As with its Canadian cousin Cervélo we like the way that Argon 18 goes about bike design. The Krypton may be the starting point for carbon from Argon, but (like Cervélo’s R3, also featured in our Bike of the Year selections) it began life near the top of the range. It was, in fact, originally the range-topping Gallium of a few seasons ago.
That means the Krypton wasn’t built down to a price, it was built up to a performance standard, and it shows. We like that Argon has trickled tech down so we end up with a once cutting edge frame with a more affordable component package.
- Highs: Handling, top quality chassis
- Lows: Middleweight wheels
The Krypton really is all about its frameset: like all Argons, it's built around the firm's Horizontal Dual System (HDS). Jargon aside, this is simply dividing the frame with a diagonal line from the top of the head tube to the rear dropouts. Anything above the line is designed to flex vertically to aid and add comfort. Anything below is made to maximise stiffness ensuring power transfer (lack of flex when pedalling) and handling (lack of twisting or bending when steering or leaning into turns).
This is all common sense, but Argon has also realised you can compromise all the good design work you've done on these traits if you then have a big section of unsupported steerer tube above the head tube and under the stem. So its team came up with their own headset/head tube design, called 3D.
Instead of standard headset spacers slotted over the slimmer fork steerer tube, the 3D system has a series of threaded interlocking extensions to the actual head tube. By extending this oversized section you maintain the structure's integrity, and it also relieves potential stresses on the bearings so a decent bonus is the extra life in these too.
It’s impossible to quantify the improvements, because we can’t run the headset set-up without the 3D system. But in comparison to similar taller-head tubed bikes the Krypton is easily equal in the stiffness stakes, and perhaps even superior. The advantage of the Argon is that should you decide or feel the need to start riding in a lower, racier position then you’ve got more than 30mm of adjustment room. On a tall traditional sportive style frame adjustments like that would mean a new bike.
Out on the road the Krypton feels sharp and totally connected: the front end's rigidity flows right through the bike. On twisty technical descents, the bike comes into it’s own. The rigid connected feel of balance between the tyres requires faith from the rider – the higher the pace, the bigger the lean angle – and the Argon rewards you with inch-perfect adherence to your chosen line, also aided by its lower than standard (5mm less) bottom bracket height. It’s a well-sorted rapid handling ride that’s brimming with fun-filled potential.
Argon 18’s UK distributor i-ride has taken care of the Krypton's build, and it’s a quality affair for the money. A full Shimano 105 groupset is pretty much all we ask for in a bike at this price, and that’s exactly what's delivered – sweet, sharp shifts across the racy 11-25 block and noise-free shifts up front from the 50/34 compact too.
The cockpit comes from one of i-ride's other brands 3T: it’s a classy combination of one of our favourite bar shapes, the curvy, ovalised Ergonova, with a big mitt-friendly compact drop paired with a quality Arx-Pro stem.
The Argon 18 ASP 150 carbon seatpost is topped with another i-ride exclusive, the Prologo Kappa Evo saddle. The Kappa isn’t the most familiar of models to us, but after spending a few hours upon it we’d be more than happy to get to know it better.
On the climbs the middleweight wheels combined with a race-focused block (11-25) make themselves known. If climbing is your thing the Krypton could be as accomplished an ascender as it is a descender, but you’d want to change the block and lighten the (wheel) load to make the most of a brilliant chassis.
The wheels are Fulcrum’s Racing Sport, unavailable aftermarket but pretty much the equivalent of the previous Racing 7. The latest 7s have an asymmetric rim, whereas these don’t, but they do have excellent hubs, straight pull spokes and easy to service brass nipples. The weight is a middling 1892g a pair, and they're shod with great quality Conti GP4000 tyres. That our large test bike tips the scales at 8.14kg even with these hoops just further highlights the Argon's super light chassis.
Overall the Krypton is not the plushest, but the ride is plenty smooth enough. Its not the best equipped on the market, but it’s packed with quality performance parts. Nor is it the lightest complete bike for the money, but the frameset is impressively svelte.
What does make it stand out – and currently unique – is that 3D head tube: it can start out as a relaxed position sportive special and then morph into an all-out racer with the minimum of fuss, making for a distinguished steed of rare flexibility.