Alchemy Arktos Custom - Review

Nov 28, 2016
by Mike Levy  




Alchemy's 152mm-travel Arktos Custom is about as exotic, and maybe as rare, as an albino lobster in the tank at your local Fish Shack restaurant. Based in Denver, Colorado, Alchemy are best known in road circles for creating custom carbon road frames, and earlier this year they launched their first carbon mountain bike, a hardtail 29er called the Oros. But the lobster that we're testing here is their first full-suspension bike, and it features a unique rear-end design called Sine Suspension that employs a clean looking dual-link layout.

The Arktos Custom's carbon fiber front triangle is made in the good ol' US of A, which no doubt plays a roll in the frame's $3,799 USD price tag. That's a big chunk of change, but it's also about $50 more than a Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper frame or roughly $250 more than a Yeti SB6 frame. The Arktos with the XT build shown here, complete with Praxis' impressive C32 carbon wheels, retails for $7,999 USD.

If, like me, you're thinking that this particular albino lobster is above your pay grade, Alchemy is now including a standard Akrtos frame on their menu that's born in Asia rather than the US and costs $800 USD less than the Custom model.
Arktos Custom Details

• Intended use: all-mountain / trail
• Rear wheel travel: 152mm
• Wheel size: 27.5''
• US-made carbon front triangle
• 66° head angle
• 438mm chainstay length
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL
• Weight: 28lbs 15oz
• Frame price w/ Fox Float X: $3,799 USD
• MSRP as tested: $7,999 USD



Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
The Arktos Custom's carbon fiber front triangle is manufactured in the United States, while the rear-end comes from Asia.


Frame Details

Alchemy has been making carbon road frames in the United States for years now, so they know a thing or two about how to do carbon fiber manufacturing. The entire process is done in-house, from cutting the molds to laying up the carbon sheets that will eventually become a bicycle frame, to painting the frames in what seems like near countless color options and assembling all the parts. Basically, raw ingredients head into the factory at one end, and complete bikes roll out the other.

The whole process isn't one that's commonly done in the United States these days, and it flies in the face of nearly everything else that's being made in Taiwan and mainland China. ''Well, it’s about investing in the engineering and design up front,'' Matt Maczuzak, Vice President of R&D at Alchemy, said of the company's methodology when he spoke to Pinkbike's Vernon Felton earlier this year. ''We spent a lot of time and effort figuring out how do we build this thing as smartly and efficiently as humanly possible. It’s the way we mold it and the way we process it afterward.''


Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
Internal routing and a clean looking design give the Arktos a tidy appearance, but it might be too tidy for some - there are no ISCG tabs or place to bolt on any type of chain guide.


And what comes afterward is one hell of a good looking bicycle. The Arktos has a clean, uncluttered appearance going for it, with its two short suspension links mostly hidden inside the front triangle and behind the swingarm. Shift, dropper post, and brake lines run inside the frame - there is no external option - and a threaded bottom bracket means that mechanics can happily leave both their hammer and their press in the tool box.

As you'd expect, the rear hub spacing is a 12 x 148mm setup, but it's what isn't present that caught my attention: no ISCG 05 chain guide tabs and no place to bolt on a top-only, direct-mount chain guide means that Arktos Custom owners will depend entirely on their clutch derailleur and narrow/wide chain ring. That'll be enough for many riders, but I could see some wanting to fit a guide, or just some protection, given that it's a six-inch-travel bike. You could, of course, use an old school adapter plate sandwiched between the frame and drive-side bottom bracket cup. Interestingly, the less expensive ''standard'' Arktos frame that comes out of Asia and costs $800 less does come with removable ISCG 05 tabs.



Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
The Arktos' 152mm of travel is controlled by its Sine Suspension dual-link layout.


The Arktos' Suspension Explained

The Arktos' Sine Suspension was penned by Dave Earle, a man whose resume also includes developing Yeti's Switch suspension system, and stints as the Senior Engineer at both Santa Cruz and Specialized. It's fair to say that he knows a thing or two about designing a mountain bike.

While the Arktos could pass for a single pivot bike with a rocker link to actuate its shock, its Sine Suspension is, in fact, a dual-link design, with the lower link tucked away inside the frame. According to Alchemy, the system has a suspension curve that's regressive up to the shock's sag point for traction and small bump compliance, and then progressive until the last 15% of the bike's travel to create a more playful, energetic feel.

It becomes regressive again at the end of the stroke to best work with how an air shock naturally ramps through its stroke.
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That last bit of travel, where it becomes regressive, is where the design differs from a VPP system. On VPP bikes the curve remains progressive for the entirety of the bike's travel. Because air shocks are inherently progressive, ramping up towards the end of their stroke, having the suspension curve become regressive is meant to give the bike a bottomless feel, allowing it to remain supple even during large impacts.


Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
What could be mistaken for a single-pivot desgn is actually clean looking dual-link system. The lower link is tucked into the frame and hidden behind the swingarm.




3 Questions With Sine Suspension Designer, David Earle


Mike Levy: The Arktos' Sine suspension has what looks to be a relatively unique curve that starts regressive before going progressive and then finally regressive again. What does this do for the rider?

David Earle: Suspension travel of the rear wheel can be divided into three areas; each area has a specific function. First is negative travel through sag point, second is mid range, third is deep travel to bottom out. The ideal suspension system will be designed to optimize each of these areas for the best suspension performance. Negative travel is responsible for small bump feel and should be plush, mid range should be firm and lively, end of travel should avoid ramping and feel bottomless, without bottoming out... That is exactly what Sine Suspension does, the shock rate is a big part of this, other kinematic variables play a role in this to a smaller extent.


Levy: The Arktos pedals extremely well. Is this down to a relatively high amount of anti-squat, or is there another reason?

Earle: There is not a high amount of anti-squat on the Arktos, it is just enough to keep it level when pedaling. Pedaling efficiency is not only due to anti-squat, it is how the anti-squat relates to the shock rate (mostly). Basically, there are two forces that push the wheel down; one is the shock force, and one is the chain force (basically anti-squat). Balancing those two together is the trick for pedaling efficiency. The Sine Suspension shock rate actually promotes stable pedaling itself as well. High anti-squat does not necessarily give good pedaling performance; it can make the bike have bad traction and if it is very high will make the bike rise up in heavy efforts. It's really a balance of the entire kinematic system that gives good pedaling.


Levy: What would you tell a rider who wants to put a coil-sprung shock on the Arktos?

Earle: Coil shocks... The bike was designed for air shocks, both the kinematic design and the mechanical design are for air. I have not ridden the bike with a coil, so I really cannot comment. I think it would ride well with a coil; I cannot see why it wouldn't. That said, the mechanical design was done for air shocks... I think it might be difficult to mount most coils.





Specifications
Specifications
Release Date 2016
Price $7999
Travel 152
Rear Shock Fox Float X
Fork Fox Float 36
Headset Cane Creek 40 Tapered
Cassette Shimano XT 11-40T
Crankarms Praxis Grinder
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT 1x11
Chain Shimano HG
Shifter Pods Shimano XT 1x11
Handlebar ENVE
Stem ENVE
Grips Ergon GE1
Brakes Shimano XT
Wheelset Praxis C32
Tires Maxxis Minion
Seat WTB Silverado Pro
Seatpost RockShox Reverb

Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.








Climbing

That big 4x4 truck sucks on the highway; it's hard to eat soup with a fork; you probably wouldn't survive a canoe trip across the Atlantic. If you want to be really good at something, it usually makes sense to use specialized equipment. There's a reason why cross-country bikes do cross-country stuff well, why downhill bikes go down all the things, and why, for a long time, all-mountain bikes kinda sucked at most tasks. But it's rigs like the Arktos that, by being relatively proficient at doing stuff that it shouldn't be - I'm talking about climbing, of course - are proving that the gap between a solid mid-travel bike and more focused machines is always shrinking.

I don't mean to say that it's really good climber for a 152mm-travel bike; I mean just a really good climber, period. It feels as efficient and full of life as something with 20mm, or even 30mm, less travel, which is ideal if you're the kind of person who likes to pedal a very capable bike over long distances. Basically, the Arktos doesn't make it seem like you're paying a price for lugging around six-inches of travel, partly because it's a relatively lightweight thing but also because you don't feel like the bike is sucking the life force out of your legs as if it's some sort of slow moving ham beast on wheels. You can leave the shock open and spin up anything, even at thirty-five percent sag, and it obviously gets even better if you flip the cheater switch to the Trail setting. The firmest mode is almost too firm for any sort of off-road climbing, though, unless you plan on bar-humping your way up fire roads at max effort.


Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
Like to Climb? The Arktos does that job incredibly well. Don't like to climb? At least you won't be able to blame it on the bike.


The Arktos' 66-degree head angle isn't exactly EWS worthy these days, but that's clearly not what Alchemy had in mind when they penned this bike. It also means that it doesn't feel like you're steering it from behind the rear wheel when rolling through switchbacks or other technical sections. It is, of course, not as nimble as a bike with less travel or steeper numbers, but it manages to be more of a very capable, long-legged trailbike than a watered down enduro race rig when the going gets tough and a lot of riders start to unclip or tip over embarrassingly.

Combine the easygoing handling with bucket loads of traction from the weighty but grippy Minion tires run around 20 PSI (possible due to the wide Praxis C32 carbon rims) and the Arktos feels surprisingly capable under duress. The traction is there for you, the bike's numbers aren't of the silly, new-school sort where it's so slack and long that you get the impression that you're on a tandem, and unlike some other six-inch-travel bikes, it's not about simply managing to get the Arktos to the top of the mountain by any means necessary.

Those who enjoy not just the descending, but also the climbing aspect of a ride will have a good time on the Arktos due to the bike's efficient and technically adept nature. Simply put, it's one of the best ascending six-inch-travel bikes we've had on test; a sort of powerlifter who loves a long cardio workout every now and then.


Descending

The Arktos is full of beans on the descents, partly due to geometry that doesn't require the speed and handling skills of a pro racer to unlock, and partly because it's an efficient feeling platform that rewards a rider's efforts with a whole load of momentum. It's no Slash or Spartan when things are really fast and rough, but most riders are going to have much easier time getting the Arktos off the ground at low speeds or through the back-to-back corners where the second begins while you're still in the middle of the first. It's very Mojo HD3-ish in this regard, in that Alchemy has made the Arktos never feel like too much bike but it still has your back when you send it into a section of trail that's more dangerous than asking an ISIS warlord where the local internet cafe is located.


Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
Alchemy's 152mm-travel Aktos sits more on the fun and playful side of the breed than some other bikes of similar ilk.


And while you can't quite charge blindly into things and expect nearly guaranteed traction and triumph like you almost always can on a slacker, longer bike, the Arktos chassis, wide Praxis C32 carbon wheelset, and Minion tires do make for a capable package. It's a relatively sharp handling thing, and it's certainly one of the more lively and responsive bikes in this class. The fact that it is so fun on tame trails, or when not riding at ten tenths, is what makes it such a great machine. Well balanced would be a good way to put it, with just the right amount of sharpness to the steering to keep it from being more of a lazy sack of suspension, but not so much so as to take away from what a six-inch-travel bike should excel at - descending.

When it comes to the Arktos' suspension, the Fox 36 fork is superb in every metric that you could rate. Supple, ultra-tuneable, and as supportive as an AA sponsor, it's a big reason why the Arktos is as fun as it is. The Float X shock also works well, and it's probably a simpler and smarter choice for a bike that's not an out and out enduro race rig, but the front of the bike almost calls for a Float X2 on the back to match. There were a few times when, having launched into a mess of roots or rocks, that the rear-end felt a tad spiky for how much travel it has. A more adjustable Float X2 might be the solution for those who ride at a high level or have the terrain and coconuts that call for it. It's hard to tell if the bike's Sine Suspension system and it's tricky curve really makes a difference, to be honest, but it probably plays a part if why the Arktos feels so playful - that middle-stroke support likely helps.


Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
Those who like to leave the ground and take different lines will find a willing partner in the Alchemy.


While the Arktos is a fun bike, it's also one that audibly lets you know how fast you're going when crossing over those same roots and rocks. I guess you could think of the chain slap as a rad-o-meter that tells you how rowdy you're getting, but an old tube and a bunch of tape seemed liked the better choice.

There's a very clear distinction between the Arktos and slacker and longer-travel bikes like the Slash and Spartan, but that's to be expected. I'd choose the Akrtos every day of the week if I weren't an extremely fast rider who focuses on enduro races (I don't). Something like the latest Remedy and a Mojo HD3 are both far more comparable, of course, and I'd argue that the first example is the most capable of the three when it comes to scary and/or fast terrain. It's a toss up between the HD3 and the Arktos, which is a real compliment to what Alchemy has created: One of the best all around six-inch-travel bikes on the market, and one that's going to tickle the fancy of a rider who loves to be on something exotic and rare.



Technical Report

• No Chain Guide: You better hope that your clutch derailleur and narrow/wide chain ring are in fine working order, as there's also no ISCG tabs nor a location to bolt on a top-mount mini-chain guide of some sort. I realize that the Akrtos is more of a trailbike and an enduro rig, but I still feel like it should be easy to mount a guide on such a bike if required. It does have a threaded bottom bracket shell, so you could go with a hokey ISCG adapter plate if you're really needing some extra chain control... Or you could pay $800 less to get the Asian-made Arktos that comes with tabs. Just sayin'.


Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
Alchemy Arktos review test. Photo by James Lissimore.
Praxis' Girder cranks, and especially their carbon C32 wheels, are standout components that probably don't get the attention that they should.


• Pivot Problems: There was some trouble with the Arktos' main pivot, with the drive-side finding a way to come loose multiple times, despite copious amounts of thread locker and a lot of yelling at it and fist shaking. Alchemy says that a few early test bikes, but none that went out to customers, had this issue and that their own in-house machine shop that manufactures these links remedied the problem awhile back. In other words, those who've bought an Arktos shouldn't have to yell at it.


• Praxis Wheels and Cranks: Praxis' new C32 carbon wheels have to be one of the best options out there for a rider that wants a wide, sturdy carbon wheelset. They're true to this day, despite a handful of nasty moments that surely would have knocked an aluminum rim on the back of the bike out of alignment, and their 1,628-gram weight, 32mm inner width, and $1,799 USD MSRP make them more attractive than a handful of other options on the market. Both the front and rear hub shells are of Praxis' own design, and they've dropped in DT Swiss' 36-tooth Star Ratchet system rather than the higher tooth option because it's proven to be more reliable. The bike's Praxis Girder cranks also seem top notch and were trouble-free.


Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesThere are only a handful similarly usable six-inch-travel bikes on the market when it comes to all-around capabilities. This travel bracket is littered with rigs that are really good at this or that but are about as fun as a hernia operation at the opposite task, which is why the Arktos is such a standout - it does pretty much everything to a high level. Whether or not you feel that makes it worth the coin is up to you, but there's no denying that Alchemy have created something special. - Mike Levy



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About the Reviewer
Age: 35 • Height: 5'10” • Inseam: 33" • Weight: 165lb • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None • Instagram: killed_by_death

Mike Levy spent most of the 90s and early 2000s racing downhill bikes and building ill-considered jumps in the woods of British Columbia before realizing that bikes could also be pedaled for hours on end to get to some pretty cool places. These days he spends most of his time doing exactly that, preferring to ride test bikes way out in the local hills rather than any bike park. Over ten years as a professional mechanic before making the move to Pinkbike means that his enthusiasm for two wheels extends beyond simply riding on them, and his appreciation for all things technical is an attribute that meshes nicely with his role of Technical Editor at Pinkbike.


Must Read This Week

173 Comments

  • + 87
 You know it's a serious company when there is a typo in the leverage ratio chart
  • - 3
 I don't fully understand the leverage ratio chart, maybe they should use cement blox shox instead?
  • + 23
 Two, actually
  • + 1
 @leojos: Can somebody explain the typo's? I see none.
  • + 11
 @VTwintips: Suspension, regressive
  • + 30
 Yes all companies should show the leverage ratio... with the values !

But I disagree with "I think it would ride well with a coil; I cannot see why it wouldn't."
I can see a bottom out problem with a coil
  • + 5
 A progressive leverage ratio means an increase in force is required to move the frame through its stroke
  • + 1
 True that!
  • + 8
 Does it matter? its a piece of marketing material. When youre on a massive project with a deadline id take the guy who half asses the marketing and nails the engineering over the opposite. Bike looks legit.
  • - 1
 @bluumax: For the down-vote peeps... think of the opposite: all marketing and not guts. Who likes that?
  • + 1
 isis warlords love internet cafes
  • + 17
 @bluumax: I think the opposite...typos in the engineering-based marketing docs lead me to believe there wasn't sufficient oversight applied to other areas. Plus with such a price tag and aspirations of building an innovative US-based brand, all consumer touch points need to be dialed in.
  • + 17
 @bluumax: I'd take the company that doesn't half-ass anything, pushes the deadline back if it's required, and gets everything right the first time.
  • - 3
 @Sylvain-F: Coils have rubber bottom-out bumpers that send the spring rate sky high at the end of the stroke. Just like an air shock.
  • + 4
 @bderricks: hahahaha. Yeah ok. And while they're at it they can cure cancer and solve world hunger.
Budgets and deadlines exist.
  • + 6
 @bluumax: Absolutely, but you were talking about a hypothetical situation, which is what I responded to. If you're to transpose it on a real world example like this, how much time/money do you think they actually saved towards completing their project by not bothering to run spellcheck or even a quick proofread? It's sloppy work; there's no way around it.
  • + 8
 Looks like you identified a really serious problem. I was going to buy one but now that I know that Arktos' engineers can't spell, I'll have to find something else.
  • + 10
 Back at the University of British Columbia, the campus joke was how none of the engineers could spell. I'll take engineers designing bikes over marketing wankers any day.
  • + 2
 @adpeters82: See, I'm looking at it the opposite way. The only way I WOULD be interested in the thing is if the engineer had fat fingers and mistyped a '3' instead of a '2' between the '$' and the '799' :p
  • + 1
 @mountain-life: the reality is that it takes both. designs get to your hands by the marketing of physics.
  • + 4
 @bderricks: Its a single, or in this case, pair of inconsequential mistakes. I had a teacher in grade 2 say that a mistake is an opportunity to learn. Its a small issue that you seemingly want to use as justification for writing off a bike you almost certainly were never going to buy anyways.
  • + 2
 I'm not sure there is a mistake, if the curve go down the ratio becomes lower, a lower ratio mean you need more force to compress the shock (ratio = shock force/wheel force).
If you need more force... the ratio is progressive, It's a paradox !
  • + 2
 @fullbug: I think the point was that a well designed product with lousy marketing is still a way better product than a mediocre product with great marketing.
  • + 2
 @FATRAC: If you touch the bumper you already have bottom out, with an air shock the spring rate don't go up so brutally
  • + 0
 @VwHarman: ah, yes. agreed.
  • + 4
 You know you're a serious rider when you seriously concern yourself with leverage ratio charts!
  • + 0
 @VwHarman: I was talking hypothetically!!!! Bluumax said he'd rather a company half-ass the marketing for the sake of engineering and deadlines. I said I'd rather they get both right and forego the deadline. It was not a literal interpretation of the circumstances leading to a spelling mistake in the marketing package for the actual product shown here in this article. I followed it up by saying that simple spelling mistakes are sloppy, which they are, in any line of work; especially in something shown to the public. I would never use it as actual justification for writing off a well-made product that I want, but at $3799 USD for the frame alone, I absolutely was never going to buy it anyways, as I stated 3 comments above yours.
  • + 2
 @mountain-life: I bet they're a lot more adept with numbers than they are words. I for one would much rather have that and overlook some grammar errors.
  • + 1
 @bluumax: I've got one fella, it's sweet.
  • + 2
 @fullbug: ..."more dangerous than asking an ISIS warlord if he'd like a bacon butty."
  • + 1
 @FATRAC: its purpose is to protect the shock body from damage. are you troll ?
  • + 1
 @bderricks: You were typing.
  • + 1
 @XCMark: Astute observation? We all were typing, unless someone was using voice recognition software...
  • + 1
 @bderricks: You know that is not happening!
  • + 43
 All these descending reviews going on about traction... Pffft drifting is where its at!
  • + 2
 Ride faster?
  • + 29
 If you're not slidin, you're not ridin
  • + 38
 "Alchemy says that a few early test bikes," So they're even ripping off Yeti with their excuses, I thought you guys had a 'No Pre Production,' rule, or is that a separate category to an early test bike? Nice looking SB66 though, lovely paint job.
  • + 8
 for once i'd like a reviewer to find a problem like this, contact the company, and instead of being told it's a well known issue that's already been dealt with - they just conveniently forgot to mention it up front - come back with "oh yeah, we messed up big time right there - thanks for the heads up; we're going to initiate a recall now!"
  • + 16
 @boomforeal: one of the reviews did that not long ago. I want to say transition maybe?
  • + 1
 Ah the joys of trying to be the "first" company to come to market with the new cool stuff. Companies roll the dice between trying to be early to market so people see their stuff first and with risking that some of the products aren't up to snuff yet. Or they arrive late with dialed product and consequently miss the available window the bloggers, testers, magazines need in order to properly review a product. If you want to be first, then magazines, bloggers, testers, etc. will be given pre-production equipment- fact. This pre-production product is often not completely dialed in yet and there is a chance that some will be wonky and some will be perfectly fine. This will never change, you might as well accept it.
  • + 0
 @ka-brap: Alchemy (and any other company) should state what the problem was, what they changed to fix it and how many products it affected exactly. They should also state that the test sample provided is pre production when it arrives, not after something goes wrong. Claiming they know what the problem is and they fixed it after something goes wrong just makes them look like liars doing some corporate grade ass covering. Plenty of other companies provide review gear that doesn't break.
  • + 30
 Should have asked the guy what he considers the benefits of bottoming out all the time..
  • + 15
 Because it would not be Sine enough
  • + 16
 Agreed, though it may be extreme to say it will bottom all of the time I dont see the need for a regressive curve with modern air shocks, it also reduces shock compatibility and increases tuning complexity - give me a nice, predictable, linear curve any day of the week.
  • + 6
 That's also a strange decision in my opinion.. No real benefit in my eyes. Especially when in that travel range you sometimes want it to take some bigger hits. Doesn't have to be as extreme as a Capra for example but nobody ever was against a little end progression as far as I know
  • + 10
 @daweil: I have a Capra and its progressive nature is one of the things I love most about it. I'd much rather have the suspension to stiffen up gradually than to blow through its travel and bottom out harshly. Way more poppy when jumping and manoeuvering the bike as well.
  • + 3
 @bonkywonky: my thought exactly. Though I understand when you don't really do drops to flat and bigger stuff you don't use all the travel (or need 40% sag and the bike feels bad) then a more linear rate can be more adequate depending on rider and use. But not degressive.. Anyways I haven't tried it and the review is positive and the important thing is that it works well
  • + 3
 @daweil: From the chart it looks basically linear, there's not a whole lot of 'pro-/regression' going on
  • + 6
 @daweil: The way I understood it, that's the leverage of the linkage, and the reason the make it a little regressive at the end of its stroke is to counteract air springs being incredibly progressive at the very end of their stroke. So for lighter riders, that might be a way to get the benefit of all their travel - I hear people complaining about how they can't get close to all their rear travel even with high end shocks with no spacers. For heavy riders, though, it seems like this will then require lots of volume spacers to make the air spring super-progressive at the end, which will take some of the suppleness away.

Which means this review, like most others, doesn't really address how suspension performance differs for different rider weights. I'm a big rider - Giant's Maestro, for example, tends to suck for me (as in, bottom out constantly, or lose all its suppleness with tons of air spring spacers). Light riders tend to love it. You don't hear about that in reviews.
  • + 7
 @g-42: but aren't they overbiked in that case? If they don't get close to bottoming out a 160mm bike they're probably riding too slow/conservative to warrant all that travel, meaning it's just extra weight and indirectness (is that a word actually?) or the geometry that usually comes along with it.

Nothing wrong with that of course but they'd benefit way more from a shorter travel AM rig IMHO.
  • + 2
 @mooka you are right I didnt look at the numbers so in detail Big Grin
@g-42 Yep I read it and I get the argumentation, and by the way I really like the adressing of the mid-stroke support which I feel is very difficult to achieve on some bikes/shocks/damping settings etc, but I think if somebody cant reach full travel with a "normal-slightly progressive" rate on a 152mm bike and a capable geometry on a standard air shock without volume spacers they are either running too much pressure or would be better off with a bike with less travel (or like you said are in a weird weight range for the system)

And even then they normally "could" run a coil shock as a last resort for no ramp up at the end, and even when I have no such problems on my bike despite it being semi progressive and I am really thinking about trying the CC Coil Inline, but that possibility is kinda off with a leverage ratio like that. But yeah if its designed around air it makes sense.. I still think linear/progressive gives the rider more options.
In the end it isnt even that different from linear anyways as Mooka pointed out. But it sounds like in the article ÄHEM marketing
  • - 2
 Giant has regressive spring rates at the end as well. No one complains about them bottoming out
  • + 3
 @hamncheez: Mind sending me some data on that? Linkagedesign says they are mostly progressive
  • + 3
 @hamncheez: reign ratio got an almost constant progression from 0 mm (r= 3.3) to 145 mm travel (r=2.6) . The end of curve (145 to 160 mm) is almost linear, nothing comparable with the strong regression of the "sine" curve in the last 15% travel.
  • + 7
 @hamncheez: I had two Giant bikes; both would bottom out hard for me all the time, because I'm heavy, not because I'm overly aggressive or huck to flat (I'm an old fart with a well-developed sense of self-preservation).

@daweil - Pinkbike at least tells us what the testers' weights and size stats are, so it's a little easier to figure out whether a bike will likely perform for us the same way it does for them. If I read a review where someone at Mike Levy's weight talks about a bike bottoming out or needing a lot of volume spacers, then I know I can take that one off my list. If I read a review of someone my weight talking about never hitting the bottom of the travel, then I know it's not going to work for my wife at half my weight.

But it really goes back to how much a bike's performance depends on the match with the rider - both suspension and geometry. Long legged/short torso'd riders usually do better with slightly longer chainstays; people like me (with a more ape-like short legs/long torso and arms build) tend to do better with the currently fashionable longer front triangles and shorter chainstays. Constant chainstay length throughout a model range across sizes from small to XL tends to distort stuff. And what gets tested tends to be M or L, with "average" sized riders.

An example of this - Kona's Process 111, despite not having a lot of rear travel, doesn't bottom out very easily (and when it does, it's definitely not all that harsh). That means it's well suited for heavy riders even in a middle-of-the-road spec with entry-level shocks - because there's no need for all that volume reduction. Flipside, a lighter rider would have a hard time really using all the travel (which is a bummer, given that you only have so little of it). Meanwhile, for Giant, I would never again consider one of those unless I could afford the build that came with the high-end shock (so I could dial up the endstroke support with volume spacers).
  • + 1
 @hamncheez: Looks progressive to me to be honest - and linear at the end
  • + 1
 @g-42: Yep that helps and is a necessity in every review-. I weigh nearly the same, and once tested some Giant bikes at a local trailcenter I know pretty well. I did not really like the Maestro linkage, felt too soft and plush, but on the other hand it was just a few hours with a different bike than mine so not really representative. Didn´t have problems with bottom outs tho. It was not EWS-Level terrain so maybe there lies the answer Big Grin

Nothing to add to the rest. The whole package has to fit the rider. My favourite bike ever (was also at a test event, first time riding with no special settings besides sag) was a Santa Cruz 5010 with a Monarch Debonair. I did not expect that performance on rougher stuff with 20mm less travel than I usually have. I instantly felt at home, did not bottom out harshly, was supple enough, and stable enough at speed. Just looked it up and its not even that progressive.
  • + 2
 @g-42: I didn't have the same experience related to process bikes.
Kona process (I own a 134 and demoed a 153) have quasi-linear ratio and rely on low-volume air-chamber shocks for buiding progression. With the monarch stock shock, you cannot add or remove volume spacer, meaning that at 80 kg fully loaded I can only use 100 mm over 134 with 30% sag.
I tried it with a debonnair air chamber with different arrangement of volume spacers, it allowed to go more in the travel witout bottoming out but in this case it definetely lack of support (small shocks dive and chassis front and aft movements) needing to rely a lot on shock hydraulics (i.e. filtering) to compensate, which is not a good thing.
That said, I like my bike geometry a lot, as well as very low pedal kickback.
But I found my knolly warden miles away in term of suspension efficiency.
  • + 1
 @bonkywonky: Or they're running the shock pumped up too hard. Lot's of people running not enough sag or overly small spring volumes for their weight.
  • + 2
 @gnralized: I haven't ridden either the 134 or the 153; on my 111, with the stock shock (no volume spacers, as you pointed out), running it at 30% sag, and despite my 105kg - I don't bottom out harshly. Yes, I do push the rubber o-ring to the end of the range during a good descent, so yes, I use the full range - but I don't have that harsh bottom out I used to experience on my Giant.

As for the 30% sag thing - the 111 tends to like it, and the very similar (in geometry - albeit with a Horst link suspension) Transition Smuggler does as well. But you actually DO use that initial part of the stroke - yes, you're sagged into the travel a bit, but then the wheel stays on the ground when you unweigh a bit. For technical climbing, that works pretty darn well to give good traction.

I would agree that the Process bikes aren't the most efficient for pedaling; there's definitely a bit of bobbing. Because of all that traction, that doesn't bother me too much on technical climbs; on gravel road climbs, it definitely needs the platform switch.

@daweil - I hear great things about the current 5010. Friend of mine just loves his, and it seems like a nice all-around trail bike. They build nicely balanced bikes, that's for sure. But when testing bikes, I think it's somewhat crucial to get the bike set up right. I demoed a 111 summer before last; the shop (a Kona dealer) set it up for me, and I didn't think too much about it (the numbers seemed right, between 20 and 25% sag in the rear, about 20% in the front). I rode it, and hated it - yes, the geometry seemed great, but it felt so harsh and bouncy. I had seriously thought of selling my bike and getting a 111 - until that ride. Then this spring my bike got stolen, and I demoed some bikes to find a replacement. Tried a 111, not expecting too much - but this one was set up right (by another Kona shop) - with 30% sag front and back. Different bike, and I happily own one now.
  • + 7
 Interesting how similar the suspension system is to Yeti SB66. Not to mention, they have very similar leverage ratios, only the Arktos is more drastic. Similar geometries too. Looks like Alchemy utilized Yeti's engineering a little bit here at least. Made in the same state too.
  • + 5
 It's the same guy who designed the Yeti linkage.
  • + 3
 The article said the same guy designed both suspension systems
  • + 5
 Pretty sure carbon Yeti's are not made in the US...Don't think their alum frames are either. Not banging on them, but there are lot of differences between making something overseas vs. the US beyond just manufacturing costs.
  • + 3
 @jackalope: the rear triangle is still made oversees.
  • + 1
 @adrennan: i guess i should have read the article more than not as good as the trek, same as the mojo part.
  • + 1
 @jackalope: what are the other differences? Like qc, raw materials?

You always hear about how toxic the resins are - I wonder if the handling and disposal is much different in the US vs China.
  • + 2
 @BryceBorlick: I think one thing (matters to some not to others) is supporting local business. I live in Denver, so when I buy a frame or whatever and it is made locally, that money is injected into my local economy vs. some other part of the world. I see value in this, I just think this is an odd bike that doesn't fit what I need. I do have a push 11-6 which is local to me.
  • + 3
 @BryceBorlick: In a word, yes to the issues you mentioned. As someone who deals with particularly unpleasant industrial waste effluents, there is a laughably (in a sad way) big difference in how companies in the US are required to handle/treat this waste stream compared to almost everywhere else in the world (i.e. Canada and some western euro countries may have comparable regulatory requirements). Prior to the Clean Water Act in the early '70s, many industrial sites in the US basically did not treat their waste stream in any meaningful way, and most did not even send it to rudimentary public waste water treatment plants - which is to say a pipe directly to a receiving stream. China and I'd guess most Asian countries are basically like we were 40 some odd years ago when it comes to treating (or lack their of) their industrial waste streams. This btw isn't just limited to carbon, as alum can be pretty nasty stuff too, to say nothing of the paint byproducts. And then of course there is the labor cost issue. How fairly are the Asian workers compensated? How safe is their work environment? How old are the workers? etc...Point being, I actually misspoke when I said there's more to it than just money, as the issues I just described all come back to money - it's cheaper, in part, to produce things in Asia because of lax environmental controls and low labor cost. There are other factors such as where all the fancy hyrdoforming equipment & tooling is located and so on, but I still maintain the former 2 points are a big part of the equation. In terms of QA/QC, I think its been proven without doubt that you *can* make a great frame/component in Asia that is comparable to anything made in the US, Canada, Germany, etc...It sounds like you have to *really* stay on top of QA/QC in Asia, but thats arguably true anywhere. And hell, look at many Intense frames of the not too distant past compared to modern SCB's frames (which I think are made in Vietnam now). I'd take a SCB frame from a quality standpoint any day (although it seems like Intense has their sh!t sorted nowadays - good on'em if true).

TL;DR - just buy a Guerrilla Gravity www.ridegg.com Wink
  • + 1
 @adrennan: "I think one thing (matters to some not to others) is supporting local business. I live in Denver, so when I buy a frame or whatever and it is made locally, that money is injected into my local economy vs. some other part of the world."

It's a worthy sentiment, but only relevant for locals. That could be said for any manufacturer, anywhere. For non-locals (especially those not even in the same continent, let alone country), there's got to be some other value proposition. Quality? Sounds good, but where's the proof?
  • + 0
 @truffy: I was just speaking to why I would even consider one of the USA made options. There are SO many awesome bikes out there from companies all over the world that these companies need to set themselves apart somehow. Denver seems to show pretty extreme pride in local businesses so Alchemy has their immediate area figured out.
  • + 8
 I don't like it.
The lack of mud clearance around the rear shock would bug me...
Also why does the rider in every pic looks terrified?
  • + 0
 How can you honestly tell the mud clearance though? None of those angles really show it well.
  • + 5
 @VTwintips: m.pinkbike.com/photo/14080866
I think he means here where there's not much room around the shock's shafts near the linkage
  • + 2
 "That said, the mechanical design was done for air shocks... I think it might be difficult to mount most coils."

Not a lot of clearance at the rocker side of the shock mount. Don't see any Cane Creek shocks being a possibility (air or coil).
  • + 4
 So, what is the benefit of the "custom" build vs the Asian made "stock" build? Usually when I see "custom", I expect custom geometry to fit the rider, although I understand that's difficult to do with carbon, is the only difference the build location and color options?
  • + 4
 My understanding is that it's a higher level of carbon, and you can customize the colors on the frame. The standard frame comes in two colors, blue and yellow.
  • + 5
 I'm with you. To me custom means CUSTOM. Custom geo, custom paint, custom part picks.
  • + 4
 What's the deal with the bottom pivot? The pics don't quite show a good look at it, but it sounds like it's just like Yeti's switch infinity, or it a linkage and not a rail?

Nice looking bike for sure and has all the right numbers, for me, but I couldn't personally justify the price.
  • + 3
 Its hard to find photos of the 'hidden link that is not a Switch eccentric' but it looks to be a pair of dog-bone-ish links on either side of the BB. Sorry for linking to another site, information wants to be free.

www.bikerumor.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Alchemy-Interview_Matthew-Maczuzak_Ryan-Cannizzaro_15-600x450.jpg

Have really liked my SB66c and it would appear this bike would be similar in feel, with less fussy internal parts like the Switch mechanisms. I like the single piece rear triangle as well, as I think it creates an overall stiffer bike (with less maintenance duties). Definitely a very present platform on the SB though. I attribute this to the Colorado heritage.
  • + 7
 hmm, the words progressive/regressive..its all within 10%, I wonder if you would feel this at all.
  • + 2
 This bike looks like an unfinished Nomad with less travel and a more primitive geometry. No integrated frame protection. No ISCG tabs. No bottle cage mounts. Partially made in the USA. Mid-level part specification with a few exceptions (the wheels and the cranks are pretty exotic which ultimately translates to "good luck getting service or replacement parts"). As far as long, low, and slack is concerned, those are the attributes of the modern enduro bike. It's kind of weak to downplay those attributes as being for exceptional riders. Who knows, maybe there is a market for this kind of bike, but it seems like the Arktos is simply boutique and not much more when compared to other bikes that can climb and descend. The Rocky Mountain Altitude, for example, has an exemplary part specification, an exceptional fit and finish, and is a proven climber and descender for less money. Maybe it's just a matter of preference. Rant over.
  • + 6
 8k and shimano XT ???? Fckin joke ????
  • + 3
 If you would paint it Turquoise it would look exactly like my SB6C, so why not tell us how they are different. That lower pivot seems to have something similar going on to switch infinity.. can you put up better pics?
  • + 0
 the yeti is faster (down the chunky stuff) is my immediate guess. Everyone I have seen in my area on this bike has been on xc oriented rides. You see more yetis on the hard charging trails.
  • + 6
 So who actually runs 20psi on their trail bike? I run ~30psi+/-2.
  • + 2
 I usually run 22/24 f&r when it's dry and 20/22 in the wet...
  • + 1
 Surprisingly I've been running 18F, 20R on my HD3 with the Ibis wide rims and WT DHF tires. I'm a portly fella (220# geared up). Any lower and rock gardens don't play well, but 18/20 has been working. And, no, I'm not slow (well, down, that is).
  • + 3
 I run 25 rear and 22 front. 30 psi is really high, must be murder on your hands.
  • + 0
 I run 16F 24R @ 150lbs
  • + 6
 Front: 25 Rear: 28 at 200lbs nakey with Stans Flowmk3s. That is slightly above the threshold I found for bringing the trail in contact with the rim.
  • + 2
 @cgdibble: Yup I agree, Flow MK3's over here as well, 25/28 seems to work great.
  • + 0
 @cgdibble:

32psi f+r all year round in any conditions @175lbs!
  • + 0
 I run 18/20 and sometimes 16/18. 175lbs on 30mm internal width tubeless setup.
  • + 0
 I run around 27f/30r. It's really rocky where I live, and at 175lbs I still find a way to bottom out my tires once in a while.
  • + 0
 22f, 25r, WTB "light" carcass, 70kg hardtail rider.
  • + 0
 Me too around 30, a little less in the front. Schwalbe Hans Dampf/Nobby Nic snakeskin on E1900 (23mm internal I think) although I will go to Supergravity in the rear oor change brands, too many flats. 82kg naked
  • + 12
 83kgs naked, 6" tall, athletic fit, blonde, blue eyes... ooops sorry wrong site.
  • + 1
 I'm with you @VTwintips, I destroyed a tyre and chipped my 30mm hoops the other day running 28 PSI rear. Front I can run kinda low, but rear without stepping to a gravity casing - no way
  • + 1
 I weigh 220 and usually ride 22/24 on WTB TCS Tough tires.
  • + 1
 lol that rear end looks like a Yeti....maybe sb66.....This thing IS NOT made in the USA. its "Partially Made in the USA"

I would pay $5000 for a "100% made in the USA frame" meaning.....designed, manufactured and all the composite material is made in the USA as well not imported.
  • + 1
 The "Pinkbike's Take:" was VERY lame... pretty sure just about EVERY big brand and many small brands make 150mm bikes that are high level all arounders.

Unless you want to provide us a list of the bikes that are so "niche orientated' to be, "about as fun as a hernia operation at the opposite task"? Cause other than just a "few" intentionally Enduro Specific Race bikes I'm having a hard time remembering the last time you reviewed a 6" bike that was so utterly pigeon holed as to not be any fun to riding it any other way...?
  • + 3
 Man it must be getting really tough to find unique ways to say the same thing about an all mountain bike every review. Love the meaty look of the rig, though!
  • + 0
 Yup, seems like all they really have to say is whether or not there's a compromise on climbing and descending.
  • + 1
 I guess ISCG mounting tabs are desirable, maybe. Or you can just use a BB mounted chain guide. Given how infrequently i swap chaing guides, I actually prefer the BB mounted version.

Here's one option:
www.mrpbike.com/1xguide
  • + 3
 No chain guide tabs on an $8K bike, seems reasonable. Expect you probably have to shell out if you for a boutique brand if you want luxuries like that!
  • + 4
 Sweet looking lines. Definitely a stunner. Not sure where the "custom" designation part comes in. Did I miss something?
  • + 1
 pretty colors
  • + 1
 @adrennan: sick! So it ships with a matching tld kit. The crucial stuff
  • + 3
 A butt shot of a bow-leged turnbar. My BMX roots makes me cringe but also giggle and point a finger. Otherwise a good review.
  • + 0
 Curiouse about the main Pivot coming loose a few times. We have dealt with a few different VP style bikes at the shop this year with some part of either the shock swinger link or pivot bolts constantly wanting to come loose. Loc-tite or not they were finding a way.
  • + 4
 Looks like a S... ...Saracen!
  • + 1
 My thoughts exactly! Probably better engineered though... My old Ariel was a POS.
  • + 0
 The front triangle is carbon, and people seem to assume that the whole frame is too. At that price, I think I'd expect it to be. But have I missed the explicit description of the rear triangle material?
  • + 1
 The rear triangle is carbon, but it is made in Asia while the front triangle on the test bike is made in the USA. You can also get the same frame made 100% in Asia if you get the production frame instead of the custom frame.
  • + 3
 @mountain-life: what is 'Asia' anyways. It's so annoying when I hear the word thrown around in reviews. how vague and lazy can the reviewer possibly get, saying a frame is made in one of 50 possible countries from Uzbekistan to Cambodia. How about this, the alchemy rear triangle is made on Earth. That would enlighten us all
  • + 1
 @blackthorne: I agree 100%. I think that Asia really means "China." I guess it is done intentionally by marketing people, who assume consumers will associate "Asia" to Taiwan, which has a great reputation for making bikes.
  • + 1
 i always wonder if suspension designers would be better served by selling licenses for their designs than trying to start bicycle companies
  • + 2
 I don't care how many swing links you shove in there, that's still a single pivot.
  • + 1
 You'll need to explain that one..."The lower link is tucked into the frame and hidden behind the swingarm." Two links suspending the rear triangle - upper and lower similar to VPP, DW, etc. It does not revolve around a fixed point on the front triangle.
  • + 1
 the bike had issues. But im certain the bikes that reach the show room floor are good.
Where have u heard that before?
Every second review.
  • + 1
 Very interesting review! Have you seen this @theminsta? I'd be interested in seeing how it rides compared to a Yeti SB6c back to back!!!!!
  • + 1
 Its hugely expensive but the spec is great and its cheaper than an Sworks enduro, for instance. Its all round capability certainly puts it in a very exclusive class. Gimme!
  • + 0
 Same frame, same material, just made somewhere else and it's $800 cheaper? Why would they even offer those two options? That seems odd.
  • + 1
 Nice bike, buuuuuuttttt.....Man I am getting tired of bikes with rear derailleurs. More gearboxes please.
  • + 2
 8k Is a little steep for a lobster
  • + 1
 Talked to these guys at interbike. What killed it for me is the VERY limited rear shock options due to linkage design.
  • + 2
 looks dope, and I always like Yeti's but they break easy.
  • + 1
 What he’s trying to say is coil will work fine if it fits. Lol looks like no room for a coil.
  • + 2
 Whoa why so much hate for this bike?
  • + 0
 Maybe the editorial didn't do it justice. I read the Bike magazine review and was underwhelmed. This article only affirms my initial impression while assaulting my sensibilities and intelligence with a bunch of subjective analysis and tasteless use of creative license in the editorial. I guess it's annoying to see a bike at this price point that really doesn't seem to try all that hard to differentiate itself. The lack of features is glaring and then the one thing that seems remotely novel, the suspension model, limits what shocks can be used. We need bikes that strive to fill a real need, offering features, versatility, durability, and value. This one seems to ignore these needs and makes a half baked attempt to place itself in the upper echelons of boutique bikes. It's almost insulting. On the other hand, I'm expressing my opinion. Maybe the thing is just super amazing to ride. I can't tell from this review.
  • + 1
 I would mate with that bike. I'm not sure how...but I'd find a way.... God I'd take that over a Yeti any day!
  • + 2
 No ISCG tabs, no coil shock, so it's a pussy 6" travel bike!
  • + 0
 28 lbs seems sort of heavy for a bike at this class. Everything is Carbon. Where is the weight coming from. The frame looks like it's built up bulky.
  • + 1
 448mm reach on a XL? What is this, a frame for ANTS?!
  • + 1
 @mikelevy how would compare it to a Patrol?
  • + 1
 "It does everything well", specially emptying your wallet.
  • + 0
 Is it just me or does that linkage look like it's going to hammer that shock shaft?
  • + 1
 Im more wondering if the X2 or Vivid Air can even mount to that link.
  • + 1
 There is Cadet cranks on the pictures.
  • + 1
 $7999 USD. who you fooling?
  • + 1
 Nice bike but that rear brake hose routing around the swing arm is awful!
  • + 1
 when there will be news that there is some new 26''dh bike available???
  • + 2
 Sb66, is that you?
  • + 1
 wonder if they just bought the left over rear triangles
  • + 1
 why theres no Evil bike/ Canyon to compare? just wondering..
  • + 1
 I like it apart from the shock bolts are rusted... only me that saw that?
  • + 0
 It doesn't look like an Arktos, it looks more like a Tabaluga
  • + 1
 Looks like a Yeti
  • + 1
 nice paint scheme
  • + 0
 looks like the love child of a Yeti and a Santacruz
  • - 1
 (1st bro ) Dude you got a new bike! What is it?
(2nd bro) It's an Arktos.
(1st bro) Arktos? Stupid name...
  • + 0
 Is it just me or is that a Yeti SB66? Looks identical.
  • - 1
 I like it that this thing can handle danger like when you ask that ISIS warlord where the nearest Internet cafe is.
  • + 0
 Looks like a Nomad
  • - 2
 interesting bike
  • - 2
 The price seems more reasonable given the awesome spec.
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