My Argonaut Cycles Road

I’ve been trying to type out a few introductory sentences for this bike for the past few minutes and honestly, I have no idea where to begin. So let’s start out by me saying that it is by no means the first carbon fiber bike I have been offered but it was the first that had a compelling story attached with it, something I’m always intrigued by and will ultimately make for a better piece of journalism.

For the past year or so, I’ve been watching Ben at Argonaut Cycles reinvent his modus operandi. He made the shift from building steel bikes to developing a new fabrication system with a local carbon manufacturer. Unlike anything else currently being manufactured domestically, or overseas, the new face of Argonaut is focused on the future of bicycle design. But that’s not to say that Argonaut’s steel past had been cast aside.

Before he even began to sketch out his design, he met with the carbon engineers, who reverse-engineered some of his favorite steel tubesets, and improved upon their weaknesses. Ben wanted his bikes to have the same ride characteristics of his steel bikes, just more technologically advanced. He came to loosely call this “steel 2.0″ but you should take that with a grain of salt because let’s face it, carbon fiber is not steel.

This bike is however a by-product of domestic engineering and fabrication. The carbon weave is from the States. It’s cut to shape, moulded by a proprietary process, assembled and finished all within an hour drive from Portland. The process used produces very little waste. There’s no hodgepodge assemblage, no messy resin and it’s 100% custom. Basically, it’s a streamlined process that utilizes technologies that allow each frame to be engineered to a customer’s specific needs.

That’s what had me intrigued in Argonaut and so I agreed to come on board. Soon, I started to hear the echos of “steel is real” in the back of my head, however. I knew my Bishop is as perfect as a steel bike could be. The geometry is dialed and I’ve never ridden anything like it. So I approached Ben with the idea to make the exact same bicycle, just with his new carbon manufacturing process.

Dimensions, trail, geometry, were all the same, just the profile changed a bit to a racier silhouette. Even the tube’s proprietary layup were influenced by the same steel that my Bishop is built from. Bottom line is, I wanted to be able to subjectively compare the two materials.

After I filled out my ride journal, had numerous talks with Ben and designed the paint, the bike was done. Last week, I arrived in Portland and immediately got to check it out. First thing I noticed was how much of a stellar job Keith Anderson did on the paint. The build wasn’t bad either! Rotor cranks, SRAM Red group, ENVE tapered fork, ENVE bars, Thomson stem, Fizik Kurve saddle, Chris King hubs to H+Son Archetype rims (built by none other than Sugar Wheel Works), Chris King PF30 ceramic BB and that special I8 Chris King headset. It was a dream build.

But what about the ride? The first day, we did a nice 25 mile ride up Saltzman, then Saturday, we headed out towards Mt. Hood for 75 miles (then Billy broke a spoke and we had to call it quits). My initial reaction is very optimistic. The ride is what I can only call “light and responsive”. It handles like my Bishop but even better. Descents are faster and it climbs with little or no qualms. There’s no jarring feel when I hit rough terrain. Everything feels dampened and smooth.

My previous experiences with carbon rental bikes like Cervelo, Specialized and other brands were always harsh. The bikes were stiff and I didn’t enjoy the ride. I’m not a racer, I don’t need a bike engineered to race. I need a bike that rides how I want it to, when I want it to and that’s what Argonaut produced for me. It really is like steel 2.0… So what about my Bishop? There’s nothing on this planet that would make me stop riding it. That’s a fact. Steel is still, real but this new experience has been loads of fun. As for the bike itself, it’s very easy on the eyes.

The bike weighs 15.5 lbs as seen here (minus bottles). With middle-grade LOOK pedals, 32h wheels and 28c tires, that’s not bad at all.

See more photos in the gallery!

  • Jordan Trent

    what does it weigh!

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      As pictured, sans bottles 15.5 lbs

      • Jordan Trent

        damn.

        • Francesco Cerchio

           bella

  • http://twitter.com/tylr Tyler Howarth

    This is some mighty fine bike porn, John.  Congrats

  • Benji

    BIKE BONER.

  • Conran

    wow. butm can u review it again after like 5 month? i had that first feeling with my new carbon road. and somehow it fades away. am unsure if its the longevity or life of a carbon… cheers

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      I was planning on it.

  • Ronan

    That seat cluster/tube is whopper

  • Thebikelab

    by “bike you’ve been offered” does that mean you got this bike for free?!? (or at cost?)

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      Far from free. I pay for all my bikes. I have had other companies offer me to review their bikes and I’ve declined.

      • Thebikelab

        Holy fuck! when I saw the price for the frame(set?) on their site i just about shit my pants.

        • http://theradavist.com John Watson

          For what they are and who they’re competing with, these are priced competitively. 

  • http://www.rhyshastings.com/ Rhys

    Very nice! Stunning bike.

  • http://twitter.com/chiasticon battery collection

    beautiful bike. love it. as built…about $10k, right?  just curious.

    also, you forgot to mention the chris king PFBB30. stoked to get one of those when they’re available.

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      Rough MSRP breakdown: 

      $6,500 frameset
      $2,500 SRAM Red (minus cost of cranks)
      $500 Rotor cranks
      +/- $160 King HS
      +/- $??? ceramic King PF30BB
      +/- $1000 for the wheelset
      $370 ENVE bars
      $90 Thomson post

      So yeah, more or less $10,000 – paint is not included in that number.

      • LOL EVAN

        Why are people worrying how or how much you are paying for your bikes, its none of your business.
        Nice bike, although id enjoy it a lot more if it has SR11.

        • http://twitter.com/chiasticon battery collection

          like i said, i was just curious. i wasn’t asking “did you get a deal” or some other nonsense.  none of my business.  but it’s not like you see these at competitive cyclist or something.  argonaut has a base price listed so anyone can extrapolate the figure like i did.

          i would like to say that it’s awesome that you went “whole hog” on it. why buy an amazing frame like that and throw force on it?  might as well go all-in.  it’s an amazing build and i’m sure you’ll enjoy it for years.

      • http://twitter.com/chiasticon battery collection

        btw, with the hell you went through losing your touring bike, you totally deserve this build.  congrats once again.

        • iStone

          What bike? When did this happen? What did I miss??

      • http://www.facebook.com/ericbaumann Eric Baumann

        msrp is always astronomical…i dunno how anyone affords to pay it.

  • http://twitter.com/klei_ber Brian Kleiber

    Drool inducing to say the least. I love the shot of the dead bug on your headtube. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1132385573 Tyler Shannon

    Good lord that’s pretty. 

  • Mmtmatrix

    Really really pretty!  Any idea what the wheels weigh, w or w/o skewers (sans tires)?

  • http://twitter.com/europeantouches Philipp

    great to see the “Tune” quick releases on this fabulous bike!

    • ka1111

       Uuuuh – German part on this all American bike!
      Imagine what weight and performance you could have achieved with a Canyon Ultimate CF SLX frame and all this great parts.This project ist cool and the heart is defnitely on fire when every single part ist local and great looking. But:Is this really worth this tremendous price?  And beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

  • http://twitter.com/IamWillPowers Will Powers

    I love how they did the replaceable rear drop outs.

  • http://showmethebike.tumblr.com/ Patrick

    How do you expect the rims brake track (the black color) to hold up?

    • CraveLandscape

      i was wondering the same thing myself. I love the slick look of the archetypes. Prolly, which rims do you prefer: hed belgium or these h plus son?

      • http://theradavist.com John Watson

        The Archetypes’ anodizing usually lasts about a month in dry conditions, or a few days in wet. Both rims are great but the Archetypes are more readily available FWIW.

  • CraveLandscape

    I think some purple Chris King hubs would be very fitting for this bike, though you wouldn’t be able to match the headset. Regardless, as with all your builds, the attention to detail is next to none. Congratulations on yet another beautiful bicycle. Enjoy the ride.

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      The new “moody blue” CK bits fit the color perfectly. Ben’s doing a run of the headsets. We’ll see….

  • http://twitter.com/wadestevens Wade Stevens

    Nice to hear how “advances” in fabrication/design/technology aren’t just faster/stronger/stiffer/lighter – sometimes there’s better/appropriate.  First time I saw pics of this I thought, “wow, that looks just like the geometry of the Bishop.”  Thanks for sharing the story behind it.
    Said it before, but I can’t get over how that purple pops.

  • http://twitter.com/wadestevens Wade Stevens

    Those rims would be awesome on a disc build

  • LOL EVAN

    Who makes the bar end plugs?

    • Adam

      I would like to know the answer to that question also…..

      • http://theradavist.com John Watson

        They’re ENVE road bars, the ends are built in…

        • LOL EVAN

          D’oh!

  • Guest

    steel is real but this is gorgeous and it looks so much more advanced than parlee or IF. lug bonded tubes just look bad.

    • Valdes

       Disagree.  This is rad but lugged carbon is a beauty all its own.

  • http://twitter.com/ecoDoug Doug

    Engineering-wise, how is the Argo different than other US-made custom carbon frames (Calfee, Parlee, Serotta…)? What’s used in place of resin for inter-fiber bonding and shape? Without a polymer, carbon is pliable… no bueno.

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      Most other manufacturers use carbon lugs with tubes cut to length. The Argonaut process will be explained later this week. All I meant was there’s no painting application of the resin. The Argonaut manufacturers have been producing carbon parts for Boeing since, forever. They know what they’re doing.

      • http://twitter.com/ecoDoug Doug

        ahh, so custom monocoque with pre-impregnated resin. gotcha, thanks!

        • http://theradavist.com John Watson

          Not monocoque, bladder molded

  • iStone

    This will get the most comments ever

  • iStone

    Why no internal cabling?

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      Internal routing is a point of contention. Some builders prefer to go external. Personally, I like external routing after having a few bikes with internal.

      • iStone

        As someone pretty new to building higher-end bikes, why do you like external? Just easier to maintain and adjust if necessary?

        • http://theradavist.com John Watson

          Easier to maintain, lighter and less likely to cause issues down the road. The internal housing can be a real bitch sometimes. Again, it’s a matter of preference.

          • http://twitter.com/ezweave matt

            I love internal routing, but it can actually be pretty noisy.  My custom Columbus Spirit road bike has it and it sometimes makes a springy sound.  It looks nice though.

  • KimK

    I hate you. I mean I like your site. I just hate your bikes. How can you afford all these? Is it all from the blog? I know this is nothing out of the norm because everyone I know that works in the industry has crazy bike sheds. I guess I’m surprised companies arent throwing bikes at you. How many do you own? Sorry for being so intrusive.

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      Uh…

      Last year, over 50% of my income went to bikes. In good conscious, I like to give back to the industry that supports me and I like to support the industry I represent. Frame builders, domestic manufacturing, etc. As I’ve said, I get offered a lot of bikes and while it’s easy to say yes to everything, I limit my consumption to projects and products I like. That means paying for a lot of things. No frame builder can give away bikes and in good conscious, I couldn’t take from them anyway.

      Is that close enough to answering you?

    • Dude

      It is just like when you work in a bike shop, you get decent prices on the items you want. Seems like you are just jealous. As Prolly already answered in the comments below, he pays for all his bikes. He most likely gets a better price being that his website is great press for companies. My words to you: If you want a really nice bike, save your money and only settle for perfection.

      • Jared

        He didn’t come off as jealous to me. He just seems curious and actually relatively polite. I think you are mis-reading his comment. Maybe you didn’t pick up that he was joking that he “hates” Mr. Watson and his bikes.

        • http://theradavist.com John Watson

          Yeah, I didn’t take it as aggressive at all. We all good now?

    • Clk64

      So now you see where that “Donate” link goes..

      • http://theradavist.com John Watson

        that actually goes to the server bill and I rarely get donations.

  • lmwong7

    Beautiful. Have you rode a Meivici? Any comparison?

  • http://www.cycleexif.com/ Adam Leddin

    Looks f***ing tough, John and Ben, congratulations. Looks like it belongs on the pages of a downhill magazine. Looking forward to watching carbon fiber frame sales go through the roof as a result…

  • Guest

    if Keith painted it, you should have gone crazier. that man is a master at what he does.

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      I designed the paint and I like it, as is.

  • http://www.digicycle.net/ Tucker

    that color pops

  • http://thendlessgroove.tumblr.com/ the endless groove

    doin spinelli proud

    • fanboy

       SPINELLIIIIIIIIII

  • http://www.fyxomatosis.com fyxomatosis_one

    Approve.

    #peanutgallery

  • Jared

    I feel like a lot of builders say they want to branch out into other materials, but never do (not that that’s a bad thing). It’s cool to see this as an example of that being executed and absolutely slain. Paint job (obviously since it’s Keith Anderson) is rad as fuck.

  • http://www.facebook.com/warwick.gresswell Warwick Gresswell

    I think you need to change your language up a bit, John.  You say you were ‘offered’ this bike which leaves it open to people interpret everything you do as suspect.  If you buy something, you should just say “hey, look at this bike I bought”, because you’re skirting the issue.  Personally, I struggle with ‘bloggery’ because people can’t tell the difference between someone with money and an ego, a journalism.  To me you’re just a rich guy with a camera and a penchant for purple, but I’m sure there are people out there that think this is some kind of journalism, which it ain’t.

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      LOL you’re so wrong on so many levels here but you’re probably used to people telling you that you’re right, so anyway…. I’m the one with the ego and you’re making all the judgements here?

      What I do is a mix of what you call “bloggery” and journalism. I’m far from rich (student loan debt – hurray!) and if you’ve followed this site for any amount of time, you’d see how it’s grown into a positive platform for promoting cycling of all kinds. I even profiled your fellow Australians over at BAUM, not too long ago.

      I’m curious as to what other sites you visit?

      • iStone

        You say you’re not rich, but WHERE ARE YOUR TAX RETURNS???

        • http://theradavist.com John Watson

          Obamacarbon

    • Guest

      damn your one ugly bloke

    • Valdes

      Language is frequently vague.  If you’ve been around the block long enough you know that we all have our opinions.  I’m as much as critic of product reviews as anyone but we can’t critique an initial assessment.  This Prolly post is merely a man showcasing his newest steed.  We can’t critique a blogger for being biased when the issue at hand is not meant to be a final verdict on the legitimacy of a product.  Like many of our blogs, coverage is going to revolve around those things that intrigue and inspire us.  If this blog doesn’t do it for you, there are thousands more that likely will.  For a man who seemingly fancies ‘journalism’ it is surprising that you take the time to comment on a cycling blog for illegitimate journalism when the content is no more than an introduction.  If your plan is to critique someone on their journalistic ethics, perhaps the first step would be to start with grammatical editing of one’s own posts. 

      Let’s scale the hate the back and enjoy some coverage of a builder who put in a great deal of work developing a new take on carbon frame manufacturing. Sure, the verdict is still out.  In the meantime, enjoy the photography and get out and ride.

    • Thebikelab

      damn, bruh… and I thought I was jealous.. this guy’s downright angry!! Do you need a hug?

    • Justin Faircloth

      Foolishness.

  • Valdes

    While riding a frame will always be the final judge, I urge any folks who have doubts about the credibility of the Argonaut brand to give Ben a call.  It can be hard to find industry folks who possess knowledge, talent, and humility.  Ben is a wonderful person to talk to and learn from.  If you have your doubts, give him ring and have the conversation.  I’ve followed his brand since he was building steel and am excited to watch him move forward in this endeavor.  

  • Steve

    Out of curiosity, what size were the tires on the specialized and cervelo that you demo’d

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      Cervelo was 25c and Specialized 28c I believe.

    • http://funkkit.tumblr.com/ Chuckles

      Unfair blanket statement on Cervelo and Specialized- not all stock plastic bikes are built to be race stiff.

      • http://theradavist.com John Watson

        I’ve ridden quite a few. Oversized tubes, etc and they were all less than enjoyable. The only other one that I’ve ridden that felt like it had a soul was a Parlee Z1.

  • Aaron

    Wow. Just wow.

  • M Barnum09

    looks like he knob inserts on the inside of your hoods aren’t quite set in. sorry to point out such a stupid thing, just bothers me when it happens on my bike.

    • iStone

      I bought new SRAM hood covers for my Force group and the top of them will not line up with the top of the shifter. The gap bothers me so bad.

  • Ckamp

    Very Nice! Well Deserved.

  • Mathew.

    Seat tube c-c? you ride like 59-60 right. also what is the lifespan of such a carbon layup?.just wondering.why not campagnolo…is it cause of the wifli..or price? Looks fast and fun…leave it on the porch.

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      ST c-t-c is effectively a 60cm because the TT slopes back at 5.5*. Actual length is 54cm. For reference, the Bishop’s TT slopes only 5* making the ST c-t-c a 56cm. But if you were to draw a level line, it’d be 60cm c-t-c, or 61 c-t-t.

      The TT is a 57.5 c-t-c and a 110 stem. The head tube is a 196mm HT (removed 2cm from the Bishop dimension b/c of the headset).

      • iStone

        How tall are you and what is your inseam? Just curious.

        • http://theradavist.com John Watson

          6’2″ with a 36″ inseam, long arms and a short torso. I’ve been professionally fit twice.

  • Nvrrrmnd

    I went over to their web page and saw the video on the about Argonaut Cycles, every time I watch a bicycle building video I want to persue a career in building bikes…they make it seem magical. Anyways, this is a great bike because it is living up to what their mission is…building innovative yet strong, easy to handle and beautiful bicycles. Though I don’t own one or ridden one, I believe they’re exactly what they say they are…take a ride on your readers behalf :D!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1094074535 Owen Laracuente

    soooo, you know where i am…  come by after the F1 mess is over… i want to see this!!!-0

  • Tyler Johnson

    This is an absolutely stunning bike. Own bikes of all types love them all, keep supporting Made in the U.S.A. and standing behind good products man!

  • Kerry

    John, I tend to be a harsh critic of your site’s content, but this bike is really incredible.  I wasn’t down with your week long Prius/Parlee coverage as it seemed too much like advertorialism.  This, however, is obviously a combination of your love for American made products and a desire to innovate on a production method.  

    I think what’s going on in the domestic carbon productioni a healthy change from what the macro brands are doing with pumping out new frames from year to year.  They mostly use gimmicks to peddle product.Brent Steelman literally went crazy trying to reinvent his brand from TIG’d steel to carbon fabrication.  Lets hope that Ben doesn’t hit the same wall trying to reconcile demand, production volume, and cost competition.

  • Gmlyman

    I thoroughly enjoyed this review man. Every day I am constantly checking prolly for new posts, and this has to be my favorite…and not just for how beautiful the bike is. Really enjoyed the insight on the thought and build process as well as the more indepth ride review. Keep it up man! Love the site, enjoy the bike it looks like a dream!

  • Harry

    Such a good looking bike, although personally Id prefer a version without the ISP if Argonaut offers that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Davey-Tacos/100003163509414 Davey Tacos

    I just got a road boner from this thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericbaumann Eric Baumann

    well this thread certainly took off! just wanted to say congrats on the frame john, if you are gonna go carbon this is the only way to do it IMHO, beautiful build. one thing I am curious about, given your access to builders and “offers,” why custom carbon over say, custom Ti? 

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      I would choose stainless over Ti, personally and Ben’s story was so unique that I wanted to be a part of something new.

      • http://twitter.com/wadestevens Wade Stevens

        why stainless over Ti?  just curious.

        • iStone

          Ti is not as strong as steel and is not as light as aluminum. The only real advantage Ti offers is that it won’t rust. You could get away with not even painting the frame.

  • dgmtc

    First comment from me on this blog and I’d like to say that I really love this bike. I love the clean design but I also love the product design.
    I checked Argonaut’s website and I must say I think their manufacturing process looks really nice and different. I have always been interested in industrial/product design (started the studies way back but ended up quitting them to start work as a graphic designer) and I love how bicycle manufacturers are exploring new manufacturing processes. Just yesterday I read something about a bike made of braided carbon (http://bicycledesign.net/2012/11/racebraid-bike-by-jacob-haim/) not quite there yet on the aesthetic front but certainly interesting.
    Anyhow, it must be nice to be able to have a fully personalized bike. All the talk about whether you paid for it and if so how much is unneeded as it’s your business. I used to work in the skateboard business and had access to a lot of free stuff but like you say, in the end you go with the stuff you like and want to support and sometimes paying for stuff (discounted or not) you like is better than getting random free stuff.
    I definitely lust for a bike like this Argonaut (and a Ti Firefly and a Baum, and and and) but right now I couldn’t afford it. Luckily that doesn’t make me any less happy; I’m glad people like you share beautiful pictures of their beautiful bikes on the internet.

    (Oh and by the way: that go yonder adventure looked epic!)

  • Sebastian_clarke

    Best looking rear dropout ive seen in a long time

  • http://twitter.com/ezweave matt

    The only thing that you don’t really address is one of the major reasons for going with a steel frame: durability.  Granted, I too ride a custom steel bike with an Enve fork, Grant Peterson has always stressed the durability of steel over other materials.  Given that this bike (at 15.5 lbs) is only 1.5 lbs lighter than your Bishop (at 17 lbs, I believe) is only marginally lighter.

    I am really not trying to dismiss Argonaut or what they do, it’s an honest question.  Steel isn’t just about the feel, though that is part of it.

    Then again, this is a nice carbon bike, but if I’m going custom I’d rather have steel… in terms of lifespan and durability there really isn’t a better alternative (as for other materials, I always liked Henry James arguments against Ti).

    • Peanutgallery

      grant peterson has a terrible outlook on bicycles.

    • http://thendlessgroove.tumblr.com/ the endless groove

      eh, material is moot these days. bikes are pretty tough–you think dogmas look funny now? give it 20 years ;)
      ruckus and polytubes will fix the crabon and and many a builder will burn off the paint and get the brass flowin again.
      ride what ya dig, now more than ever

  • http://profiles.google.com/nathanong87 nathan ong

    very nice looking bike!

  • Devon

    When I first saw the bike on instagram I thought “why does the paint look so similar to the bishop?”  Now it makes more sense, thanks for the interesting story!  I totally know where you are coming from…but in reverse.  When Jordan was building my Hufnagel I road Kyle’s Calfee for about 8months.  I loved it, so much so I was scared that the extra weight of the steel bike would disappoint.  It didn’t, they just are different.  Looking forward to your second review to hear the differences you find more clear after riding it for a while.

  • Bike

    If there’s anywhere to go to for carbon, the Gorge would be the place. I suspect there’s more concentrated knowledge and experience in UAVs and windsurf and kiteboards there than anywhere else. I know some of those folks and have seen the bikes they’ve built for themselves, in all their raw beauty. This one, with its build and polish, is a piece of art!

  • http://twitter.com/SpencerOlinek Spencer Olinek

    Do you have these images in wallpaper sizes? My new work computer needs some love.

    • http://theradavist.com John Watson

      Email me and I’ll up them

  • Justin Weeks

    How has the anodizing held up? Has it worn all the way down yet?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      It’s like 90% gone.

  • William Gower

    Beautiful bike. Can I inquire about the king Pf30 bb? Is the centre sleeve detachable? I asked Chris King about using the PF30 in my Cervelo but they said it wouldn’t fit in a 79mm shell. I’m thinking if the sleeve is detachable, then I’m good to go. Thanks

  • http://instagram.com/realbluehippo Karl Schmidt

    Hey this may seem like a silly question, but what kind of cable housing did you use on this build? Putting together a new whip and will be using Red as well, and just looking for peoples opinions on favorites; then I thought of this build.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Gore housing.

  • Silicone Tidds

    Damn, that’s pretty… Love the paint job.