August 31st, 2012
By Emiliano Jordan
Recently we were talking with Alchemy Bicycle Works about hubs and the results of our latest hub review. During this discussion we learned something interesting: their ORC hub is undergoing its first major re-design since its release 3.5 years ago. The new versions, expected in the next few months, will be designated the ORC-UL, and yes, it will be Shimano 11 speed compatible. At this point it’s probably a good time to point out that there is no planned retrofit to make the existing model Shimano 11 speed compatible. There will be new variation of the ELF front hub sold alongside the current ELF that will be lighter and with a more aerodynamic shape. Last but not least, a new disc brake mountain bike hubset using the same internals as the ORC-UL is being developed, but will be a bit further away.
Running Changes at Alchemy
Before getting into the new hubs there are a couple mid-year changes to address. First off, the Alchemy ELF will make a running change toward Phil Wood stainless bearings. The new bearing does not feature the Marine grade seals — striking a compromise between seal drag and bearing life. The new bearings are expected to last longer than the current version given the increased quality of manufacturing, but will maintain the same level of bearing drag. The other running change happened several months ago which was a 1mm enlargement of the flange O.D. with no change in the spoke hole diameter. This resulted in a reinforced and stronger flange.
The New ORC, ORC-UL
The new ORC-UL will come in 3 versions: a Campagnolo 10/11 speed version, a Shimano 11sp version and a Shimano 8/9/10 version, which will optimize flange spacing for drivetrains with up to 10 cogs. The new ORC-UL is expected to shed a significant amount of weight coming in at a very respectable 189 grams. The most notable upgrade to the ORC-UL is what Alchemy refers to as an innovative way to eliminate the unsupported portion of the axle. While they haven’t released all the details yet, we understand that this is done by extending the hub shell under the cassette body, thus moving the drive side hub shell bearing out to 11.7mm from the dropout. Standard hubs place this bearing about 42mm from the dropout at best, leaving a large portion of the axle unsupported. According to Alchemy this is what allows the hub to lose thirty grams while increasing rigidity. In addition, the new freehub bodies will be hard anodized which should reduce gouging due to cassette cogs.
Wheel Building Dimensions
The Shimano and Campagnolo 11 speed versions of the ORC-UL will share the same dimensions, so swapping Campagnolo and Shimano 11 freehub bodies won’t require any re-dishing. The Shimano 8/9/10sp version will have a shorter free hub body to decrease rear wheel dish, so any change between the 10 speed and 11 speed versions will require a wheel re-dishing.
ORC-UL Image Gallery
The current ELF will continue to be the mainstay front hub, but there will be a new model added to the lineup. This new version of the ELF is focused on aerodynamics. This hub is intended to be released after the ORC-UL and there aren’t a lot of details revealed to us just yet. The aero hub will use straight pull spokes and the projected weight is under 45 grams. It will be available in drillings of 16-24 holes.
Shortly after releasing the three versions of the ORC-UL designs, Alchemy’s first mountain bike hubset is expected for release. The hubs are disc brake compatible and will feature the same internals as the new ORC-UL. This means a stiffer mountain bike hub with a better supported axle, at around 220 grams.