As a bike geek, there’s almost no place I can go that is cooler than visiting a bike company, especially one that actually manufactures on-site. I like seeing where the sausage is made, especially because it doesn’t come with any gross revelations. Making bikes isn’t exactly clean—it’s hard, industrial work—but it is a craft at its essence. And while not everyone on this planet thinks so, all bikes are handmade; some just feature more skilled labor than others.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Alchemy Bicycle Company in Denver. It’s not a particularly large operation, but it is unusual in that they produce bikes in three materials: steel, titanium and carbon fiber. That makes them highly unusual, a manufacturing unicorn, if you will.
I never know what I’m going to see when I walk in the front door of a bike company. Some are utterly nondescript offices; some thrust you upon the production floor; some recreate the company’s trade show display; some take the time to produce a real showroom and Alchemy impressed me for the effort they put into the latter.
I can say Alchemy is the only facility I’ve ever seen where in one corner of the shop guys were welding frames and doing finish work, while in another nearby room carbon fiber was being laid up into molds. They also have their own paint booth on-site.
I don’t know what it is, but to be a good welder, there’s a law (of nature, not government) that dictates one must listen to heavy metal, preferably at a minimum SPL of 110 decibels, or more.
Because a big chunk of Alchemy’s business is custom, they receive visitors with some regularity, often for fittings. While caffeine won’t improve a fitting, it’s been known to make it more enjoyable.
One bike that caught my eye while I was there was this stainless steel evocation of a 1980s-era chromed road bike. For a while, Pete Smith, the proprietor of Mad Alchemy, worked for Alchemy for a period and while there created this nod to road bikes many of us coveted back in the day.
He found a complete 7-speed NOS Dura-Ace group (the wonders of Ebay, amiright?) as well as other period-correct components, but if you notice, the frame is very modern, thanks to touches like these very lightweight dropouts.
The reverse mask that was done for the downtube logo was an especially nice touch.
The trophy is for Best Carbon Layup, which they won at last year’s NAHBS; I may or may not have had something to do with that.
I could be wrong to infer much from how a company presents itself, but I appreciate seeing a company put its best foot forward and believe that when employees walk in the front door, it reinforces the aspiration to quality that so many bike companies pursue.