This article was originally published at CyclingPlus.com
When it comes to choosing your next road bike, catalogue shop Argos probably isn’t on your list of retailers. But while experienced cyclists and enthusiastic new riders look elsewhere for new bikes, a huge number of people do head into one of Argos’ 800-plus stores, flick through the catalogue, pick a bike, note down a seven-digit number with a little pencil and then wait until their bike magically appears at Collection Point B… And that’s where Cycling Plus and BikeRadar come in.
Last year we were approached by three60brands – who has a history of creating successful brand partnerships, including a number of highly recognisable cycling names already available on the high street – to partner with Argos on a new road cycling project.
“Argos has seen its bike sales grow and experienced a big demand in the road cycling sector,” explains three60brands’ head of brands and business development, Ed Hurrell. “It wanted to push what was possible for entry-level ‘highly accessible’ road bikes, which is why we approached the experts at Cycling Plus and BikeRadar for input.”
Simply put, Argos wanted our tech team, with its decades of combined cycling experience and expertise to help produce three road bikes, costing just £199.99, £249.99 and £329.99, that people who don’t read reviews in cycling magazines or websites could be confident provided exceptional value for money and a thoroughly decent ride.
Each bike has STI levers for simple shifting Jonny Ashelford / Immediate Media
“Argos wants to make road bikes available to a broad audience,” explains Ed. “It wants as many people as possible to experience all the associated positive benefits that cycling provides.”
We knew this would be a challenge, which is appropriate as Challenge is the brand name Argos has picked for the bikes, but it was one we were keen to accept. If someone buys one of the three Challenge models and, because it’s actually a decent bike, enjoys riding it, even if it’s simply for commuting to work, weekend rides with the kids, or trips to the shops, they’ll be more likely to stick with cycling and join the ‘club’ that we’re all proud to be part of.
As you’d expect compromises have to made when you’re building bikes to such competitive prices but we’ve been surprised how many of the requirements we set out have made the cut.
We’ve found that bikes with prices set to appeal to inexperienced, cost-conscious customers come with gearing that even today’s Tour de France pros would shy away from, so we ensured that compact 50/34-tooth chainrings and generous, hill-friendly 28-tooth cassettes were supplied. All three bikes have STi-style shifting systems – Microshift for the £199.99 Plus and Shimano for the others – and the £329.99 Dynamic features a carbon fork. Both the £249.99 Venture and the Dynamic have 25mm tyres to help with comfort.
Yes, the bikes will come in boxes so buyers will have to finish the build, but as well as the instruction manual, they’ll be able to check out a BikeRadar video showing exactly how to put the bike together safely.
Plenty of gears for climbing Jonny Ashelford / Immediate Media
The butted 6061 aluminium frames come in two sizes – 51cm and 54cm, with effective top-tubes of 54cm and 58cm respectively, which means that a wide range of sizes will be able to ride a Challenge. The geometry is very much designed for comfort and akin to that found on the endurance bikes we regularly feature.
Our experience of many similarly priced road bikes is that geometry is based on traditional race bikes, which isn’t good for new riders. We’ve ridden all three bikes at different stages of development and provided feedback on areas we felt could be improved and Argos has listened.
“We completely based the frames on the feedback from the Cycling Plus and BikeRadar tech teams,” says Ed. “We ensured the frame drawings precisely matched the technical team’s brief, merging comfort and speed, so these are 100 per cent bespoke designs, resulting in a really nice riding experience for customers.”
Of course, we’re not expecting many Cycling Plus readers to rush down to their local Argos to buy a Challenge bike – although we reckon they would make perfectly decent winter/commuting machines – but that’s not the point of this collaboration. If by teaming up with Argos to produce a cheap bike that’ll convert more people into cyclists, rather than people with a cheap bike rusting in the shed, then it will definitely have been worth it!
To find out more about the new range of Challenge road bikes click here.