Carbon Fiber Bikes Made By Hand
Every carbon fiber bicycle is made by hand. The process takes days of precise craftsmanship, resulting in the award-winning Alchemy carbon fiber layup. We were the first to build a USA-Made, production ready full-suspension carbon fiber mountain bike, and we have won multiple Best Carbon Bicycle and Best Carbon Layup from North American Handmade Bike Show. We have perfected our process with decades of experience and every step is done by master bike builders, including the Arktos which is made overseas.
01. Carbon Cutting
Like the adage goes, “A whole is just a collection of parts” and a carbon bicycle frame is no exception. In this case, the parts are the carbon “pre-preg” sheets that are precision cut on a state-of-the-art CNC plotter and meticulously combined to create a work of art. Depending on the frame model, each piece can be as long as an extended arm or as small as a postage stamp.
A typical frame utilizes up to 500 pieces of pre-preg, and it is the layering process that creates a bike’s feel and ride qualities. By weaving the strands in a specific direction, Alchemy’s engineers use a proprietary layup which maximizes stiffness, minimizes weight and provides the much-heralded Alchemy ride quality. Every element at this stage is unique to each frame and is at the very heart of Alchemy’s transforming ride quality.
Cutting carbon tubing patterns on the Eastman M9000
02. Tube Layup
The custom-cut carbon sheets are combined to create either tubes or overwrap, but Alchemy begins each frame with tube construction. The carbon is fitted into custom CNC-machined molds, each designed to meet the specific requirements for individual carbon fiber tubes. Custom bladders are placed within the carbon sheets and pressure is incrementally increased. This molding process dictates the shape of the tube and the bladder holds the shape during the baking process.
Hand-assembling a seat tube cluster.
03. Finishing & Mitering
In the end, this proprietary process is what creates both a structurally and aesthetically sound work of art. Even at this stage, each tube is subjected to quality control before moving to the next stage of production. The tubes are then mitered, placed in a frame jig, and tacked together with high strength epoxy. Epoxy is a preliminary process, used simply to tack the tubes together, but it plays no role in the frame’s strength. Alchemy frames do not use epoxy as filler or to make the frame look more cosmetically pleasing.
A carbon tube being mitered.
From the frame jig, the frame heads into layup. Each tube intersection is wrapped with unidirectional carbon shapes, again uniquely produced for each frame. The layup procedure adds functional strength and the unique ride quality of each frame, but the cosmetic appeal can’t be denied. Alchemy does not hide the layup during painting, further highlighting Alchemy’s pursuit of perfection.
Frames are then bagged and vacuum formed. Vacuum bagging co-molds the new structural elements and seamlessly joins the carbon added during the layup process. Frames are then placed in an oven, where the final stage allows the newly wrapped carbon fiber to properly adhere and cure.
Applying the carbon overwrap.
05. Sanding & Paint
The completed frame is handed to the Ethic Paint Works staff to be painted. Two layers of clear coat are applied, followed by hand-sanding. After the initial clear coat layers, the paint scheme is applied, with additional fine sanding between each layer of color. A final coat of clear over the color properly spotlights the attention to detail and complexity of each color way. Many companies hide their carbon fiber, using matte black paints to hide any deficiencies. Alchemy prefers to showcase the carbon’s natural fibers, as the carbon itself is a fundamental component of the craftsmanship inherent within each. As such, it should (and does) bear close scrutiny.
Putting the final touches on a frame.