Colourless, inert and monatomic – The chemical element of krypton sounds anything but exciting. And unfortunately, the same applies to its namesake from the Canadian brand Argon 18, whose website promises an all-terrain bike that’ll ignite just as much excitement on gravel as well as cruising in the mountains.
The reality with the X-Road proved world’s apart from the passion stated in its marketing hype; we felt its claimed excitement was kept under lock and key in another universe. “The riding feels dead,” wrote one of our test riders. Where is the refinement, the testers wondered, as the frame didn’t offer the comfort you’d expect from such a bike. When asked Argon 18 explained that “the XRoad was primarily designed to address the sport of gravel racing in the US and has been adopted in other markets as an all-around multi-surface, multi-purpose bike.”
On rough terrain, the bike was unforgivingly stiff, more reminiscent of a pure-bred racing machine, even considering its upright position in our configuration with Spacers and the 3D System. But once we hit the first climb we waved goodbye to our thoughts of its racing roots, as the heavy (9.14 kg) Argon 18 Krypton X-Road was found lacking on ascents and sprints.
Fortunately, there’s a different story when it comes to downhills, as its predictable and reliable handling were welcome, giving a great sense of confidence on hairpins, even those ones that creep up on you. The massive 3D System mounted (press fit) on the head tube is designed to generate more rigidity while allowing for more adjustment of your position, effectively replacing traditional spacers; this definitely sounds worthwhile, but the headtube would need to be longer to really benefit from the spectrum that the 3D System offers. In our configuration of the test bike, we still had spacers under the stem.
Specification of the Argon 18 Krypton XROAD Disc
Drivetrain: Shimano 105 | 52/35, 11 – 28
Wheels: Mavic Aksium
Brakes: Shimano BR-RS785
Tires: Continental Sport Contact 32C
Weight: 9.14 kg
Price: € 2,999
More info: argon18bike.com
Now we’d love to blame the bike’s shortcomings on its spec, but they unfortunately run deeper than that; its price-point Shimano 105 groupset worked flawlessly, and the Deda components were not out of place. But we felt the budget Mavic Aksium wheels with 32 mm Continental Contact sport tires and the now out-dated standard quick releases were proof that these value-for-money aspects were lagging behind the bike’s own aspirations. The X-Road left us disappointed, especially considering that this innovative Montreal-based brand have a strong reputation for their high-end triathlon and road racing bikes. On the market since 2015, this bike doesn’t offer a ride that can hack it against its competition. Disc brakes and 32 mm tires clearly don’t make a decent all-rounder today.
With the Argon 18 Krypton X-Road we won’t deny that this Canadian brand have made some valiant efforts, considering it was first designed to address gravel racing. However, the bike is missing a number of other crucial elements that you’d expect from a modern all-rounder. It’s just too heavy, and, considering its price, poorly specced and missing state-of-the-art technology like comfort-enhancing features and thru-axles.
- smooth and stable when descending
- out-dated concept
- minimal comfort, barely-there excitement
To get an overview about the bikes we tested, check this article: What’s the best road bike to conquer the Alps? 7 bikes on test
All bikes in test: Trek Domane SLR 7 | Specialized Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race UDi2 | Merida Scultura Disc 6000 | Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0 | Cervélo C3 SRAM Force 1X | Canyon Endurace CF SLX
This article belongs to the GRAN FONDO Issue #002. For the full interactive experience we recommend reading it in our magazine app for iPhone & iPad – it’s awesome – and free!
Words: Thomas Seidelmann, Robin Schmitt Photos: Klaus Kneist, Noah Haxel, Robin Schmitt, Julian Mittelstädt (Post production)