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2020 Alchemy Arktos 29 X01 Eagle Bike

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Average User Rating: (Very Good) Vital Rating: (Excellent)
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The Capable Trail Tamer - We Test The Alchemy Arktos 29

A brilliant suspension design meets traditional geometry to make this trail bike shine in certain types of terrain.

Rating: Vital Review

Alchemy Bicycles isn't the biggest name, but the Colorado-based company has been building its reputation for high-quality carbon frames since 2008. Alchemy's founders Ryan Cannizzaro and engineer Matt Maczuzak set their sights on producing world-leading bikes and in 2018, they took their design to the Enduro World Series by signing veteran racer Anneke Beerten and style wizard Cody Kelly. In August 2019, Kelly piloted his Artkos Nine7Five to a 7th place result at the notoriously rocky Northstar EWS, confirming the quality and performance capabilities of Alchemy's bikes.

For 2020, Alchemy is continuing their presence in the EWS with young guns Evan Geankoplis and Todd Renwick. Given their recent success, and our appreciation of suspension designer David Earle, we were curious to spend some time aboard Alchemy's Artkos 29. Luckily, one arrived a few months back and we're stoked to share our experience.

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Strengths

  • Sine Suspension System
  • Impeccable frame finish, quality, and attention to detail
  • Nimble and agile at modest speeds
  • A true trail bike
  • Customer support
  • Currently $1,000 USD off

Weaknesses

  • Skittish at speed
  • Dated geometry
  • Only 150mm travel on size large dropper

Highlights

  • Full carbon frame
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel // 140mm (5.5-inches) rear travel
  • Sine Suspension System
  • Fully triangulated rear swingarm
  • Handmade in the USA with in-house paint
  • Custom-tuned FOX suspension
  • Tapered headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Threaded bottom bracket with integrated chain guide
  • 157mm Boost+ rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Available in sizes S-XL
  • Measured weight (size large, no pedals): 30-pounds (13.6kg)
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • MSRP $6,699 USD (Currently on sale for $5,699)

Sine Suspension System

When Alchemy decided to jump into dual-suspension mountain bikes, they chose to enlist the help of David Earle. Earle has designed and consulted on a number of suspension configurations over the past several years and has experience with just about every rear suspension configuration. His recent design, called Sine Suspension System, is the result of putting kinematics and ride quality first. Earle wanted the Sine Suspension System to incorporate the best traits of each suspension configuration with as little compromise as possible. Alchemy's vision aligned with Earle's design, and the Artkos was conceptualized and created as a collaborative effort between the two. Alchemy is the only bike on the market using this suspension configuration.

The Sine design is a dual short-link system with a unique rotation of the lower link as the rear suspension is cycled. In order to produce ideal ride qualities, the lower “baby link” rotates upward to begin, and then in the opposite direction towards the end of the Artkos 29's travel, which creates ideal kinematics for the Arktos 29. Initially, the bike is regressive to provide good small bump compliance, then progressive for a supportive feel through the mid-stroke, and finally regressive again to allow the Artkos to use full travel using air shocks. This shock rate produces the sine wave on a shock rate graph, and thus “sine” became the design's calling card. A changing shock rate is common, but for the rate to change twice is rare.

Alchemy recommends 30% sag for the Artkos 29, which is where we remained for the duration of the test. We would likely need to firm things up a little come the summer months when trail speeds increase and trails harden. We found the FOX DPX2 shock worked extremely well and was easy to set up.

Geometry

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The trend towards long, low, and slack is in vogue at the moment, but some riders have had enough with a "more is better" approach to geometry and so too have Alchemy. The Artkos 29 is a compact, upright bike, which on paper lends itself well to more modest speeds and tighter trails. With a reach of 452mm on a size large, we felt perched on top of the bike rather than in it, especially in comparison to a recently-tested Pole Stamina 140 that situates the rider lower, and between the wheels. Our preference of late has been towards the latter of the two, but within a few rides we grew accustomed to the shorter reach and even found it advantageous in consistently tight, twisty, and slower sections. The 644mm stack height was quite tall and resulted in a higher cockpit than usual, even with the stem slammed against the upper headset cup. This was a challenge for us as it required that our body position be adapted in order to get the front end grip we needed.

Initial Impressions

With a mission of “building the world's best bicycles,” Alchemy has the bar set high. Upon inspection of our Artkos 29, we noted that the bike's finishing details were outstanding. Unlike most brands, Alchemy builds its carbon frames in-house. They have gone this route for a number of reasons, most notably for quality control. Their carbon layering process sees upwards of 500 separate carbon sheets strategically placed and layered to balance strength and weight, in addition to the ride qualities they're after. Beyond the frame itself, the protection, cable routing, and small parts quality are all top-shelf. Finally, Ethic Paint Works puts the finishing touch on every frame, and the finished product is of the highest quality that we can recall in recent memory.

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Because the Artkos29 and Nine7Five mullet versions have been raced for a few seasons, we expected our test bike to be built with racing in mind. However, our bike was equipped for trail duties rather than full-on enduro riding. In the end, Alchemy's decision to equip the Artkos 29 with a more trail-oriented build is the right call as this better suits the bike's character.

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On The Trail

Our Artkos 29 felt quite light, which made it feel extremely efficient and nimble out of the gate. The suspension efficiency, lighter build, and compact geometry encouraged jibbing about on the way to trails, and the trend continued as our tires hit the dirt. The Artkos 29's active 140mm of suspension does not feel cumbersome or wasteful, but it did remain active during standing efforts as we went looking for ditch jumps and cutties.

The bike is an efficient climber, better still with a lightweight build. The FOX DPX2 shock remains active, but not to a point where we felt the need to lock our suspension. In technical climbing scenarios, the rear wheel has a ton of traction, but the geometry required more rider input and compensation to keep traction on the rear wheel without lifting the front end. While the lighter weight deserves some credit, it was the suspension that kept climbs efficient without stiffening to a point where we got bounced off line when the trail got technical.

A versatile bike shines on these trails, and the Arktos 29 with its Sine Suspension System is exactly that.

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On moderate and rolling terrain the Artkos 29 truly comes into its element. The Sine Suspension System seems to really shine when the terrain is constantly changing. While Squamish, BC is most known for slabs and steeps, there is a massive network of punchy, technical trails punctuated by abrupt changes in direction and elevation with rocks and roots littered about. This is where we enjoyed the Artkos 29 most. The active rear end absorbs trail chatter and conserves momentum well, then gets firmer for a playful feel that generates speed and pops off lips with ease. It is a lively bike without the harshness often associated with bikes that seem to pump and pop well. The suspension also remains active under braking, and never stiffened too much under heavy braking. These trails are still quite technical and steep by most folks' standards and fall squarely into the all-mountain category. A versatile bike shines on these trails, and the Arktos 29 with its Sine Suspension System is exactly that.

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On steeper, faster, sustained descents the Artkos 29 becomes more challenging to ride efficiently. The rear suspension performance remains excellent, but the geometry becomes a limiting factor. In general, we're more confident when situated between the wheels, but the Artkos 29 left us feeling “on” rather than “in” the bike and required ongoing body position adjustments as it pitched forward and backward through rough sections. If the bike were roomier we suspect that this terrain would not have been an issue, as the rear suspension felt up to the task. Furthermore, the tall stack height made it challenging to get the front end pressure we would have liked, especially when committing to corners where grip was at a premium. We got 15mm closer with a flat bar, but our usual setup remained lower.

After a few months of riding, our experience aboard the Artkos 29 left us pleased but not over-the-moon. It is undoubtedly better suited as a long-legged trail bike rather than an enduro bike. The Sine Suspension System is outstanding, ride quality is great, and with a few geometry tweaks we feel that the Arktos 29 has far more potential. As is it is best suited to rolling, intermediate trails versus EWS-type terrain. Given the suspension performance, however, we think the Artkos 29 could be a winner anywhere with a few tweaks.

Build Kits, Pricing & Availability

Alchemy might be a boutique brand, but their bikes can be had at any price point. All but one build features a custom-tuned FOX DPX2 Factory Kashima EVOL LV shock. We found this shock and the tune to be very-well suited to the Arktos 29. It performed extremely well, is lightweight, user-friendly, and offers plenty of adjustments for fine tuning. Our test bike came with the SRAM X01 build, which can be had for $5,699 USD and includes free shipping. Alchemy shipped our bike nearly assembled which made things easy when it arrived. For those who are less mechanically inclined, Alchemy even offers a final assembly credit to subsidize bike shop labor.

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The 160mm FOX 36 Factory fork featured on most build kits pairs very well with the DPX2 shock. Together they provide a very balanced, predictable feel in spite of the varied travel. SRAM's shifting performed as expected, and the DT Swiss M1700 wheels were a great balance of durability and weight. Our bike came with two-piston Shimano XT brakes, which weren't enough stopping power for our needs, but most build kits now feature the four-piston version. We were also left wanting for more durable tires, as the Maxxis EXO casing did not hold up under hard riding. That said, Alchemy has confirmed that EXO+ tires are on the way for the Artkos 29, which we fully support. Finally, while the FOX Transfer Factory post worked well, we would have preferred the 175mm version for the added range of motion it allows. With a 33-inch inseam we had plenty of room to run it.

Things That Could Be Improved

Geometry is such a subjective part of bike reviews that we try to steer clear of any recommendations. However, the recent trends of more reach, steeper seat tube angles, slacker front ends, and the minutia that comes along with them tend to improve the overall riding experience. We feel that similar treatment would do the same for the Artkos 29. The Sine Suspension System works extremely well and we felt that we could have ridden more confidently and faster with more modern geometry, with negligible compromise. Even though the Artkos 29 is more trail bike than a thoroughbred racer, we felt too cramped on our large frame to really let it loose. With a stack height that already felt tall at 644mm, we were also hesitant to run the XL in order to get the reach numbers we would have been more comfortable riding. If a few geometry changes were made, we would be first in line for another go knowing its potential and great suspension performance.

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Long Term Durability

As noted, Alchemy controls all aspects of carbon frame production in-house. Every detail is meticulously completed, checked, and rechecked. The resulting product is not only pretty, but it can also take a beating. The lower link (collectively referred to as the “baby link”) is an axle with two small plates. Not only are they short enough that they're extremely stiff, but they are also very well protected from dirt and debris compared to the vast majority of lower links. After a few months of early spring riding and pressure washing, everything is rolling smoothly and very little dirt made its way in. The bearings themselves aren't huge, but after seeing how clean they remained after months of riding, we're confident that premature wear won't be an issue. Regardless, Alchemy's service department provides customers with extensive and detailed maintenance schedules, along with a user-friendly frame assembly guide to ensure things go smoothly.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Alchemy Bicycles is clearly a brand that goes above and beyond. After we went down the rabbit hole of riding, investigating, and chatting with Alchemy's employees, this idea was only reinforced. The exclusive Sine Suspension System works extremely well in every situation. It is active enough for technical climbing, supportive and playful on modest terrain, and uses its travel efficiently when trails get faster and rougher. The geometry wasn't ideal for riding fall-line trails in Squamish, BC, but it is very well-suited to more modest terrain or less aggressive riders who aren't after the longest, lowest, or slackest bike but demand high performance. The suspension is undoubtedly the jewel of this bike, which is fortunate as Alchemy continues to integrate this design into their current and future mountain bikes.

Check out www.alchemybicycles.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 4 Stars
  • Descending: 3 Stars
  • Fun Factor: 4.5 Stars
  • Value: 4 Stars
  • Overall Impression: 4 Stars - Excellent

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About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood – Age: 36 // Years Riding: 20+ // Height: 5’11” (1.80m) // Weight: 185-pounds (83.9kg)

Joel’s unique coaching background and willingness to tinker with products bring an objective perspective to testing. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest simply exploring the limitless trail networks surrounding his home of Squamish, BC. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products while exposing any shortcomings.

Photos by Jessie McAuley

Rate review:

9 comments newest first

I rode the 29ST all last summer. The sine suspension really is very close to how a yeti feels in terms of support when climbing, but also letting little travel feel deeper than it should when things get hairy. The only reasons I sold it is the somewhat dated geo as said here, although you can easily just go up a size to that end. Only bad thing about going up a size is that their seat tube lengths are a bit tall and with me at 6', I think a 150mm dropper on an XL would be max (which I want more, I can fit a 210mm oneup dropper on my large sb130).

The only really other complaint I had was even though the paint and finish look really nice, I have never had a bike's paint chip so incredibly easy. Sure, all paint is prone to chipping, these are mountain bikes after all, but there were times when the Alchemy's paint would chip even from something like blunt plastic hitting it mildly (like say if you put your bike rack arm on it too hard or something).

Had a blast on the bike, and would love to see them update it a bit to be more modern (really just a shorter seat tube, steeper seat angle, and longer reach would be huge)

Edit to add: Their customer service is top notch, super nice guys willing to go above and beyond for their customers.

| Reply

That suspension motion reminds me of Yeti. A clever and simple way to achieve what appears to be a similar outcome without infringing. Nice.

Quite a price difference between the GX and XT builds though, considering the only apparent difference is the drivetrain.

| Reply

Pretty sure it is the old Yeti suspension system that was featured on their bikes around 5-7 years ago before they introduced they infinity system with the sliding piston things, SB66, SB95, etc. If I remember correctly, the designer licensed it to Alchemy or something like that.

| Reply

David Earle worked on a few Yeti frames (i.e. SB66), and Santa Cruz before that. The influence of Yeti's "Switch" system is pretty clear as both it and the Sine setup rotate in a similar manner.

| Reply

I am confused, first you say the suspension design with the traditional geometry makes this bike shine and after you say it has a dated geometry? One thing I really like in VitalMTB is that there are no typos.

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1 member review

Climbs like a goat, kills the downhills!

Rating:
The Good:

Climbs very well, it seems to just float up the trail and does well in loose rocky terrain. Going down is impressive as well, feels like a lot more travel than 120mm.

The Bad:

The Bad: Cockpit feels great, cranks are a bit long or maybe the BB is just a bit low, and the water bottle mount is a tad low.

Overall Review:

Test rode an Arktos ST 29 at Bentonville Outerbike and was impressed right off the bat. Bought a frame and build kit this spring and have about a dozen rides on it thus far and its a great all around bike. Looking forward to getting it dialed and spending more time on my local NWA trails!

Rate review:

0 comments newest first

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Specifications
Product 2020 Alchemy Arktos 29 X01 Eagle Bike
Model Year 2020
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 580 610 630 665
Head Tube Angle 65.5° 65.5° 65.5° 65.5°
Head Tube Length 100 110 125 140
Seat Tube Angle 75° 75° 75° 75°
Seat Tube Length 410 450 483 518
Bottom Bracket Height 343 (34 drop) 343 (34 drop) 343 (34 drop) 343 (34 drop)
Chainstay Length 438.5 438.5 438.5 438.5
Wheelbase 1167 1185 1211 1248
Standover 792 794 802 830
Reach 418 444 452 483
Stack 620 630 644 658
* Additional Info All measurements in mm unless otherwise noted
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Full carbon fiber with molded rubber downtube and chainstay protection
Rear Travel 140mm
Rear Shock FOX DPX2 Factory, Kashima, EVOL LV, 3-position adjustment, 7.875" x 2.25"
Fork FOX 36 29 Factory, Kashima, Boost, GRIP2
Fork Travel 160mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset Cane Creek 40-Series, IS42/IS52
Handlebar Race Face Turbine R, 35mm diameter, 780mm width, 20mm rise
Stem Race Face Turbine R, 50mm
Grips DMR Deathgrip, thin
Brakes Shimano XT M8000, Shimano centerlock ICE TECH 180mm rotors
Brake Levers Shimano XT M8000
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM X01 Eagle, trigger
Front Derailleur None
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 Eagle
ISCG Tabs None
Chainguide Direct mount, top only
Cranks SRAM X01 Eagle, DUB, 175mm
Chainrings 32 tooth
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB, BSA MTB73, SB+
Pedals None
Chain SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
Cassette SRAM XG-1275, 10-50 tooth, 12-speed
Rims DT Swiss M 1700 SPLINE 29" wheelset, 30mm
Hubs DT Swiss M 1700 SPLINE 29" wheelset, 15mm x 110mm front, 12mm x 157mm rear
Spokes DT Swiss
Tires Front: Maxxis Minion DHF, DC, EXO, TR, 29" x 2.5"
Rear: Maxxis Minion DHR II, DC, EXO, TR, 29" x 2.4"
Saddle WTB Volt Race, 142mm x 265mm
Seatpost FOX Factory Transfer, 150mm on larger sizes, 125mm on smaller sizes
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp Single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12mm x 157mm
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Vanilla/Brown
Grey/Red
Warranty Lifetime of the frame for the original owner for defects in materials and workmanship
Paint and finish are covered for 1 year from purchase date
Crash replacement program
Weight N/A
Miscellaneous Sine suspension design
Internal cable routing
Hand made in the USA
ENVE M6 cockpit upgrade available for $400
ENVE M630 wheelset upgrade available for $1700
Price $6,699
More Info

www.alchemybicycles.com

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