The Argon 18 Dark Matter gravel bike equipped with a 1×13 Rotor groupset is the Canadian brand’s candidate for the group test. Does its concept work and how does the hydraulic drivetrain perform? Read on to find out more.

Click here for an overview of the best gravel bike 2020 group test.

Argon 18 Dark Matter | 8.39 kg (size S) | € 2,600 (frameset) | € 6,000 (complete build)

Argon is a noble gas and makes up just 1% of the atmosphere. Exotic then, but a situation the Canadian brand hopes to change, at least in the gravel world, with the Dark Matter. But exotic is also a good description for the hydraulic Rotor 1×13 groupset fitted to this bike. The unconventional drivetrain consists of an oval 42 t Q-Ring chainring, a 2inPower crankset and a 10-46 t cassette. That’s combined with MAGURA disc calipers and Rotor’s own shifter. The frameset itself offers numerous unique and detailed solutions. The 3D PLUS system lets the effective head tube length be changed to adjust the cockpit height (0, 15 or 30 mm), making spacers obsolete. Along with the cleaner look, the resulting increase in spacing between top and bottom headset bearings is claimed to improve handling. In addition, the modular cable routing system in the down tube is designed to facilitate optimal cable management. It is compatible with a Shimano Di2 junction box and any current drivetrain options. Overall, it’s clear that the designers have put a lot of thought into the details. For example, the front derailleur mount can be removed easily, there’s an optional direct mount hanger for Shimano drivetrains and the asymmetrical chainstays offer tire clearances for up to 700 x 45C tires. Our test bike weighs 8.39 kg and in this configuration costs € 6,000. The frameset only option will set you back € 2,600.

Helmet SCOTT Centric Plus | Glasses POC Aspire | Jersey GRAN FONDO-T-Shirt | Bib shorts Rapha Core Cargo | Socks The Wonderful Socks #6 | Shoes Dromarti Sportivo Touring Terra

The Argon 18 Dark Matter in detail

Drivetrain Rotor 1×13 with 2InPower power meter
Gearing 42 t Q-Ring und 10-46 t, 1×13
Brakes Rotor/MAGURA 160/160 mm
Handlebar Profile Design, 400 mm
Stem Profile Design Zeroseven, 70 mm
Seatpost TDS C, 15 mm offset
Wheels ENVE SES Disc 35/45
Tires WTB Nano 700 x 40C

The modular routing system is compatible with any shifting configuration and can also integrate a Shimano Di2 junction box.
The 3D PLUS system makes spacers a thing of the past. The nicely integrated look and the increased spacing between the headset bearings make it a no-brainer solution.
The down tube protector works effectively, allows a third bottle cage to be mounted and also covers a port that makes routing internal cables a lot easier.
We just didn’t click
The Rotor 1×13 groupset has good gear steps and the oval Q-Ring chainring works well. Unfortunately, shifting gears is imprecise, undefined and without enough feedback.
Seat tube 420 mm 450 mm 485 mm 520 mm 555 mm 590 mm
Top tube 492 mm 513 mm 534 mm 556 mm 579 mm 603 mm
Head tube 120 mm 135 mm 154 mm 171 mm 192 mm 216 mm
Head angle 69.5° 71.0° 71.4° 72.0° 72.0° 72.5°
Seat angle 75.5° 74.9° 74.3° 73.7° 73.1° 72.5°
Chainstays 428 mm 428 mm 428 mm 428 mm 428 mm 428 mm
Wheelbase 1,008 mm 1,011 mm 1,024 mm 1,030 mm 1,046 mm 1,059 mm
Reach 356 mm 367 mm 377 mm 387 mm 397 mm 407 mm
Stack 530 mm 550 mm 570 mm 590 mm 610 mm 635 mm

The Argon 18 Dark Matter in review

The sporty and progressive design of the Argon 18 matches its agile character well. It willingly translates your input into acceleration and quickly generates a lot of speed. Thanks to the short 70 mm stem the riding position is comparatively compact, while your weight is pushed forward due to the 74.3° seat tube angle. That results in a lot of pressure on the front wheel which in turn offers direct but not at all nervous steering. This playful character up front harmonises well with the agility of the rear end, resulting in a balanced and enjoyable ride! At high speeds the frameset is smooth, stable and confidence inspiring. In terms of comfort, the Dark Matter is similarly well-rounded and damps vibrations effectively even on rough terrain.

Tuning tip
Change the groupset in the Argon 18 online configurator for better shifting performance

The Dark Matter is a guarantee for fun on any gravel outing!>

The MAGURA brakes provide plenty of stopping power while offering just as much modulation as the Shimano and SRAM competition. Unfortunately we didn’t have the same positive experience with Rotor’s hydraulic drivetrain. The biggest weakness of the 1×13 groupset is its imprecise and undefined shifting. The shifter requires a lot of input and we missed the tactile feedback to tell us that we’d changed gears. In practice this means inevitable misshifts at the end of longer tours where you’re already tired or in hectic situations where you have to react quickly.


The Argon 18 Dark Matter scores well in terms of its balanced comfort and harmonious handling. During our testing, it happily generated lots of speed and revealed itself to be a fun all-rounder on any terrain. If you’re looking for a gravel bike but aren’t quite sure what terrain you’ll be spending most time on, this platform is a well-conceived and coherent option. Unfortunately, we can’t recommend the Rotor 1×13 groupset due to its shifting performance.


  • eager acceleration
  • playful and harmonious handling
  • clever features and solutions in the frameset


  • undefined and imprecise shifting
  • brake hose rubs on the head tube

Riding Characteristics



  1. cumbersome
  2. playful


  1. nervous
  2. confident


  1. demanding
  2. balanced

Fun factor

  1. boring
  2. lively

Value for money

  1. terrible
  2. very good

Technical Data

Argon 18
Dark Matter

Weight: 8.39 kg
Price: € 6,000

Indended Use

Smooth tarmac 1
Allroad/Gravel 2
Everyday/Commuting 3

For more info:

Click here for an overview of the best gravel bike 2020 group test.

All bikes in test: Argon 18 Dark Matter | Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX | Canyon Grail AL 7.0 | Cervélo Áspero | Giant Revolt Advanced Pro Force | Kona Libre AL | Liteville 4-ONE MK1 | OPEN WI.DE. | Pivot Vault Team Force | ROSE BACKROAD GRX RX810 Di2 | Santa Cruz Stigmata CC | Specialized Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO | Standert Pfadfinder | Trek Domane SLR 9 eTap

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.

Words: Photos: GRAN FONDO-Team