Bike Test: Argonaut Road

Have you ever dreamt about riding a bike that is perfect for you? If so, then the team at Argonaut might be floating around in your slumber. This small-batch, fully custom brand out of Bend, Oregon, has been building frames since 2007. They haven’t always been the custom carbon builder they are now (company founder Ben Farver got started joining steel tubes), but with the evolution and endless options that carbon offered in 2012, he made the leap to the black plastic.

Before you get lulled any further into thinking that a dream bike could soon be yours, let’s get this one detail out of the way—priced at $7250, Argonaut road frames sit in the rarefied air among the most expensive frames on the market.  

We know, we know; upon seeing that number your eyes have done a few barrel rolls while you shake your head wondering how that could be. Well, all things being equal (even if they aren’t), the price is attributed to a mix of things, including material, labor costs and, no doubt, with a solid dose of status mixed in. The Argonaut team consists of six people, and everything from start to finish is done in-house. Ben says each of the 100 frames made per year takes over 80 man-hours to build. 

The simple aesthetic masks the complex from scratch layup that is specific for each customer.
Argonaut uses the less common external headset cups because of their reliability.

THE FRAME

Unlike what you get with a mass-production bike, no one Argonaut is the same as any other. Sure, there might be a few with the same geometry, but their layup is specific to each customer and laid down by scratch. The team uses the customer’s body type, riding style, expectations, power profile, professional fit and riding history to design what they feel is the best overall layup and geometry. 

“Before you get lulled any further into thinking that a dream bike could soon be yours, let’s get this one detail out of the way—priced at $7250, Argonaut road frames sit in the rarefied air among the most expensive frames on the market.” 

Each bike build starts with a series of questions for each customer, and based on those responses they have a better idea of what kind of frame needs to be built. There are no pre-fabricated tubes lying around waiting to be joined, only sheets of carbon that get turned into tubes.   

Given our policy of not testing custom bikes, we’ve had to wait a while until a demo bike in our size was available for review. The frame has a 97.5cm wheelbase with 41cm chainstays. That is then matched to a 72-degree head tube that is 15cm tall, including the lower external bearing. We have a 53.5cm top tube and a large, oversized downtube that joins to the T47 bottom bracket shell. All cables are routed internally for a clean aesthetic that highlights the custom paint. Our disc brake bike uses 12mm thru-axles and the frame is designed to use the Mavic Speed Release axles.

To make wheel changes quick, Argonaut specs the Mavic SpeedRelease axles.

THE PARTS

As is standard Argonaut spec, our bike was mounted with an Enve fork, press-in Chis King I8 headset and Chris King T47 bottom bracket. Our build also has an Enve seatpost and stem matched to a Deda Superleggera carbon handlebar. To follow in the Chris King and Enve theme, the road frame rolled on a pair of Enve 3.4 hoops laced to a set of Chris King Road Disc hubs. The wheels are wrapped with a set of Vittoria Corsa 25mm tires.

 Our test bike relied on a Shimano Di2 Dura-Ace drivetrain with hydraulic flat-mount brakes. A 50/34 compact crank was paired to an 11-28 cassette for ample climbing gears. To finish off the build, a Fizik Arione saddle
with carbon rails keeps things light and comfy.

THE RIDE

Destined for the demo fleet as it was, Ben told us that the Argonaut was built with a very race-oriented geometry tuned for a rider in the 150-pound range. This custom layup process seems to have offered a bike that responds quickly and precisely. High-speed corners don’t seem tight enough, as we were able to maintain momentum no matter how tight we pointed it.

While most modern carbon frames rely on the finicky BB30 bottom bracket, Argonaut has opted for the newer T47 that offers all the same advantages without the creaking and headache.

On the flip side, climbing is rewarded with a light bike that is also stiff during hard efforts. While in the saddle, the bike feels smooth and compliant in the rear but a bit stiff in the front. There is no corner cut on the build so shifting of the Shimano Di2 Dura-Ace is spot-on, and the Chris King bearings will live creak-free. The bike is an absolute joy to ride, and all the test riders couldn’t stop talking about how much fun they had on it. We even had a few riders that were well above the 150-pound target that the layup was designed for, and they were all smiles, too.

 

THE VERDICT

While our test bike wasn’t made for any particular person, like all other Argonaut frames, it was made with just as much love, craftsmanship and knowledge. There is without a doubt a lot of time invested into the production of each frame. This is not a tube-to-tube design, but instead each tube is produced for the particular bike with the layup that will deliver the ride characteristics the customer wants. 

Is the five-month queue and $7250 price point for a frameset worth it? For the person that wants the ultimate in a custom-tailored bike using modern and high-performance carbon fiber, look no further. While ours was designed to be a high-performance race machine that responds quickly, you could always request different characteristics that fit more of your preference.

PUNCH LINES

• All custom and all carbon

• When price is (really) no object

• The price of status and exclusivity

STATS

Price: $15,300 ($7250 frameset)

Weight: 15.5 pounds

Sizes: Full custom

www.argonautcycles.com

THE GEAR

Helmet: Giro          

Jersey: Angeles Creative/ Stotts Bicycles

Bib: Angeles Creative/ Stotts Bicycles            

Shoes: Shimano S-phyre    

Socks: Volar Active    

Glasses: Oakley

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