They say you never forget your first, and there’s no doubt I’ll always remember Mary Lou. We did everything together: long, slow miles; hard, fast downhills; laid-back, flowy fun. She was as versatile as they come, ready and able to do anything.

I should mention that Mary Lou was the name of the Arktos 29 150F/135R that Alchemy sent me to demo late last year (her name was stenciled right on the top tube). I should also mention that the same model is now called the Arktos 135. The 2022 version is identical to the bike I tested, except it now features an all-new Flip Chip modification. (More on  this later.)

But back to Mary Lou. She was the first Alchemy I’d ridden, a real shape-shifter, a testament to her three best attributes. First among these was her award-winning factory carbon layup — lightweight but bulletproof, with perhaps the best lateral stiffness in the industry, according to the manufacturer. I’ll take their word for it; the feel of the bike on bomb runs and deep turns gave me confidence to push harder and come out smiling.

The second quality to set Mary Lou apart was her patented suspension, called Sine because as the bike moves through the travel, the rear wheel path resembles a mathematical sine curve. Here’s how Alchemy describes it:

At the beginning of stroke, you see suspension regression in order to allow the bike to absorb small bumps and provide climbing traction. As you move into the middle of stroke, the suspension moves into a progressive shock rate. This prevents wallowing on big hits or in hard and fast corners. When you really push it and open the end of the stroke, the suspension becomes regressive again to enable full use of the rear wheel travel.”

The bike’s efficiency was amazing, the ride lively and oh-so fun.

I’d credit part of the above to Mary Lou’s specs as well, the third component in her attractive combination of features. She came with a SRAM GX Eagle group set, Fox 36 29 Factory Kashima fork (150mm travel), Fox DPX2 Factory Kashima EVOL LV shock (135mm travel), Industry Nine 29 Enduro-S Hydra wheelsets, and a laundry list of other top-of-the-line gear. Trust me, the build does make a difference. 

Alchemy Arktos Flip Chip

The Arktos Flip Chip.

I mentioned earlier that the 2022 model comes with a Flip Chip; this gizmo allows riders to easily convert the Arktos from a 29-inch bike to a mixed-wheel arrangement for even more trail capability. Set it up as a complete 29er or as a “mullet” with a 27.5-inch wheel in the rear. Pricing starts a $5,999 in either configuration, with three color choices, three frame sizes (M-XL), and optional Shimano XT or SRAM XO1 Eagle. Alchemy sells direct-to-consumer, so there’s additional flexibility to create the best bike for you. 

Just be sure to keep your mitts off Mary Lou. I might decide to hold onto her for the long haul. To me, she was almost perfect.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.