As ridden during the 2015 Tour, the Nitrogen Pro satisfies the need for a wind-cheating bike that allows Argon 18 to at least keep up with the Joneses. But does it have more to bring to the party?
All aero bases covered
Aero bikes commonly offer quite similar features, and the Argon 18 has almost every base covered but still manages to introduce some twists. There’s a slim hourglass head tube that blends into the recessed fork crown, and the front brake is tucked neatly behind the fork, with only the cable protruding.
Argon 18’s 3D system consists of structural screw-in head tube extenders that negate the need for piles of spacers, giving more rigidity and better performance. Here, the system has been adapted with Aero 3D extended sections to smooth airflow.
The argon 18 has a unique adjustable-length head tube: the argon 18 has a unique adjustable-length head tubeImmediate Media
The Argon 18 has a unique adjustable-length head tube
Another neat positional option is the extendable stem, which has an alloy rear half, with toothed interface for the carbon forward part of the stem and integrated bar. Different length alloy sections can be added to fine-tune the length.
The down tube, seat-tube and seatstays are all exposed to the onrushing wind, but buck the Kamm tail tubing trend, having symmetrical foil profiles instead. The down tube is fatter and truncated on the leading and trailing edges, and flows into the BB86 bottom bracket and large, boxy asymmetric chainstays.
The beautifully hidden rear V-brake is situated behind the slim seatstays, which are bridgeless, thanks to being dropped for rear-triangle stiffness and extra seated comfort.
For the pros – and it shows
From the off, the Nitrogen Pro behaves like the epitome of a pro-level aero road bike. Its planted feel begins with the 24mm-wide, 40mm-deep Racing Quattro Carbon wheelset, with supple Vittoria tyres.
The v-brake is close enough to remove debris from the tyre : the v-brake is close enough to remove debris from the tyre
The V-brake is close enough to collect road debris
These Quattros combine rampant acceleration with stability and all-weather agility. Braking in the dry is very good, but in wet conditions it’s more of a challenge – often seeming to be all bark and no bite. The TRP V-brakes do act as unwitting tyre cleaners, though, their cables passing less than 5mm above the rubber and collecting debris as the wheel turns at speed.
The frame has uncompromisingly racy geometry, although the 3D head-tube allows for plenty of adaptation. We found it superbly judged for relentless driving along, with a comfortable position that felt efficient and quick.
The convertible bar and stem combo is well balanced between comfort-giving flex and all-out rigidity. Saddle choice is always subjective – Prologo’s Zero II is very supportive, and incredibly grippy thanks to its CPC covering, but we found its nose overly firm.
With grippy rubber and great balance, the argon 18 is more than happy in the corners: with grippy rubber and great balance, the argon 18 is more than happy in the corners
With grippy rubber and great balance, the Argon 18 is more than happy in the corners
Di2’s lack of cables means cleaner lines, which makes it particularly suited to aero bikes, with Ultegra representing a good balance of function, price and looks.
A compact crankset might not be ideal for high-end performance, and gearing should be a pre-purchase option, but it does allow for extended big ring mashing. We felt a definite connection when applying extra power, with the bike bounding freely forward as a result.
And with grippy rubber and great balance, the Argon 18 is more than happy in the corners, feeling stable and predictable, and while the ride is firm, it’s not ball-bustingly hard. It’s firm with a sense of purpose – which is exactly what you’d expect from a Tour machine.
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