After an annoying Colorado October, chock full of early-season cold, snow and ice, the sun returned for the last couple of weeks of the month. It created the perfect opportunity to test ride Alchemy’s new carbon fiber Ronin gravel bike.
As some one who has been riding both road and mountain bikes (and most everything in between) and participating in off-road, adventure and gravel events for the better part of the past decade, I was understandably excited to get this shiny machine dirty.
I went out on several rides over the course of a few days, with a solid mixture of good-paved roads, badly paved “chip-seal” roads, smooth dirt roads, rough dirt roads, double-track and single-track trails, including some rocky, rooty, and icy sections.
First impressions definitely agree with Road Bike Action’s categorization of this bike as “performance-gravel”. With size 42mm tires, pumped up to 50 PSI to handle dual duties of paved and unpaved roads, I found the bike surprisingly fast on the pavement. I even passed two gents on skinny-tired road bikes on a downhill section of twisty canyon tarmac.
The geometry is the most notable aspect of the Ronin for me. The slacker head angle, paired with the higher bottom bracket height and longer chainstays, slowed the handling down to a very nice predictable feel; my body was naturally in a position that could easily be held for many hours on big days.
The Ronin features an oversized downtube and bottom bracket, coupled with the thinner diameter seat-tube and bowed seat stays. This makes the frame achieve an incredible balance of stiffness and compliance. The power transfer is solid to the pedals, and the bike doesn’t move underneath you when out of the saddle pushing the pedals uphill.
And remember, this is with big knobby tires, the kind that make a pleasant humming sound that only gets better the faster you go.
Once off-road, holy smokes, does this bike really start to sing. Any disadvantage from the big tires on pavement is an instant advantage in the dirt. They roll fast, and the combination of smooth center and bigger side knobs on the Terravail Cannonball tires gave me a big boost of confidence and speed.
Hammering on smooth dirt singletrack, you realize how fast you can get going on the Ronin. The big wheels roll over minor to medium obstacles handily, shredding sections of baby-heads, mashing over clip-clopped horse-hoofed loose sand, bouncing over water bars and roots with well engineered aplomb.
The Ronin’s overall ride quality is paired nicely with Enve G Series wheels, Enve cockpit, and Shimano Ultegra Di2 with disc brakes. The frame can fit up to a 45mm tire, which may not be as oversized as some of the “jack of all trades, master of none” gravel machines, but rather refine this bike to a master of performance in the gravel arena.
I love how the frame achieves its tire clearance and room for a double chainring without changing the traditional lines of a double diamond bicycle frame (no strange looking elevated or dropped chainstays). The Ronin carbon is just a well thought out and good-looking machine.
The Ronin is certainly a bike for serious gravel racers, and roadies getting into the scene that want more than a bike to ride on the occasional dirt road adventure. It can be competitive and in the mix on your Belgian Waffle Rides, Dirty Kanzas, and Secret Groads. And maybe I’m just a little biased, but the overall finish work and paint is pretty damn sexy!
-Philip “Pinot” Harwood
Paint Shop Lead, Production Assistant, and occasional blogger at Alchemy Bicycle Company