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NAHBS 2013 Preview: Alchemy Bicycles' Denver workshop

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Alchemy painter Shane Haberland is another former Serotta employee. Haberland is also a die-hard Volkswagen fan.

Alchemy painter Shane Haberland is another former Serotta employee. Haberland is also a die-hard Volkswagen fan. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Remember the broken shifter Nicole Duke suffered during the US cyclo-cross national championship race? Here's the hood, which was saved and moved over to another company employee's bike. Needless to say, it looks like it was a gnarly wreck.

Remember the broken shifter Nicole Duke suffered during the US cyclo-cross national championship race? Here's the hood, which was saved and moved over to another company employee's bike. Needless to say, it looks like it was a gnarly wreck. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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These two boxes are used for media blasting.

These two boxes are used for media blasting. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Small machined bits reside in a tidy plastic container.

Small machined bits reside in a tidy plastic container. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Anvil frame jigs are one of the most popular options among high-end frame builders.

Anvil frame jigs are one of the most popular options among high-end frame builders. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This drlll press is used to cope tubes prior to bonding and tacking.

This drlll press is used to cope tubes prior to bonding and tacking. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy is quickly moving toward nearly 100 percent vertically integrated manufacturing.

Alchemy is quickly moving toward nearly 100 percent vertically integrated manufacturing. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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With an increasing demand for its carbon fiber frames, Alchemy artisans will be using this tube bender less and less.

With an increasing demand for its carbon fiber frames, Alchemy artisans will be using this tube bender less and less. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This lathe sees a lot of action.

This lathe sees a lot of action. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Saws, sanders, and grinding wheels share space on this workbench.

Saws, sanders, and grinding wheels share space on this workbench. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This bead blasted titanium frame is left raw with the exception of some anodized details.

This bead blasted titanium frame is left raw with the exception of some anodized details. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This finish should last for ages.

This finish should last for ages. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy's modest offices are situated in the loft area of the building.

Alchemy's modest offices are situated in the loft area of the building. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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According to Matt Simpson, Nicole Duke asked for an unusually stiff front triangle matched to a very soft rear triangle. This supposedly gives Duke the handling precision she wanted but with a flexier rear end that could better track uneven terrain.

According to Matt Simpson, Nicole Duke asked for an unusually stiff front triangle matched to a very soft rear triangle. This supposedly gives Duke the handling precision she wanted but with a flexier rear end that could better track uneven terrain. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The front end of Nicole Duke's Alchemy Balius custom carbon 'cross bike features an Enve carbon disc fork.

The front end of Nicole Duke's Alchemy Balius custom carbon 'cross bike features an Enve carbon disc fork. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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A simple reminder from Alchemy Bicycles president Matt Simpson to sponsored 'cross racer Nicole Duke.

A simple reminder from Alchemy Bicycles president Matt Simpson to sponsored 'cross racer Nicole Duke. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The high housing stop placement on the driveside seat stay came as a recommendation from SRAM to help with drivetrain performance in mud.

The high housing stop placement on the driveside seat stay came as a recommendation from SRAM to help with drivetrain performance in mud. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Nicole Duke's Alchemy Balius custom carbon 'cross frame still bears the mud from the US 'cross national championship race.

Nicole Duke's Alchemy Balius custom carbon 'cross frame still bears the mud from the US 'cross national championship race. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy recently signed a sponsorship deal for US 'cross racer Nicole Duke.

Alchemy recently signed a sponsorship deal for US 'cross racer Nicole Duke. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This front room will soon house a wireless café and full-time barista. The large windows on the far wall will give onlookers a prime viewing spot for frame construction.

This front room will soon house a wireless café and full-time barista. The large windows on the far wall will give onlookers a prime viewing spot for frame construction. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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A 20x20ft area is taped off on the factory floor to mock up the display for NAHBS.

A 20x20ft area is taped off on the factory floor to mock up the display for NAHBS. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy's in-house paint shop will also be marketed under the 'Chroma' label, offering paint services for other builders.

Alchemy's in-house paint shop will also be marketed under the 'Chroma' label, offering paint services for other builders. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy will also show off this retro-themed stainless steel road frame at this year's NAHBS. And just wait until you see the component group that's going on it, too.

Alchemy will also show off this retro-themed stainless steel road frame at this year's NAHBS. And just wait until you see the component group that's going on it, too. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This paint booth gets a lot of use inside the Alchemy Bicycles workshop. Painter Shane Haberland checks out the masking quality before spraying.

This paint booth gets a lot of use inside the Alchemy Bicycles workshop. Painter Shane Haberland checks out the masking quality before spraying. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Carbon frame components are blown in this press.

Carbon frame components are blown in this press. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This drawing outlines the geometry of a frame but lay-up schedules remain closely guarded secrets.

This drawing outlines the geometry of a frame but lay-up schedules remain closely guarded secrets. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Lay-up of each individual carbon fiber tube can be custom specified per order.

Lay-up of each individual carbon fiber tube can be custom specified per order. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Enve Composites has done much of the manufacturing for Alchemy Bicycles' carbon frame components but much of that is now going to move in-house.

Enve Composites has done much of the manufacturing for Alchemy Bicycles' carbon frame components but much of that is now going to move in-house. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The recent addition of a CNC mill now allows Alchemy Bicycles to cut their own carbon molds.

The recent addition of a CNC mill now allows Alchemy Bicycles to cut their own carbon molds. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy Bicycles occupies a nondescript industrial building in Denver right on the popular Cherry Creek bike path.

Alchemy Bicycles occupies a nondescript industrial building in Denver right on the popular Cherry Creek bike path. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy was once best known for its metallic frames but now nearly all of its work is in custom carbon.

Alchemy was once best known for its metallic frames but now nearly all of its work is in custom carbon. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy Bicycles president Matt Simpson calls last year's NAHBS award for "Best Carbon Construction" a "game changer" in terms of company visibility.

Alchemy Bicycles president Matt Simpson calls last year's NAHBS award for "Best Carbon Construction" a "game changer" in terms of company visibility. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy has room to cure several frames inside its new oven.

Alchemy has room to cure several frames inside its new oven. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy's steel and titanium frames are welded here by Jeff Wager, who formerly spent a decade at Serotta.

Alchemy's steel and titanium frames are welded here by Jeff Wager, who formerly spent a decade at Serotta. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy welder Jeff Wager's welding mask certainly gets a lot of play - and for good reason.

Alchemy welder Jeff Wager's welding mask certainly gets a lot of play - and for good reason. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy cuts its own decals and paint masks in-house.

Alchemy cuts its own decals and paint masks in-house. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Hidden beneath the tape are the disc tabs of a new Alchemy road frame.

Hidden beneath the tape are the disc tabs of a new Alchemy road frame. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This Alchemy show bike will have multiple layers of ghosting and masking by the time it hits the NAHBS floor this weekend.

This Alchemy show bike will have multiple layers of ghosting and masking by the time it hits the NAHBS floor this weekend. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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What the frame looks like now - and what it will look like when it's done.

What the frame looks like now - and what it will look like when it's done. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Alchemy Bicycles will be showing off this new carbon bike at this year's NAHBS event in Denver, Colorado.

Alchemy Bicycles will be showing off this new carbon bike at this year's NAHBS event in Denver, Colorado. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Stock carbon tubes sit on a shelf.

Stock carbon tubes sit on a shelf. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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While other clocks in the Alchemy Bicycles workshop are basic plastic units, company president Matt Simpson said he felt obligated to supply welder Jeff Wager with this industrial looking metal one.

While other clocks in the Alchemy Bicycles workshop are basic plastic units, company president Matt Simpson said he felt obligated to supply welder Jeff Wager with this industrial looking metal one. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) settled back into the pack before the attacking again.\

Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) settled back into the pack before the attacking again.\ (Image credit: Jonny Irick)

This article originally published on BikeRadar

We last visited Alchemy Bicycles in 2011, just before the start of that year's North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Alchemy has relocated twice since then but its framesets are no less stunning than they've ever been. If anything, they've only gotten better.

Alchemy's new workshop in southeast Denver, Colorado, sits directly off of the popular Cherry Creek bike path, roughly halfway between an REI flagship store and a regular road racing venue. That location prompted company president Matt Simpson to start plans on making the shared-space building a cycling 'hub' destination, which will ultimately include a retail showroom with building partner Primal Wear and Boulder neighbor Skratch Labs, a Retül fit studio, a personal training center, possibly a B-Cycle bike sharing kiosk, and even a small wireless café manned by a full-time barista.

But the best part of that café may be the row of stools in front of a giant window where cyclists can sip their lattes and watch the magic happen on the showroom floor.

While Alchemy started out in 2008 primarily building steel bikes, production these days is almost 90 percent carbon fiber using hand wrapped, tube-to-tube construction. Round tubes, stays and forks are now built for Alchemy by Enve Composites, but with recent investments in a giant CNC machine to make molds, a massive hydraulic press for blowing tubes, and a larger oven for curing parts and frames, Alchemy will now be shifting the manufacture of non-round frame tubes, stays and even carbon dropouts completely in-house.

"We've invested a ton in carbon," said Simpson. "We actually took Ti off the web site for the first few months after moving here."

Even paint has been moved in-house, too, with one booth already running full-time and another scheduled to go live in about six months. Alchemy eventually plans to offer its paint services to other builders under the Chroma brand.

Growth has been explosive with Simpson reporting a 300 percent jump in business since the company relocated to Denver last October. Its dealer base has also grown from just 10 a few months ago to 60 worldwide, and the company picked up a new UK distributor, too.

Even so, Alchemy still only employs nine people and, according to Simpson, the recent success hasn't gone to their heads. If anything, they're making a concerted effort to retain their small builder ethos and it seems that none of them have lost sight that they're making a living building cool custom bikes every day.

"Think big, act small, be humble," he says.

Part of that "think big" mentality includes some corporate-type infrastructure and planning, such as the recent move to vertically integrated manufacturing plus the addition of several key staff members, such as former Cannondale veteran Johs Huseby as vice president of sales. In a rare move for such a small builder, Alchemy even produces its own 'brand book,' includes warranty cards with each frame, and has a crash replacement policy.

To help satisfy demand, the company is also working on two stock road bike geometries for customers that want an Alchemy frame but don't necessarily need or want a full custom build.

However, the "act small" portion of the company mantra allows Alchemy to design a new frame, cut molds, make the tubing and actually build and paint the frame completely in-house – sometimes within hours.

Included in that fast-acting operation is a new carbon frame that will be shown at this year's NAHBS, which is somewhat of a hybrid of the current Arion aero frame and the round-tubed Xanthus but with all-new top tube and down tube shapes.

"It's a privilege to take someone's money," said Simpson. "Everyone here has respect."

Now that you've taken a look inside Alchemy's workshop, you can see the fruits of that labor starting this Friday, February 22 at the 2013 North American Handmade Bicycle Show at the Denver Convention Center. BikeRadar will be bringing you show coverage multiple times a day through the weekend.

See this bike unwrapped at NAHBS this weekend

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