The DARE Golden Experience: Getting Rolling

The DARE Golden Experience: Getting Rolling – by Grannygear

Making a custom gravel bike with Alchemy Bikes

Custom Bike“- Those two words brings to mind all kinds of neat stuff: The promise of having a bike made just for you with measurements and features that meet your needs…choosing the components one at a time using just the right parts! No off-the-rack for you, baby! This is just yours and yours alone. Show up at the coffee ride on that and it’s instant cred.

Detail of an Alchemy Bikes carbon frame with logo on downtube.

But how do you do this? Do you just call up any frame builder with their shingle hung out and say “make me something special”? What do you ask for? How do you not make a mistake by asking for something wrong for you? What happens if you do not like it? If you are struggling for a proper fit on your current bike, how do you know what to tweak? Will your builder ask the right questions and listen to your answers?

There is a good bit of unknown in this and it’s an expensive mistake to make. You could end up with a bunch of costly metal tubes or glued-up carbon fibers that are not better (or are worse) than what you have now. Now a good custom builder will take a lot of that mystery out of the process, but it’s usually done only by phone or emails, etc, in a series of back-and-forth conversations.

Now of course there are a lot of full to semi-custom builders out there who do great work and are fully capable of this. Any of them could be the right one for you. We want to choose wisely.

Color chips on a color palette.
What if you could choose all the details on a bicycle just for you?

Getting personal.

What if you could take the personal touch up a couple of levels? What if you could actually visit the folks making your bike, meet them face to face, sit down over coffee, get a proper fit done, and work it all out? Well, that is not so unique. Lots of builders would do that.

How about if that custom builder put you up in a hotel for the night and tossed in some beer and breakfast vouchers (not to be used at the same time of course)? And then how about actually riding your bike as you ordered it before you take delivery? And then furthermore, how about a guarantee that you will like the result or they take the bike back?

How would that be? Pretty good, I am thinking. Hmmm? Could go a long ways toward good vibes when that big check is being written.

DARE turns Golden

And that brings me to Alchemy Bikes of Golden, Colorado, custom builders in carbon and Ti across road, gravel, and MTB, and their upgraded, personalized ordering program. They already had the DARE in place, which is laid out in detail below and allows for a 30 days post-purchase return of a bike you are not happy with.

But there is another level to the DARE. There is the DARE Golden package. Now it is not gold as in precious metals (although this is a premium experience as far as that goes), but rather a collaboration between several businesses right next to the Alchemy offices in Golden, CO.

As part of the DARE Golden package, the customer gets an overnight stay and meal at local businesses in Alchemy’s neighborhood.

There is a quite nice hotel, brewery, coffee shop, and more all within walking distance of Alchemy HQ. And some of these are part of this concierge level program.

It is this program I am going to experience on my way to a custom gravel bike for review. Let’s take a look at what I think is a unique purchasing experience.

First, let’s take a look at the standard DARE program from Alchemy:

We DARE you to try any Alchemy Bike with our Discover Alchemy’s Ride Experience promise. It sounds like a bold statement – and it is! But we’re so confident we’ll create the PERFECT BIKE FOR YOU, and that our personal service is second to none, before and after a purchase, that we can gladly make this offer. At any time within 30 days of purchase, and for any reason at all, just give us a ring and we’ll arrange to have the bike returned with no questions asked and no hassle to you.

Why DARE is much more than another simple satisfaction guarantee:

  • Two words: HASSLE FREE. No one wants to break down a brand new bike, box it up and schlep it down the the shipping store, so with Alchemy, no one needs to. DARE is as hassle-free as it gets: If you opted for Kitzuma or Beeline delivery, there’s no need to break down the bike and box it up – just call and we’ll have the bike picked up AS IS and returned. Because, well, it wasn’t the Perfect Bike for You.
  • The DARE program begins well before you make a purchase: Our outstanding personal customer support team, whether on the phone, web or email, will walk you through this major decision and do everything in our power to assure you get the Perfect Bike for You.
  • Unlike so many other ‘guarantees’, Alchemy will accept your return for a full refund, regardless of the reason. Don’t like the color? No problem. Way too fast for you? Understood. Because you deserve the Perfect Bike for You.
  • Unlike demo events and expos, DARE allows you to test out your bike under the precise and often-changing conditions in which you ride. You can climb all day one day and sprint in the flats the next. You can ride rough roads and fresh tarmac. You can sprint or you can spin. After 30 days of this you’ll be absolutely certain if it’s the Perfect Bike for You.

Now that is pretty impressive and certainly helps with the possibility of not getting what you expected out of the deal.

But Alchemy is taking it one step further with the DARE Golden package.

Alchemy offers a truly unique buying experience for its riders. In short, when someone buys a bike from Alchemy, the rider will receive a free night at the neighboring Origin hotel to come out and pick up their bike at Alchemy’s workshop, including test rides to make sure it’s all dialed. Then the rider can head home and Kitzuma will deliver their now totally dialed bike to their door. Or they can bring it home on the plane or car. We’ll even throw in gift cards to the neighboring brewpub and cafe. Is there a better way to buy a bike anywhere!?!?

DARE = Discover Alchemy’s Ride Experience

This acronym is also the name of our 30-day no-questions guarantee on ANY NEW Alchemy bike, regardless of whether or not rider opts for Golden Package.

Available on ANY NEW Alchemy bike sold at MSRP.

NO extra charge for package, but if you return your bike within the 30-day guarantee period there will be a $400 service fee applied to the credit.

Nice! Now we had been in line for a test bike from Alchemy for some time but COVID and all the post-noise from that had made simple things difficult in the bike world. So when we were we hanging at Alchemy HQ a month or so ago we revisited the idea of a long term test bike. And then it seemed so right to go one step further and go through the process as a customer might, including their Golden DARE. I mean, why not? Let’s do this thing right.

Going for the Gold

So that found me back in Golden, CO, in December, in darn cold temps and under grey skies with a day and a night to work out the details of a custom Ti Ronin gravel bike. Now Alchemy has two models in the true gravel category, the Ronin and the Lycos. The Ronin is more of the speed focused model and the Lycos has a foot in the adventure pool. The Ronin is available in carbon and Ti, the Lycos in carbon only (and in two versions of that).

I have to say that so far in my cycling experience, I have typically been a metal bike kind of guy. Specifically steel and of late, Ti, at least when it comes to non-suspended bikes. I like aluminum too, but I have never ridden an aluminum bike that I loved. And like is not the same thing as love.

So I was pretty set on Ti as my material of choice and that meant a Ronin. But the ‘stock’ geometry of the Ronin is just a bit speed focused for my preferences and for my local terrain. It’s not stupid-edgy race geometry…far from that, and I could ride it as is, but then…custom, right? Let’s get it dialed for me.

I had some ideas on what I would change to make the stock Ronin more to my liking. I wondered how those changes would be received by Alchemy? Some builders are very proud of their geometries and builds, and getting them to listen to your input can be like talking to a pig and telling it how you like mud to be.

The pig thinks it knows best. And maybe it actually does, but the conversation needs to be an open one. You need to feel listened to, even if you find the builder is right in the end. Pigs can be pretty smart.

Also, I was going to go through a pro-ish level fit process, something I have never done in 35 years of riding. I was very curious to see how that was going to play out. Maybe I am not where I should be on a bike? Could be.

Grannygear (R) trying not to be piggish while explaining what he thinks would be right for him in a bicycle for gravel.

After arriving at Alchemy HQ and being served a nice herbal tea, we talked about what I liked and did not like in a gravel bike and what I had in mind for an end product in general terms. 

From there I got into a set of riding duds and, based on my current Lynskey GR250, was set up the RETUL fit system. With the help of some wiring and shiny sticky pads, RETUL would scan my body position and body motion as I pedaled. Small adjustments were made for seat height and bar position until I felt ‘right’ (as in, where I would normally be on the gravel bike) and then the machine pronounced the findings. 

Most customers are going to be coming to Alchemy with some history of cycling experience, be that racing or endurance riding or MTB or whatever, and a starting point would be what they are riding now. 

Grannygear on a fitting machine during the DARE experience at Alchemy Bikes.
Grannygear getting the RETUL Pro fit experience via Alchemy’s DARE program.

I do not understand all the tech and numbers, etc, but the end result of the RETUL process was a confirmation that I had things very well sorted all on my own. I am very sensitive to fit position. If my saddle is 5mm low, I can tell. I run my gravel bikes with a bit less reach, a bit more stack, and a wider bar than on the road bike. I also have minor age related neck issues so while I am still quite strong and flexible for my age, it is what it is. Too low and forward a riding position only feels good for a little while.

Alchemy takes into consideration such things when they are getting you set up for your new ride. That matters. A lot! The bike needs to fit you, not some per-conceived notion.

After that, we looked at the numbers of the stock Ronin and, based on my liking of more bottom bracket drop and a bit more grace in the steering angles for our rough and steep dirt roads, we made some tweaks over the stock Ronin geometry. I will get into the details of that when we get the bike in hand and out of the box.

After that, I met the Ti welder. We talked about our mutual love of Ti as a material for a rigid bike used off road, chatted about why they use the tubing in the way they do, and geeked out about chain stay diameters, etc. All of the shaping and cutting and forming is done in house. I love the look of the Ti frames. Simple and clean. Sigh!

Showing a man welding a bicycle frame as part of the DARE experience at Alchemy Bikes.
Grannygear even got to visit with the welder of his new Ti Ronin test bike.

From there we discussed options like bar width, crank length, braze-ons, and then drive train choices. Is it time to go 1X? Maybe even having batteries and motors involved? A wide variety of color choices are available but I opted for natural Ti bead blasted. I plan on strapping bags to this thing and, well, paint seemed a bit less than desirable. Tempting though.

Before the bike is built I should receive a CAD drawing calling out all the details and choices made.

And that was that. It had been a long day beginning at 3:00AM West Coast time, covering two airports, one flight, and one long Uber ride. I was done in. 

As I mentioned earlier, the DARE Golden package includes one night’s stay in the hotel across the street, the Origin Red Rocks, which is very nice I might add, and a voucher for a brewski at the nearby brewery. I passed on the beer, opting for dinner and a nice glass of Tempranillo at the hotel (not included in the DARE Golden Package, but I am a wine guy). Night came fast and it was cold, like cold-really-cold for this So Cal guy. How do people survive here?

Time for bed.

The next morning I enjoyed a coffee and a breakfast burrito (part of the DARE Golden package) at the nearby coffee shop. With outside temps in the 20s and everyone wearing sock hats and puffy jackets, I felt right at home. I love mountain life even though, as I age, I like the cold less and less.

I would like to come back here and ride someday. I bet there are roads and trails for miles.

Coffee done, I sat next to the fire in the hotel lobby waiting for my Uber ride. Home again, home again, jig-a-jog.

Now I will continue through the process with Alchemy until a box shows up at my door. Then we will reveal what we did numbers and parts-wise and why. After that we will go ride the result and see how we did, bringing you along as we go!

I have to say that the concierge DARE Golden experience is quite appealing and the personal touch of the visit has value for the buyer. Now I already went into this process with a bit of a history, knowing what bike I wanted, etc. And since there was a media aspect to this, we had some differences in the visit, etc, like taking pictures and even filming some video.

Still, the basic framework relates to any customer who is there for a personal and detailed custom bike experience, an experience that goes a long way toward talking some of the mystery and doubt out of the process.

And that is not a bad thing.

Note: Accommodations for this trip were part of the DARE Golden Package and travel for this trip is being compensated for Riding Gravel at no charge. We were not paid, nor bribed for this post and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

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Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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