Inside: Alchemy Bicycles' Denver workshop
By James Huang | Thursday, February 21, 2013 4.08am
Alchemy painter Shane Haberland is another former Serotta employee. Haberland is also a die-hard Volkswagen fan James Huang/BikeRadar
We last visited Alchemy Bicycles in 2011, just before the start of that year's North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Alchemy has relocated twice since then but its framesets are no less stunning than they've ever been. If anything, they've only gotten better.
Alchemy's new workshop in southeast Denver, Colorado, sits directly off of the popular Cherry Creek bike path, roughly halfway between an REI flagship store and a regular road racing venue. That location prompted company president Matt Simpson to start plans on making the sahred-space building a cycling 'hub' destination, which will ultimately include a retail showroom with building partner Primal Wear and Boulder neighbor Skratch Labs, a Retül fit studio, a personal training center, possibly a B-Cycle bike sharing kiosk, and even a small wireless café manned by a full-time barista.
The 2012 Best Carbon Construction NAHBS award was "a gamechanger"
But the best part of that café may be the row of stools in front of a giant window where cyclists can sip their lattes and watch the magic happen on the showroom floor.
While Alchemy started out in 2008 primarily building steel bikes, production these days is almost 90 percent carbon fiber using hand wrapped, tube-to-tube construction. Round tubes, stays and forks are now built for Alchemy by Enve Composites, but with recent investments in a giant CNC machine to make molds, a massive hydraulic press for blowing tubes, and a larger oven for curing parts and frames, Alchemy will now be shifting the manufacture of non-round frame tubes, stays and even carbon dropouts completely in-house.
"We've invested a ton in carbon," said Simpson. "We actually took Ti off the web site for the first few months after moving here."
Alchemy has been going full steam with carbon recently
Even paint has been moved in-house, too, with one booth already running full-time and another scheduled to go live in about six months. Alchemy eventually plans to offer its paint services to other builders under the Chroma brand.
Growth has been explosive with Simpson reporting a 300 percent jump in business since the company relocated to Denver last October. Its dealer base has also grown from just 10 a few months ago to 60 worldwide, and the company picked up a new UK distributor, too.
Even so, Alchemy still only employs nine people and, according to Simpson, the recent success hasn't gone to their heads. If anything, they're making a concerted effort to retain their small builder ethos and it seems that none of them have lost sight that they're making a living building cool custom bikes every day.
"Think big, act small, be humble," he says.
Alchemy is now cutting its own molds for carbon frame parts
Part of that "think big" mentality includes some corporate-type infrastructure and planning, such as the recent move to vertically integrated manufacturing plus the addition of several key staff members, such as former Cannondale veteran Johs Huseby as vice president of sales. In a rare move for such a small builder, Alchemy even produces its own 'brand book,' includes warranty cards with each frame, and has a crash replacement policy.
To help satisfy demand, the company is also working on two stock road bike geometries for customers that want an Alchemy frame but don't necessarily need or want a full custom build.
However, the "act small" portion of the company mantra allows Alchemy to design a new frame, cut molds, make the tubing and actually build and paint the frame completely in-house – sometimes within hours.
Welding steel and titanium is still part of Alchemy's formula
Included in that fast-acting operation is a new carbon frame that will be shown at this year's NAHBS, which is somewhat of a hybrid of the current Arion aero frame and the round-tubed Xanthus but with all-new top tube and down tube shapes.
"It's a privilege to take someone's money," said Simpson. "Everyone here has respect."
Now that you've taken a look inside Alchemy's workshop, you can see the fruits of that labor starting this Friday, February 22 at the 2013 North American Handmade Bicycle Show at the Denver Convention Center. BikeRadar will be bringing you show coverage multiple times a day through the weekend.
See this bike unwrapped at NAHBS this weekend
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