The trail bike category is on fire right now and changing at a rapid pace. With sub category’s even among 120mm travel bikes emerging, choosing the right bike can be a dizzying experience. Luckily there are many great bikes out there and after several months with the Alchemy Arktos ST, I believe we are fortunate to have so many.
I admit initially looking at the Artos and judging it over a relatively small quirk – where the f does the water bottle go? With more bikes going towards two bottle options in their xc and trail bikes, zero mounts are a problem for riders who don’t want to always carry a pack. There is however a place for a bottle below the downtube. Although it’s slightly out of the way and is susceptible to any spray from mud or shit, it actually isn’t too bad to reach with a side-loading cage. Once I came to terms that this initial judgment really wasn’t too bad, I started to find the beauty of the Arktos ST.
Arktos ST Details
The Arktos ST (short travel) is the 120mm travel little brother of the 140mm Arktos. It does use the same frame as the Arktos but with an updated linkage to reduce the travel. I don’t always like this method of creating a new bike mostly due to geometry compromises. Thankfully with the Arktos ST, it’s not a problem and the geometry remains solid. The new Yeti SB115 that shares its frame with the SB100 doesn’t quite pull this off and ends up with geometry that resembles a 2017 trail bike.
The Arktos ST geometry is solid with one exception that might not affect all. If you have short legs or like to run a 150mm+ dropper, it could be tough due to a long seat tube. Otherwise, the Arktos ST looks good and right in line with the most modern 2020 trail bikes.
Alchemy Arktos ST | 140mm front/120mm rear | $6099 – XT8100 | 30.8 lbs without pedals
I do like that the wheelbase isn’t super long. I appreciate a quick and agile bike. Many of the wheelbases in this category are stretching out to what enduro bikes were just a year ago. With this in mind, I see this as a great bike for a lot of east coast riding like where I’m based in western NC. We don’t have a ton of those super-fast wide-open descents that really warrant longer wheelbases.
The Arktos ST has pleasantly subdued graphics and looks nice. The paint finish is excellent and after 700 or so miles I don’t see any paint chips as I might from other brands.
How’s it Ride?
After a few rides trying to dial in the rear shock using different volume spacers, I settled on the stock setup with a .6in^3 spacer. I kept trying to make it little plusher but wasn’t happy with how easy it was to bottom with a smaller spacer. A lighter tune shock might help since I’m only just over 145lbs ready to ride. The bike seems to come to life when pushed hard though. The harder I pedaled and attacked sections of trail the more it felt like it was in its element. The Arktos ST doesn’t feel quite a springy and agile as the Ibis Ripley when cruising along casually. I would say that the travel feels more progressive in the mid-stroke and not as plush to me as the Ripley or the 2020 Norco Optic.
The bike does pedal very well. I never wanted to use the compression damping lever on the Fox DPX2 to firm things up. Even when running more than the recommend sag it remained a very efficient pedaling bike. The tradeoff may be slightly less traction over the roots and rocks. My idea of a good climbing bike isn’t just one that doesn’t bob around while stomping on the pedals. I love steep techy climbs and I do feel that the Arktos does pretty well here but again, bikes like the Ripley and Optic do a little better maintaining traction.
- Excellent modern geometry
- Smooth and efficient suspension design
- Reasonable short wheelbase keeps the Arktos Agile in the tight and twisty
- Unique – Unless you live in Colorado you probably won’t see many of these on the trail
- Needs a rubber flap in front of the rear tire over cables. The way the cables are routed behind the bottom bracket makes for the perfect leaf trap. In a leafy NC spring, it made for lots of stopping to clear leaves out.
- Heavier than many frames in this category – estimated frame weight between 6.5 and 7 lbs
- No water bottle cage inside the triangle
- Long seat tube may not allow shorter legged folks to run more than a 125mm dropper
Who could the bike work for?
I think the Arktos ST is a solid choice for the trail rider who’s looking for a well-rounded bike. It really doesn’t have any glaring faults. The larger and more aggressive rider might appreciate the robustness of the frame and firmer mid-stroke support of the rear suspension.
If you’re a rider looking for a 120mm travel bike that pedals really well and wants an enduro bike build, this is your bike. The Arktos ST has an interesting build considering that it shares its frame with the 140mm Arktos. It’s essentially built with the same parts – Fox 36, DPX2 rear shock, Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR.
It would be interesting to go with a little more trail build to lose some weight, increase efficiency and agility considering this is a 120mm rear travel bike. A lighter and slightly narrower wheelset along with some faster and lighter trail tires like some Maxxis Rekons or Schwalbe Nobby Nics could really morph this bike into a different beast.
Once I put the bottle cage on and gave the Arktos a chance I really enjoyed the bike much more than anticipated. The Arktos ST felt confident and in control hitting rougher lines as long as you didn’t let the rear slam into things too hard. Only then would you notice that this is a 120mm travel bike.
If the non-traditional bottle placement and longer seattube aren’t a problem for you, the Alchemy Arktos is a super solid choice. I believe its aimed towards the trail rider who needs an efficient pedaling bike to get them deep into the backcountry for the best downhills. Alchemy has a unique style sure to set you apart and we are fortunate to have choices like these.
With many bike companies out of stock and already backing up for preorders of 2021 bikes there is another very good thing about this bike. Alchemy has most sizes and colors in stock right now as frame only or complete builds. Find your new ride here: Alchemy Arktos ST