Part 2 of 2 of chapter 1: by: Matthew Simpson
Alchemy “…capable of turning base materials into gold or silver…”. If you were at NAHBS-11 you entered the hall in Austin with a huge Alchemy spread of shiny crystal bike porn. Their design & attention to detail is an Austin influence. I had the chance to meet Ryan (a.k.a – Prez) and Dave (a.k.a –Sales & Marketing) in Austin at NAHBS-11. Ryan & I swapped biz talk, industry chatter without the clink of a glass, but with the common thread of craftsmanship. Dave pulled me around the country lanes of Austin by way of bike. We covered the local road jaunt without incident. He recited his days in Wisconsin as a wrench, and Austin transplant. Alchemy equates to smart guys, in a touch point of a cluttered industry with the vision of a scope shooter.
When the Mad Alchemy-Verge rider cooperative pulled together Pete S asked me to work with the builders to share the vision and see who wanted to align with the brand & cooperative mission. Ryan & Dave took my call. Life is tight. Small. Unique. Life will follow one around with repeat. I am an open book. Admittedly so. Maybe to a fault my honesty is out there, neon lights in times-square, come & get it honesty. I shared the passion, the vision and the plan in detail for the cooperative program with the Alchemy guys. Craftsmanship front & center in Mad Alchemy & Alchemy made the point non-labor intensive. It just flowed. Flowing like a freshly groomed cross course a commitment was made.
Alchemy commitment: Cross Carbon frameset for me. Ryan & Dave asked if I would ride their 2012 Alchemy all carbon cross bike (ENVE tubing: who doesn’t love these guys!). Their original commitment, I must be on it in time for the second annual Tim Johnson & Bikes Belong ride on DC. Damn. Their full carbon cross bike for me, custom fit, custom designed, freelance finish, & hand crafted in Austin, TX with the oversight of Ryan & Dave. Mid-December we finished the fitting remotely with the help of my good friends J-Spin & MattyB. Dave slammed with their move spent all the time he needed to support the to’s & fro’s of sizing. His attention to detail is part & partial I am confident to his wrenching days. Smart as shit he is, he challenged me to think ahead on every aspect. Took three reiterations to get the sizing right, we shortened the stays, pulled the bb height, and a few other adjustments and the carbon cross bike was taking on carbon like my last lap at Gloucester.
I must interject with a harsh dose of reality here. I am approaching the race age of 40. I am a father to 4 young daughters, I am a full-time working professional and I miss none of my girls events. I am an ex-collegiate NCAA men’s hockey & lacrosse player. I grew up playing AAA hockey in Toronto, the hot bed of Canada. I took up cycling from a running injury. I took up running after I was scorched from 20 years of high-end hockey. Turning to the bike at such a late age, I missed the curve. Minus local sensation Dylan McNicholas and a few outliers my late arrival to the sport meant I was average at best. Cat 2 cross & road in New England holds some water but that cup is deep and wide.
So, what right does an average bike racer have riding a full carbon custom cross bike? “It’s not about the substrate”……it’s about saddling a bike that was custom built by a builder’s hands to your ride. The barriers of shaved, hairy, roadie, tri, mountain head are all crossed when you pause to think more about the art of craft versus the sport. “I’ll spin spokes, tell jokes with good blokes” any hour with a passion filled rider regardless of any boundaries.
I have friends at Alchemy. They are brewing something special in Austin,TX. They believe in the cooperative of riders and they want their rider on their best cross bike. Their commitment to have the bike ready for the industry ride supporting Tim Johnson & Bikes Belong is only a glimpse of their commitment to the cooperative.
Next: Part 3: Alchemy: The build of base earth materials…..
Alchemy Bicycles by: Matthew Simpson
“..capable of turning base materials into gold or silver”….
I don’t follow fads. More than a handful of times, in varying settings I’ve had a friend, colleague or family member refer to me as an ‘early adopter’. What the hell does that mean, early adopter? I grew up in a British influenced home outside of Toronto, Canada, born in Africa. My family roots have painters, musicians, and men’s fashion boutique owners. I love all things shiny. Fashion for me as a youth was being caught up in the skate craze, euro mod scene, and indie music influence of the 80’s & 90’s. I recall my father’s attempt of aligning me with the skate & surf scene when the wrist ‘the band’ hit the shores of Canada. Bright neon influence sucked me in. I gravitated with my urban yout’s to the skate & punk/mod scene. Who didn’t hang at the local skate shop waiting for the new P&P release? Musical adoption of game changers like Bowie, Michael J, had their place, but for me, I was gob smacked by the EU British mod music scene. Funny that today I am meeting that time of my life full on in my face.
Pete Smith (a.k.a Mr.Mad Alchey) & I connected last year on the Tim Johnson Ride on Washington. It was there we engaged in a subtle respect for one another. He knew of me, I of him, both cut from the same cloth of life. Sharing our respect for humble beginnings, commitment to our families & Mother Earth we found common ground. Post ride we stayed in touch, and hatched a scheme to attend Interbike-11 together for varying reasons. Summer-11 we cleared countless hours & road miles together in New England taking life, product, branding, marketing & operations. It was as clear as the shores of Long Island great things were being born. On our travels to Interbike we hooked up with like-minded Mr.Portland himself JD. Over coffee, Cross-Vegas, smoke filled casino air we hatched the next plan.
The local coffee shop in our local haunt served as a base for PS & I. Note pads, scrappy pens, winter toques, family get-together’s and the base brick & mortar was forming. Not just “another race team”. Brainwaves cooking like an old GE microwave on sunset blvd we were fresh. Fresh as fresh is fresh. We wanted to be part of something bigger than us, than any member, rider, or sponsor. Collective, Cooperative, freelance, all words we started using. The idea of life and paying it forward was common threads in our lives. Treading lightly, influencing positive behaviors in our children, lives & friends, the support network at home, all characteristics of what was morphing in front of our café filled, stubble ridged jaws.
Craftsmanship is the signature of the Mad Alchemy brand. Pete & Jan taking their personal recipe of fresh, wholesome ingredients and blending by hand in their kitchen, on their family dining tables, to bring their craft to our legs. This fall I brought Pete some of the original jars of Mad Alchemy I had at home. I was one of the first 25-50 buyers of Mad Alchemy’s birth. I recall talking to a friend about Mad Alchemy at its inception and was told I was an early adopter and the product made no sense? NO SENSE??
Taking the journey of ride preparation to apply by hand (my hands) that someone’s hands (his/her hands) have created, allowing me the time to pontificate the ride, the route, the road conditions, the weather, wind, sleet, snow, rain or sun; man that is as epic as it gets. My head filled with the memories of prior hours & miles solo, or with friends riding what poets craved to write about. That’s what craftsmanship brings.
Custom built bikes for the cooperative riders. Each rider connecting with a frame builder to build a custom bike for the rider for the conditions the rider plans to ride in 2012. Working with the builder to spec, fit, design, & finish a bike that will be ridden on specific roads, & conditions that was the plan. All over countless coffees and cheese plates. Passion for cross in Belgium, real football in Europe, customary traditions in Asia almost equates to my & Pete’s passion for hand built bikes. Some of the recent ‘welding/building hand’ images floating around the Internet have attempted to tell the story. The hours of care these hands use to build their craft into a velocity ridden tool is real. I have spent time in custom houses, I have seen their customer lists, their design tools, their scratch pads, smelt the oils of their machines. Art meets precision design.
Handcrafted is who we are. It’s what we do. Mad Alchemy has turned down opportunities to increase mechanization of production in order to maintain this intimate connection to the products we create. There’s frequently a disconnect between a company and it’s goods. At Mad Alchemy, we have a passion for creating with our hands and have no plans to change. So when we where considering team bikes it felt only natural that we use companies that employ the same principles of production and connection to their products. What we’ve created have been an amazing network of builders, creating through passion with their hands.
So far the list is as follows:
Alchemy Bicycles (Austin, TX)
Cielo by Chris King (Portland, OR)
Commonwealth Bikes (Medford, MA)
Darkstar (Nashua, NH)
Firefly Bicycles (Boston, MA)
Igleheart Custom Frames and Forks (Wenham, MA)
Moots Bicycles (Steamboat Springs, CO)
Rock Lobster Bikes (Santa Cruz, CA)
Stoemper Bicycles (Springfield, OR)
Zanconato (Sutton, MA)
Please lend them a few minutes of your attention. Discover what it means to be handcrafted.
The Mad Alchemy / Verge Rider Cooperative will share the
stories of the bikes we will ride here on this blog.
Stay tuned, we have some great stories to tell
The Mad Alchemy / Verge Rider Cooperative. It’s really a phenomenal group, handpicked for their dedication and passion for the sport of cycling. This is a group unafraid of adventure, or failure or of giving back. We’re going to accomplish amazing things this year. I can feel it!
Introducing the 2012 Mad Alchemy / Verge Rider Cooperative: