Tom’s Custom Stan’s NoTubes Alchemy Orc UL & ELF

Tom is a patient guy. He actually ordered this wheelset mid January. The delay? Alchemy Bicycle Works had run out of the wonderful Alchemy Orc rear hub. They weren’t producing more since the new Orc UL (ultra-light) rear hub was due out soon. So he waited.

I must say, it was well worth the wait! The Orc UL had its work cut out. Trying to be ‘better’ than the Orc wouldn’t be easy. Would the planned 30g weight loss leave it weaker, less stiff? I’m happy to say that the answer is no. So much so that Alchemy’s Jeremy announced that there would only be one Orc, the new Orc UL. 194 grams. Strong, light, ingenious.

The new Orc UL has managed to achieve two impressive and paradoxically simultaneous improvements over the original Orc hub: It has made it stiffer while making lighter. 30 grams lighter. As a result there’s a few unique features of the Orc UL. First, and visual is the body is leaner, straighter, and extends further out the non-drive side, allowing the axle bearings to be further apart. Next, while not visible on a built hub, the hub shell on the drive side extends in behind the free hub body.

The free hub body is now hard anodized, as indicated by the signature sandy bronze of a hard anodized alloy. The pawls are as stiff as before, but smooth and engage quickly thanks to strong pawl plate springs and 36 teeth for the three large pawls to snap in to.

Like the original Orc, the Orc UL features a signature fifth bearing that is pressed over the free-hub body, into the shell, with then a top sealing aluminium ring pressed over that. The result? A fully sealed and contamination impervious pawl chamber that promises miles of trouble free use.

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More details can be found on Bike Rumor’s First Look: Alchemy Orc UL article.

At 1240g, this wheel set is about 30 grams lighter than the previous exact build using the Alchemy Orc. The front ELF hub remains unchanged for 2013. It’s difficult to imagine improving upon the ELF. At 66g it is light enough without losing its excellent bracing angles, and large bearings. I doubt it would be a good return on investment to try to make the ELF lighter. If Jeremy at Alchemy did, it would be a specialty hub, and not the lightweight workhorse the ELF is.

The Stan’s NoTubes remain unchanged save for a minor decal upgrade and some clarity (finally) from Stan’s NoTubes in terms of recommended tensions for this rim. In the past, they’d specified very low tension resulting in a weak wheel, if you didn’t simply ignore their advice, which I did on several occasions, after some experimenting.

Tom ought to feel the lift of a pound or more off his road bike, putting his Bontrager wheels aside for the summer in favour of these beauts. Enjoy, Tom!





Fairwheel Bikes’ 2012 Hub Review

Fairwheel Bikes of Tuscon, AZ has recently completed a new hub review. They reviewed a few of my favorites including the Tune Mag 170 rear hub, Mig 70 front hub, Alchemy ELF front hub, and Alchemy Orc rear hub. Check it out at Fairwheel Bikes 2012 Hub Review


Robert’s Alchemy ORC/XR-380 wheel

Robert, a triathlete, wanted a beefy and aero rear wheel. He’s a solid guy, does triathlons. After a back and forth consultation over emails, we landed on this build. It didn’t take long to choose the Alchemy ORC rear hub, arguably the stiffest rear hub on the market with it’s oversize axle, large bearings, 5th bearing pressed in over the freehub, and optimal geometry. In a deep rim and in alloy, instead of the more costly carbon, the KinLin XR-380 is the deepest it gets. Deep here means a bit heavier, but for Robert the depth adds strength as well, and that’s what he was looking for over lightweight. Laced with Wheelsmith DB-14 butted spokes all around, this wheel ought to fair well for Robert’s season of triathlon competitions.


Enve 3.4 updates

Pro City Racing road team mates Alex and Jamie both bought Enve 3.4 tubular race wheels for the 2012 road racing season. They’d selected some very exotic and lightweight, made in the usa, C-4 hubs. This choice proved to be lacking durability that previous models had. So, Zed Wheels replaced the C-4 hubs on the bikes.

Jamie had a Bontrager XXX-Lite carbon rear hub available, so he went with a XXX-Lite (DT Swiss 240s freehub) with an Alchemy ELF front. While a little heavier than his previous hub set, this configuration should prove very reliable. It’s not too often you see a XXX-Lite carbon hub built onto an Enve rim! Very unique, indeed.

Alex’s race bike is a Madone Project One with a black and bit of white colour scheme. To complement his very special bike, Alex went with a white Tune Mag 170, Mig 70 hub set laced onto his Enve 3.4 rims with CX-Ray spokes. The result is as stunning wheelset on an equally stunning bike. And beautifully light, aero and strong.

Zed Wheels no longer offers C-4 hubs due to reliability issues. C-4 is a relative newcomer to the made in the USA hub market. Both sets chosen for the 3.4 suffered from premature bearing failure and creaking. As a result, I’ve dropped C-4 from the Zed Wheel’s offerings. In fact, my house brand hub, a taiwanese hub found on the semi-custom Diablo, Hurricane and CrossRock lineup provide better value, reasonable weight compared to C-4 without the issues. It’s unfortunate, as C-4 had models in very attractive price points. In fact, there aren’t too many models price-to-weight competitive in around the $200-$400 per hub set price range. White Industries or Hope fill that price point, but they aren’t weight competitive at their price.


Kevin’s ENVE 45/65 wheelset

Kevin was looking for an all-rounder wheelset with an emphasis on aerodynamics. As a sponsored Pro City Racing road team member, Kevin took full advantage of the sponsorship deal courtesy Zed Wheels and ENVE Composites. The rear is an ENVE 65 clincher laced to a black Alchemy ORC 24h rear hub with CX-Ray spokes. The front is an ENVE 45 clincher laced radially to an Alchemy ELF front hub with CX-Ray spokes. The stock white decals were replaced with custom black decals to provide the stealth look you see.


Ryan’s team wheelset

Ryan, just spent several months traveling and when he got back, well, the wallet wasn’t quite as thick as it had been. Still, as a member of the Zed Wheels’ sponsored Pro City Racing road team, Ryan wanted a sweet wheelset for race season. He chose a pimped version of the popular Diablo SL. He upgraded to red Tune Mag 170 rear hub (174g) paired to an Alchemy ELF (64g) front hub. These fantastic hubs are then laced to XR-270 rims with Sapim CX-Ray spokes with red Sapim 14mm alloy nipples. The wheelset comes in at 1365 grams. A great price to weight ratio.


Enve 65 Alchemy ORC rear wheel

I was looking for something a bit more aero for time-trials and fast road races. I have an Enve 45 laced to a PowerTap SL+ as my ‘everyday’ wheel, but I think the Enve 65 would provide extra versatility and would not add weight. I chose my favourite rear hub, the Alchemy ORC, 24 holes. The Enve 65 clincher is a beautiful rim to build up, such a solid rim and builds up strong and even. I used this setup to showcase the sponsorship offering to Pro City Racing road team. This photo is on the cover of the team catalogue.

Enve 65/45 on Trek Madone Project One 6.9