Alchemy Rogue gravel bike review: Modern geometry with boutique appeal
Lots of tire clearance and progressive geometry, made-in-USA pedigree, lots of Cerakote finish options, and multiple build kit choices.
Lots of tire clearance and progressive geometry, made-in-USA pedigree, lots of Cerakote finish options, and multiple build kit choices.
Why have just one gravel bike in your lineup when you can have two, right? Or in the case of Colorado-based boutique brand Alchemy Bicycle Company, if you’ve already got two gravel bike models, surely a third is in order given how hot the segment is these days.
Alchemy’s existing Ronin includes much of what many gravel riders are looking for: clearance for 700×45 mm tires, a whole bunch of mounts, easy-to-service partially internal cable routing, and classic silhouettes that are seemingly as nice to ride as they are to look at. But for those that want to delve even further into XC mountain bike terrain, there’s the new Rogue.
Tire clearance is bumped up a bit to 700×50 mm (or 650×2.2″), the geometry gets the longer/lower/slacker treatment for more stability on loose ground, and the frame design has been tweaked to offer a smoother ride on rough terrain.
Whereas the Ronin is offered in either titanium or carbon fiber, the Rogue is only offered in carbon. But while the Ronin Carbon is more of a classic tube-to-tube machine with mitered tubes and overwrapped joints at the traditional locations, the Rogue uses a multi-piece setup that Alchemy calls “advanced” tube-to-tube. Here, each frame is still made up of several individually molded sub-assemblies with overwrapped joints, but there are now fewer pieces overall, and the finished product looks more like a modern monocoque with more sculpted lines and exaggerated shapes.
Unfortunately given that multi-piece construction, though, Alchemy doesn’t offer any custom geometry options on the Rogue — at least not yet.
The overall profile is quite a departure from the Ronin Carbon, too. The down tube and chainstays on the Rogue are dramatically bigger in diameter, and the former sports a more rectangular profile. The top tube is far more radically ovalized end-to-end, too, and there’s a distinct scallop on the backside of the seat tube to create more room for the rear tire. And it seems that even a boutique brand like Alchemy can’t escape the gravity of dropped seatstays.
The rest of the Rogue is refreshingly normal. Up top is a round 27.2 mm-diameter seatpost with an external aluminum clamp, there’s a wide PF86 bottom bracket that allows the chainstays to spread apart for additional tire clearance, and although the cables are routed internally through the frame at molded-in ports at the head tube, they’re external elsewhere for easier servicing.
Two bottle mounts are included inside the main triangle with a third under the down tube, there’s a feed bag mount on the top tube, and Alchemy has included proper fender mounts front and rear. Out back is a new Universal Derailleur Hanger pioneered by SRAM in 2019 that promises easier and cheaper replacements.
As with the Ronins, Alchemy says every Rogue frame is built at its Colorado headquarters from start to finish. Not only are the carbon tubes molded in-house, but Alchemy also supposedly does all of the design work and any 3D printing required in the development process. Prototypes are handled internally, too, and Alchemy even cuts its own tooling and molds. Once those tubes are molded, all the bits are bonded and finished directly by Alchemy staff, and the company even does its own paint.
Speaking of which, Alchemy is one brand that’s diving headfirst into the Cerakote sea, with six stock options for the novel ceramic finish (full custom paint is offered, too), each with masked Alchemy down tube logos that let the unidirectional carbon fiber shine through. Those Cerakote finishes are claimed to be more durable than traditional paint (more on that in a bit), but they’re also quite a bit lighter and thinner, too.
Nevertheless, claimed weight for a medium frame is 1,100 g, and the matching fork is 500 g — not bad, although perhaps a touch on the heavier side.
Alchemy offers the Rogue as a bare frameset for US$4,300, which is undeniably a fair chunk of change for a carbon gravel bike that’s designed to be used and abused. Alchemy also sells the Rogue with four different complete build kits, though, and those are surprisingly competitive with bigger brands all things considered. Whichever way you go, however, expect to be limited to 1x drivetrains since the Rogue isn’t compatible with a front derailleur. And while Alchemy only offers complete builds with electronic shifting, the frame is compatible with mechanical drivetrains.
Alchemy supplied its “entry level” Rogue for review here, built with a Shimano GRX Di2 1×11 groupset, Industry Nine UL250 TRA carbon fiber wheels, and high-end finishing kit that included an Alchemy-branded carbon stem, two-bolt seatpost, and bar (substituting the standard Pro Discover flared carbon bar due to stock issues), and a Fizik Antares R7 saddle.
Retail price is US$8,000, and actual weight for my medium-sized sample is 8.48 kg / 18.70 lb, without pedals.
As compared to a similarly sized Ronin, this medium Rogue is a degree slacker in the head tube, has a bit more trail (72 mm on the medium), there’s 2.5 mm more bottom bracket drop, the chainstays are 5 mm longer, and the wheelbase is 20 mm longer. Again, it’s that longer-lower-slacker thing you keep hearing about, with the same result. And in terms of handling, there are no surprises here as it’s exactly what you’d expect.
Stability is the predominant trait, with rock-solid manners both at high speed and on loose terrain where there’s little traction. Although the slower steering might seem like a turn-off to some, that also means the bike is just more likely to continue forward on the path you choose, as opposed to feeling nervous and jittery when things get slippery. You can still get it to go around tighter corners at speed, but there’s more work involved — mainly in how hard you lean the thing over. But with all that extra length, this bike is still happier just covering a lot of ground with confidence as opposed to slicing and dicing your way through a trail.
In other words, no one will mistake this thing for a cyclocross race bike, which is fine because it’s not trying to be one. But on the downside, that medium-to-high-speed stability also comes with less agility and a fair bit of wheel flop at lower speeds, where the bars sort of want to just fall to the side. It’s not unmanageable, but it’s something to consider, and often a consequence of a slack front end with lots of fork rake.
While no one’s mistaking this for a cyclocross race bike, Rogue is a lot more similar to a ‘cross racing bike in terms of how it behaves under power. The large cross-sections that Alchemy uses on the bottom half of the Rogue frame are excellent for rigidity, and the bike feels reassuringly stiff and efficient under power. The front end is also highly resistant to twisting when you torque on the bars, which is not only good for giving you that generally snappy and responsive feel when you’re climbing or sprinting, but it’s also good for handling precision.
Ride quality is more middle-of-the-road. The Rogue damps vibration well, and delivers a nicely muted feel overall that works well for the application. It’s not particularly flexible vertically, though, and there doesn’t seem to be much happening in that respect outside of the tires. One thing that certainly doesn’t help in that respect is the Industry Nine wheels. I reviewed a similar set last year, and although they’re incredibly solid and stiff — perfect for bigger and heavier riders, I’d say — it doesn’t do great things for comfort. Swapping to a different set helped here, but that’s not an option unless you go the DIY route with a bare frameset.
Another thing to consider here is tire clearance. A common strategy for eking out more ride comfort is going with a bigger tire. In this case, however, you’re already maxed out with the 700×50 mm WTB Ventures on this test bike — and if anything, I’d say Alchemy is being a little ambitious in saying these tires fit. Clearances are fine at the fork and seatstays, but it’s a tighter squeeze through the chainstays than I’m personally comfortable with. These were borderline in dry conditions at best, but in the wet? No way.
Which brings me to my next topic …
One thing I was really curious about with the Rogue was its Cerakote ceramic surface treatment, which is generally thought of as being super durable and scuff-resistant. Aesthetically speaking, it does look really cool, and the thinness of the finish is especially highlighted where the logos are masked off. Instead of the noticeable step you typically get with wet paint when using masked-off logos, it’s nearly a seamless transition here. For whatever reason, it also seems like mud doesn’t stick to the ceramic as much as conventional paint, and the matte finish doesn’t show small scratches like clearcoated finishes.
However, I was surprised at how vulnerable the Cerakote is to housing rub, especially given how the brake hose port in the fork crown tends to aim the housing straight at the head tube. It only took a couple of rides before the Cerakote started to rub off. If this were my bike, I’d probably either put a bit of clear vinyl on here, or trim or rotate the brake hose so it doesn’t rub at all. Don’t be deceived; Cerakote most certainly isn’t bulletproof, at least not in this application.
Oddly enough, though, Cerakote proved to be impressively resistant to chipping. Perhaps in a sign of Alchemy’s confidence in the finish toughness, my test bike didn’t even arrive with a chainstay protector. But while the finish on the head tube didn’t take long to wear, the chainstay still looks new despite the chain smacking into it countless times during testing.
As for the parts, there’s not a ton to say that hasn’t been said already.
The Shimano GRX Di2 electronic drivetrain is simply fantastic. Shifts are perfect each and every time, the levers feel good in your hands — at least as long as you’re wearing gloves given this aggressive hood texture — and it runs very smoothly and quietly. The pulley cage clutch in the rear derailleur works well at minimizing chain slap (though there’s still some), and the clutch is not only adjustable if you want more or less friction, but also serviceable so you don’t have to worry too much about losing performance over time.
The disc brakes are great, too, and it’s worth pointing out that Shimano adjusted the pivot point in these brake levers to give you more power when you’re on the hoods, which is noticeable.
The one major disappointment is the gearing range with the stock 11-42T cassette, which just doesn’t offer nearly as much of a spread as what you get with other options. It’s not a big issue in most situations, but when you really need or want those additional gears at either end, they’re just not there.
I already discussed the wheels, but what about the WTB Venture tires? The tread design features a micro-knob pattern down most of the middle, mated to fairly substantial side knobs. They roll alright once you dial in the pressure, and the side knobs dig in nicely when you dive into a corner as long as it’s not too loose, further aided by the squared-off cross-section. I generally like a lot of WTB gravel tires for the gravel riding I have around here (predominantly loose-over-hardpack), and this is another good one.
The Alchemy carbon bar is … fine. I found the 135 mm drop and 80 mm reach to be too aggressive for gravel, but that’s neither here nor there because production bikes should come with a Pro Discover Carbon model that should be better suited for the task.
Likewise, the Fizik Antares is a little too road-like for me: quite hard and rather narrow. I don’t mind it on the road, but for gravel, I’d go with something more forgiving.
There are certainly plenty of people who will find it appealing that the Rogue is a made-in-USA carbon bike from a boutique manufacturer, complete with modern geometry and good ride quality — and, yes, it looks great. And while the bare frameset is on the pricey side, complete bikes are surprisingly competitive with mainstream brands. For example, a similarly equipped Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 is actually more expensive. Granted, with the Rogue you don’t get the IsoSpeed rear-end pseudo-suspension, the fancy down tube storage compartment, or the fully hidden cabling, but not everyone wants that stuff, anyway.
Yes, the Rogue is heavier than some other high-end carbon gravel bikes — especially the Specialized Crux — though I suppose this leaves the door open to a more premium version somewhere down the road. Regardless, I wish Alchemy would offer some more options given the small-batch manufacturing. I would guess that some level of custom geometry should be possible given the multi-piece frame construction, and it’d be nice to maybe see some more available mounts. No rear rack mounts? No triple-pack fittings on the fork blades? Fine, it’s not a bikepacking bike, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t serve double-duty as one.
That said, the stock geometry on the Rogue is in keeping with most modern gravel bikes, it’s light enough — and hopefully that extra weight comes with extra durability — it looks good, it’s got plenty of tire clearance for most situations, it comes in lots of colors, and there are enough mounts for the bulk of users.
Hands down, the Alchemy Rogue is a good bike. Is that enough for you? That’s a question I can’t answer.
More information can be found at www.alchemybikes.com.