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ARC8 borrows (and lends) big brand design talent for new DTC carbon road, mountain bikes

Photo: Rupert Fowler / Bike Connection Agency
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ARC8’s startup story is a bit unique, though not entirely unheard of among small brands who got their start sourcing open mold products to create something of their own. The difference here is that one of the founders was the one actually designing those frames for the factory, using skills learned from working at a couple of major brands.

The two founders have known each other since age 7, meeting in grade school, and have been friends ever since. Through high school, they rode as bike messengers for the same company, then Serafin Pazdera got into graphic design and web development, while Jonas Mueller went into engineering and worked for BMC, then Santa Cruz Bicycles, then DT Swiss and ended up at one of the largest manufacturers in Taiwan. There, he started working on his own frame designs, and the idea for a higher level of open-mold designs. They call it “licensed engineering”, where he would design the frames, then allow the manufacturer to license the design to others. It was then that Serafin suggested his friend start his own brand, and ARC8 was born.

Escaping to the open road

They started with the Escapee road bike, then the Essential trail bike. Then they made a hardtail as a collaboration with another brand. But now, they’ve developed their own enduro frame. But first, their business model had to be different. They didn’t want to be just another frame company, so they found a fulfillment center in Taiwan that could arrange for the frames to be painted on demand, and built with whatever parts the customer wanted, then drop shipped directly to the customer anywhere in the world.

arc8 escapee carbon disc brake road bike

They do have some “builds”, but you can swap parts as needed to get the exact build you want. It also gives you the option to leave out the wheels, saddle and bar tape if you want, because these are items that most riders already have a favorite, so no sense in paying for something you don’t need or want. It’s worth noting that their online configurator is one of the cleanest, simplest ones we’ve seen, too…very well done.

arc8 escapee carbon disc brake road bike arc8 escapee carbon disc brake road bike

The Escapee is designed as an all-rounder, and it’s available with disc or rim brakes. The design started around a lightweight classic road bike, then they tweaked the tube shapes to improve aerodynamics a bit without giving up stiffness or adding weight.

arc8 escapee carbon disc brake road bike arc8 escapee carbon disc brake road bike

Rim brake frames are about 780g (size 54), and disc brake frames are 810g. Forks are 315g and 325g (with steerer cut). Frameset prices are $1,690 and $1,718, respectively. A complete bike with Campagnolo Record Disc and their own carbon wheels and cockpit would be $4,363. Tire clearance up to 30mm depending on your rim and tire combo.

arc8 escapee carbon disc brake road bike

They have their own integrated stem design that runs the cables and hoses internally, hiding them directly into the frame. Three different headset covers allow different fit options while maintaining aesthetics, too. It’s available for road and mountain bikes, too.

Arc8 Evolve hardtail mountain bike

The Evolve hardtail mountain bike is coming this fall, designed to be an XC race bike for today’s more technical courses. 68º head angle, 445mm reach (size M). The integrated cockpit is here, too, which is rarer on MTBs.

Many hardtails use a 27.2 for comfort, but they wanted dropper post compatibility, so they spec’d it with 30.9, then dropped the seatstays and flattened them to make up for it. The seat angle is steep enough to get away with a 120mm fork, but it’s designed around a 100mm race fork.

The tube shapes are somewhat aero, but they’re done that way to make it difficult for mud to stick to it. And the chainstays are designed with no bridge or other structures that could catch mud and debris. Because all that stuff adds weight over the course of a race.

Arc8 Essential trail mountain bike

The Essential, so called because it’s the one bike they’d choose if they could only take one, is their 120mm 29er trail bike designed for a 140mm fork. Frame weight without shock is claimed at 1.9kg, and it uses a nifty hidden lower pivot.

They moved it inside, which is a design they say is stiffer because rather than two small arms (the chainstays), it’s one big block of carbon, so it won’t twist independently. It also puts the bearings on the link, inside and away from the elements.

This design relies on the seat tube to keep the pivot axle stiff, which it has the size and strength to do quite well. The whole thing pivots on adjustable angular contact bearings, so they can lock in the preload. It has a 67º head angle, long reach and low-ish BB, making it handle well over a wide variety of terrain. Frameset is $1,718 with shock, headset and thru axle.

I rode this one around the bike park, running down bermed flow trails and through rugged connector trails with massive root sections and all the things that make for a great, high speed mountain bike trail.

Despite being a “catalog” geometry, the Essential handled remarkably well, soaked up the hits with travel to spare, and without any hesitation. It also looks good, making it a great deal for anyone seeking a capable trail bike to throw their parts on.

Arc8 Extra enduro mountain bike

The 160mm Extra is their enduro bike, designed around a 160-180mm fork, also a 29er only. It has a 64º head angle with a 160mm fork, so you can get super slack with it if you want to go bigger. This one is their first exclusive design, so you won’t see this particular frame showing up with anyone else’s label.

The size medium has a 465mm reach (full geos for all the bikes are on their website), and clearance for up to 29×2.6 tires. To get this, they used the SuperBoost chainline, but stuck with a normal 148mm Boost rear hub…they simply offset the hub to the drive side by 4mm. This way, they get good heel clearance, big tire clearance, and you can still use the wheels that you already own.

The front triangle allows for a bottle cage even with a piggy-back shock. On the front, they used a custom headset cap that feeds the brake hose, dropper and shift cable directly into the headset cap. This keeps everything moving together, so you can run all of those lines shorter than normal so there’s less clutter up front.

The design shares spec with headsets from Acros and FSA, too, so you have options if you wanted to change it later on. It has a 2.3kg claimed frame weight, retail is $1,856 for a frameset with a Rockshox SuperDeluxe rear shock. At the time we saw this, the design was near final, and this was a preproduction model that had a few issues that prevented riders from getting a good feel for how it will ultimately handle. We’ve heard they’ll be at Eurobike, so check back for a possible update.


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El Pataron
El Pataron
4 years ago

Open mold Chinese carbon–if not now, then check eBay in a year or so. “They dropped the seat stays then flattened them to make up for it”? Wow. Pretty thin ice for a bike that will be Chinese-direct to customer in short order.

Christian Egelmair
Christian Egelmair
4 years ago
Reply to  Alfus

well, this is the same guy who does the engineering for all the ARC8 frames, and no they are not just open mold frames.

Just do a little google search for ARC8 and check what others have to say

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