Alchemy Bicycles' Arktos Custom, previously known simply as the Arktos, is the stuff of many mountain biker's dreams; a carbon fiber front triangle that's manufactured in the United States (the swingarm comes from Asia), and 150mm of travel controlled by their efficient Sine Suspension layout. Owning an Arktos Custom is a bit like having your own Serval house cat while your friend has a tabby that he found in the classifieds for free. And like a Serval, the American-made Arktos Custom isn't inexpensive; $3,799 USD for the frame and Fox Float X shock, which is, of course, pricier than the very large majority of carbon frames born in Asia.
• Intended use: trail / all-mountain
• Travel: 150mm
• 27.5" wheels
• Carbon frame
• 66.5° head angle
• 438mm chainstay length
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing
• Sizes S, M, L, XL
• Frame price w/ shock: $2,999 USD
• Made in Asia
But now Alchemy Bicycles is offering an Asian-made version of the frame named the Arktos (without the 'Custom' designation) that costs $2,999 USD with a Float X shock, which is a full $800 less than the American-made Arktos Custom that will still continue to be available.
''We’re well aware that price can be a barrier to entry for premium designs and builds,'' Alchemy President Ryan Cannizarro explained in a press release that went out earlier today. ''We received a flood of comments expressing that potential customers cared less about where the bike was produced and more about the price tag,'' Cannizarro went on to say in the PR. ''The Arktos was so well-received last fall that we had to think about how the production of this bike would affect the production of our custom offerings,'' Cannizarro said of his concerns. ''By utilizing Dave Earle’s overseas production expertise and supervision for the new Arktos we can continue the Alchemy tradition of offering top-tier bikes, but at a price point new to us.''
Alchemy going this route shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone; as Pinkbike's Vernon Felton stated in his interview with Matt Maczuzak
, Vice President of Alchemy's R&D, from this year's Sea Otter event, 99-percent of the 17.8 million bicycles imported into the United States came from overseas (the vast majority from China and Taiwan) in 2014. That takes into account everything from department store specials to high-end carbon dream machines, but you get the point.
The reason? Labor is much cheaper in Asian countries, and saving money on labor means customers can hopefully save money on the final product.
''Labor is the big differential,'' admitted Maczuzak back in the April interview. ''Technology is equal here and in Asia, so what you are paying for is labor. We pay our employees very well; we have very highly skilled people working for us, and that makes a difference. If you go to an Asian factory you’ll see that they break down one process into fifty different steps because it is no longer a skilled labor. One person does one little task and the next person in line does another little task. We have very skilled guys who handle it all the way from the mold to paint. To make that work, you have to design a process that lets you do it this way while still being efficient.''
It would have been easy for Alchemy to get on a high-horse over their made in America ethos, but that has never been the case, which is probably a good thing given today's announcement that they've begun to offer a less expensive, Asian-made option in tandem with the US-made Arktos Custom. ''It’s not a USA versus Asia thing for us,'' Maczuzak told Felton in April. ''It’s just what we know and what we do best. The only advantage for us is that we have our hands on what’s coming out of our factory. We have control over the product that has our name on it. If riders are into that too, we have bikes for them.''
And now they'll also have the standard, $2,999 USD Arktos for riders who can't justify the $3,799 USD Arktos Custom. The two bikes share the exact same geometry and suspension design, but the more expensive Arktos Custom is painted to the customer's spec in Denver by Ethic Paint Works, and one-off custom paint schemes are also offered to Arktos Custom customers for an addition fee. The Asian-made Aktos is available in either yellow or blue ying-yang paint options.