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Sweet 16k: 16,000 Miles on an Alchemy Atlas

Joel Smith

By Philip Harwood

“Model years are for bike companies that don’t have timeless product” is plastered on the walls here at Alchemy. To put it simply, perfection does not need to be constantly upgraded, even in the bicycle industry, where bottom bracket, wheel and brake standards change about as often as a cyclist changes a tube or tire.

The Atlas has taken me many places in it’s first 16,000 miles.

 

When given the opportunity to build my own frame three years ago, I considered all of this as I decided on a custom Atlas road frame.  After a Retul frame fit and several conversions with our engineering department on ride quality and characteristics, I had a CAD drawing, a blueprint of angles and geometries to follow to construct my dream bike.

I tried my best to modernize and future proof the frame – press fit 86 bottom bracket, 44mm headtube, flat mount disc brakes, internal routing, Speed Release through axle dropouts, and custom geometry that would fit up to a 33mm tire.

So far, everything except Speed Release has stood the test of time, and swapping out the S.R. axle for a Wolf Tooth thru axle was no big deal (for me anyway).

I cut every piece of carbon for my Atlas on our CNC machine.

 

We love craft beer here at Alchemy, and although our bikes do not have an official born on date, the Californian-made carbon I used to construct my frame has a vintage of 2017.  I started production on the frame by cutting out all the required pieces of carbon on our cutting table in the beginning of August.

I spent the following weekend in the top-secret layup room, “kitting” or plying the pieces of carbon fiber together to create the parts.  We make everything in house, including dropouts, main tubes, bottom bracket, chainstays, and seatstays.  Once the pieces are kitted, they go into our aluminum molds (which are cut in-house on a CNC lathe), which in turn go into curing ovens.

300 degrees later, out popped my tube set, quite literally, “Hot off the press!”.

Hot off the press!

 

Standard frame-building procedures came next, cleaning up the tubes, mitering them to the CAD drawing, and putting them in the frame jig.  A special aerospace grade epoxy holds the tubes together, and then the junctions are hand-wrapped with more carbon to effectively create carbon lugs, to reinforce both strength and stiffness where it is needed most.

And next, my favorite part of the process here at Alchemy!  A vacuum bag into a special oven is then used to cure those overwrapped junctions, followed by a lot of hard work including sanding, final matching, and paint prep.

And then on to my specialty: paint!

 

And then my specialty – paint world!  I love my job, but painting my own bike, that I built…now that was next level!  I chose Sunkissed Orange Crystallance as my logo color, and blacked out the main tubes to highlight the overwrap, and also sprayed a light coating of silver pearl over the whole frame to give it some extra sparkle.

Down to the last detail. I even painted the lock ring on the cassette.

 

And, then I painted every detailed part I could, within good taste of course!  I put logos on the rims, seatpost, stem, handlebars, seat collar, top cap, frame pump, fenders, even painted the lockring on the cassette!

First stop, the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas

 

Once built up, the bike went to Las Vegas for Interbike, and that was an agonizing week waiting for it to return and we could start to get to know one another.  And it’s been a fantastic ride over the past three years and 16,000 miles.

The paint is chipped in a few spots from traveling and the occasional crash. I’ve gone through a complete drivetrain, several chains, headset bearings, rotors, countless sets of tires and brake pads, but the frame remains as solid and sound as the very first ride.  Together we have ridden countless miles commuting to and from the shop, numerous lunch loops around the Cherry Creek Reservior, up Mt Evans (highest paved road in North America), several times across the high passes of the continental divide, even as far east as Cadillac Mountain in Maine.

We’ve ridden smooth canyon tarmac, pleasant dirt farm roads, gritty gravel mining roads, and even singletrack.  I have a set of studded tires that fit just fine, and ride in the snow and ice, in temperatures as cold as -10 degrees.

It is the best bike I have ever ridden, and have and will continue to recommend the Atlas frame to friends, colleagues, and customers.  It checks all the boxes – stiff and snappy, but also comfortable and compliant.  It looks fast, feels fast, and is fast, both up and down hills.  It is also smooth, confidant, and lightweight: 16.5 pounds with pedals.

It is an amazing machine, and I look forward to the next ride, whether its a ride to the local store to get a burrito and coffee, a commute to work, or a long day deep in the Rocky Mountains, each and every pedal stroke is another reason to smile.

Here’s to the next 16,000 miles!

 

Alchemy’s Joel Smith has been riding mountain bikes for over 35 years. Starting out in the dirt on a converted Laguna-brand cruiser in the mid-1980s, his immediate love of the sport turned into a lifelong career. Smith raced both XC and DH in the 1990s (in the now defunct NORBA National Series) and has worked on nearly every aspect of bike development over his nearly 30-year long career.

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