sub 900 grams? Their approach has delivered a custom carbon aero road bike as sexy as anything ever popped out of a monocoque mold. The judges at last weeks North American Handmade Bike Show agreed, awarding Alchemy the Best Carbon Construction award.
Alchemy’s crew in Austin, Texas has over ten years of experience making custom frames in steel, titanium and carbon. How did they achieve a custom carbon aero road bike in sub 900-gram territory? It starts with their carbon tube supplier. Rather than just buy off the shelf tubes, ENVE, in Utah, creates tubes out of Alchemy’s own molds. Based on the type of rider you are (Alchemy will get so detailed as to ask for your power file) they customize the very lay up of the tube’s themselves. You want stiff, they can do it. You want compliant, no problem. You want your custom aero bike to be under 14 pounds? Amazingly, Alchemy can do it.
Those tubes have NACA airfoil profiles. While Alchemy is up front about not developing this frame in the wind tunnel, they have followed the tried and true conventional aero logic for a road frame - 3 to 1 down tube, aero seat tube and post with a dramatic cut out and a narrow head tube containing a 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 steer tube.
Once Alchemy gets their hands on the tubes they will begin assembling them into the final frame with some incredibly beautiful wrapping and joining. This allows them to create whatever angles necessary to deliver the exact geometry you want. They work with a network of Re-Tul fit specialists to help you generate that geometry.
A laundry list of other items can be customized – cable routing, bottom bracket standard, seat post profile, bottle bosses, paint and just about anything you can dream up. Here’s the other truly stunning bit. This custom carbon aero gem will cost less than many high-end, big brand, monocoque carbon frames. $4400 gets you frame, fork, seat post, headset and paint. Sure, not cheap, but it is fully custom and 100 percent made in the USA. Compare that to $5500 for a Wilier Zero.7 frame or even $4400 for a Specialized Venge frame and custom carbon doesn’t sound any more expensive than stock.