Remaining calm under pressure is always a sought-after trait. As a so-called “Smooth Operator,” you’re calm, consistent and collected when things get rough. Not very often would anyone call a hardtail a “Smooth Operator,” but that’s just what the Alchemy Argos titanium trail hardtail is. No question, this bike surprised me by just how much I enjoyed pushing it hard on the local tracks.
Alchemy Argos Ti X01 Build Features:
- USA-blended titanium frameset
- 12×148 boost rear dropout
- 2.5″ tire clearance
- Internal cable routing
- Integrated rear caliper mount for 180mm rotors
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Hand-made in Denver, CO
- Lifetime frameset warranty
- Available in 5 build kits from $6299-$8299
- Weight: 28.3 lbs (size large, as shown with pedals and cage)
- MSRP: $7299 (X01 kit, as tested)
Full-suspension replacement? Maybe.
It all started with an email from my friend Nic Sims, co-founder of SIMBOL Communications. He said, “I’ve got an Argos for you. After riding it, I’m re-thinking full suspension. This is perfect for the trails I ride.” Intrigued, we met up for lunch and he dropped the Argos into my hands. I’m still young at heart, but my body doesn’t always appreciate hardtail mountain bikes, so I was hesitant. But, I trusted his glowing remarks and looked forward to pushing this one hard on the local trails.
As a direct-to-consumer brand, Alchemy Bikes offers various shipping and setup options to make sure your bike arrives to you with either minimal assembly or completely ready-to-ride. In addition, you have 30-days to decide if it’s a match made in heaven or not. Custom geometry is available and they not only make their titanium frames, but they even make their carbon road and gravel bikes in Denver, Colorado too!
The angles and build are decidedly progressive with a direct target towards those looking to get aggro on the downhill. Up front, that Fox 34 Factory 140 is laterally-stiff, ultra-smooth and it puts the head angle at a solid 65-degrees. That is paired to a steep 75.5-degree seat tube angle to put you in a great climbing position. Looking at comparable aggressive hardtails, 65-degrees is on par with the Santa Cruz Chameleon and Trek Roscoe, to name a few.
The X01 build is a great spec overall, but let me cover a few things about the build that I’ve got issues with. Admittedly, some are personal preference, but others should have Alchemy making spec changes as soon as it’s feasible. I always swap grips and usually swap out the saddle on my test bikes. This time, I installed the Ergon GE1 grips and Ergon SM Comp saddle. Those are personal preference, but what shouldn’t have to be be are the meaty Maxxis Minion DHR/DHF tires. Yes, they offer mad durability for punishing downhills, but they make the Argos feel sluggish and slow everywhere else. I’m not kidding when I say they are the slowest-pedaling tires I’ve ridden. I couldn’t get rid of the tires soon enough.
Luckily, I had a set of Fulcrum Red Zone 3 wheels in for review mounted up with fast-rolling WTB Ranger 29×2.4″ tires. Swapping to the Fulcrum/WTB combo dropped 1.2 lbs. from the Argos and instantly transformed it into a fast-rolling trail rocket. Not everyone has an alternative wheelset, so my top suggestion would be to simply swap out those Minion’s for something faster. With the WTB Ranger’s, I cut minutes off my segment times, felt refreshed at the top of climbs and was supremely stoked on the bike’s improved performance.
How does the Argos climb?
Now, at a respectable 27 lbs, the Argos climbs like I would expect. It’s still heavier than the wicked-fast Trek Supercaliber or the capable Trek Top Fuel (in for review), but it’s a willing partner on even the most challenging climbs. Short, steep and technical climbs are capably cleaned without excessive wandering. Just put that weight forward and the Argos can climb up anything. For those standing sections, the WTB Ranger 2.4’s hook up significantly better than the Maxxis Minion DHR’s.
The beauty of the titanium frameset and rolling 21/22 psi is I can sit and climb up just about anything. As mentioned, standing sections are responsive and met with solid traction. One of my benchmark climbs is a 600 ft ascent that features an endless array of switchbacks up the side of Mt Timpanogos. I’m not vying for top times on the Argos, but to nab a top 10 without going full-gas tells me this bike can climb. All power is quickly delivered, propelling you upward.
Descending with the best of ’em
As one of the most delightful characteristics of the Argos, you’ll love it when the trail inclines downward. For most of the terrain I ride, the comfort of the titanium frame and wide tires is perfect. I can flick the bike around and rail in/out of corners with confidence. To maximize the fun, a lowered saddle and serious angulation is rewarded with excellent hookup and response.
It has admittedly taken a little time to find that proper balance point for manuals or jumps on the descent. I’ve since found it, but it’s not as playful as bikes with shorter stays. As mentioned above, the 435mm chainstays do deliver excellent climbing abilities, but something shorter could deliver a little more “pop.” In the end, I’m okay with where Alchemy landed here and, for me, I’d rather have a straight climber.
When plowing through rock gardens, you’ll remember that you’re still on a hardtail. That said, it’s way more comfortable than other trail hardtails I’ve ridden (like the Santa Cruz Chameleon C). You’ll still want to pick your lines, but don’t worry if you get off course a little because the combination of the frame and the 140mm fork will get you into and out of very demanding terrain. But, you’re still on a hardtail, so don’t sit back and relax. I got a little too cocky on my first ride and washed out the front wheel and went down, so stay attentive.
If the rocky sections are relatively straight, you can just ride things out. However, if you ride through the combination of rocky and twisty terrain, the Argos can feel a little like a bucking bronco. Those rare instances aside, I’m pretty stoked on how capable this bike is on the descents.
Because Alchemy specs the Argos like a downhill machine, I get that it requires 180mm rotors, but I’d love to see a 160mm rear rotor instead since it’s easier to keep smaller rotors true and out of harm’s way. I’m not pushing the young lads for KOM’s on the downhill, but if you are, maybe you’ll have a different opinion on the rear rotors.
Overall handling on mixed terrain is on par with what I’d expect. It’s not floppy and slack, but it’s definitely not razor-sharp either. I can easily maneuver through tight/twisty terrain without any issues, but do have to slow things down just a touch.
Sizing: I’m 5’11” with a 31″ inseam and felt immediately comfortable on the size large frame.
- Way smooth everywhere
- American-made and sourced titanium
- Excellent handling for all-mountain riding
- Climbs really well and stays straight even on steep stuff
- Can plow through rougher terrain than you’d think
- Full build kit is excellent (except for the tires)
- Can haul two bottles inside the front triangle
- Internal cable routing makes for clean lines
- Ditch those meaty, slow tires, STAT!
- Rough, twisty downhills will remind you that it’s still a hardtail
- I’d love a little lower bottle cage position and a second mount
- Included Selle Italia X-Base saddle is no bueno for me
The Bottom Line: Alchemy Argos Ti X01
A simple tire swap will transform the Argos into the type of hardtail I’d like to ride. Heck, it’s even made me think I could live without a full-suspension if I absolutely had to. With beautiful craftsmanship, this lifetime bike will keep you happy for a long time. Push it hard and it responds and it capably handles anything you can throw at it.
Buy Now: Available now from AlchemyBikes.com
After a month with the Argos, I agree that I could live with this as my only bike for the terrain I typically ride. The beautiful titanium frame will win you over with it's smooth lines and smooth ride. A titanium hardtail will still not come cheaply, but you'll want to keep the Argos around for a long time. All it really needs is quick change of tires to transform it into a fast and fun trail machine.