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Argon 18 Gallium Pro review

10 Feb 2017
Verdict:

A lightweight all-rounder offering pro-level performance and responsiveness

Price: 
£2,300 frameset, £6,500 as tested

The chemical element argon, from which this Canadian bike manufacturer takes its name (followed by its atomic number, 18), is derived from the Greek word meaning lazy or inactive.

It refers to the fact that it undergoes almost no chemical reactions, but it’s not really appropriate to the Argon 18 Gallium Pro, which is anything but lazy or unreactive. 

Founder Gervais Rioux was an accomplished athlete, representing Canada in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games during his road racing career.

Buy the Argon 18 Gallium Pro frameset from Amazon now

He also won several national road race titles, so it’s no surprise that racing is in his brand’s DNA.

So too is fit, which was born of the fact that Rioux began his bike-building career hand-crafting custom steel frames from his bike shop in Montreal, prior to taking the plunge with carbon fibre.

Have we met before?

I couldn’t help noticing there are some features of the Gallium Pro that reminded me of a certain other Canadian road brand’s lightweight race frame.

I’m sure I’m not the first to notice the similarity with the Cervélo’s R5, especially given that the companies are practically neighbours.

But Argon 18, while not denying there are similarities, is quick to dismiss my suggestion there is perhaps some cross-pollination resulting from migration of staff between brands. 

Product strategist Michael McGinn offers an alternative reason, saying, ‘Montreal has a very strong aerospace composite engineering background, so it’s more likely an evolution of the mentality of the engineers in this area.

‘Plus,’ he adds, ‘there’s also a lot of design convergence in the cycle industry as a whole right now.’  

Regardless, the Gallium Pro is a stunning road bike from every angle, and Argon 18 has established itself as a top-tier marque.

Pro presence

Being in the pro peloton at WorldTour level is a badge of honour for a bike brand, and it’s to Argon 18’s credit that, despite being a modestly sized company, it has achieved that status for the past two years with the Bora-Argon 18 team, and will continue its presence at the highest level this season with Astana. 

McGinn tells me the Gallium Pro – which is Argon 18’s lightest frame with a claimed weight of 790g for a size medium – will be the go-to bike for the team’s climbers, including Grand Tour contender Fabio Aru, and is likely to be the weapon of choice whenever the stages get vaguely mountainous.

Our test bike, with Fulcrum’s Racing Speed carbon wheels, the latest Dura-Ace 9100 groupset and 3T carbon finishing kit, weighed in at a very pleasing 6.66kg.

If the pros had the same set-up, they would need to add some weight before they could legally race it.

Thankfully I could simply enjoy the Gallium Pro – minus any ballast – and fully benefit from its lack of mass whenever the road pushed its nose skywards. 

As you’d expect, it travels uphill with aplomb. The frame displays a sturdiness in its build quality that comes to the fore when you point the bike uphill and kick hard on the pedals.

These same characteristics also mean that when it comes to acceleration it’s got a turn of pace like a bullet leaving a gun barrel.

For anyone in search of an ego boost, the Gallium Pro is almost certain to contribute to a PB for your favourite hill climb. 

Slack but not slick

Handling-wise Argon 18 has opted for a fairly slack head tube angle for the Gallium Pro, and the perceptible effect is a steering response that’s a little less reactive than other bikes in this pro-level race category.

I got the sensation that the entire bike was tracking through a bend, not just the front end with the back end trailing behind.

If that doesn’t help explain it for you, let’s just say I liked the way the bike handled. I expected it to be far twitchier up front given its urgency in other aspects, but that wasn’t the case. 

I was keen to hear McGinn’s interpretation of the handling. ‘It’s something we’re really proud of and it has taken us years to fine-tune and perfect the geometry,’ he says.

‘But also the fork plays a huge part in the success of the ride feel. The crown is quite large and this contributes a lot to the front-end stability and feel.

‘We like where we landed with Gallium Pro in terms of balance. We never strived for a weight number – we focused on ride characteristics first and foremost.’

The result is that the Gallium Pro corners with predictable accuracy, which gave me the confidence to ride hard on twisting descents.

I’m fairly certain the Gallium Pro’s stability kept me upright when I experienced some rather challenging road conditions during the recent cold snap.

I found myself facing frosty, ungritted lanes and road surfaces slickened by the grimy layers of salt during my testing, but the Gallium Pro (with 85psi in its 25mm Continental GP4000s tyres) kept me secure and still able to clock up some decent mileage.

Three heads are better than one

Not everyone who wants to ride a pro-level frame can contort their body into the same aggressive position as the professionals themselves, so Argon 18’s 3D head tube solution is extremely useful.

3D would appear to mean ‘three depths’, and it allows the head tube height to be adjusted while maintaining its structural integrity.

An insert sits on top of the head tube, with the upper headset bearing sitting on top of the insert. This provides greater support for the steerer tube compared to standard spacers, thus helping with stiffness and handling at the front of the bike. 

The three ‘depths’ are 0mm (no insert), 15mm and 25mm, equating to head tube lengths of 139mm, 153mm and 163mm, so riders of all levels should be able to find the right fit.

Argon 18 claims the system results in 5% (15mm) and 11% (25mm) more rigidity than using spacers.

Press fit

On this updated 2017 model, the inserts are press fit as opposed to the older threaded versions, which helps save a bit of weight and looks a little less industrial in appearance.

I tested the Gallium Pro in its highest (25mm) setting and found its performance exemplary. 

All told, there’s not a lot this bike doesn’t do to a high standard and, although your pockets will need to be fairly deep to own one, it would be a great companion for an Alpine sportive where you can attempt to mimic the climbing abilities of Mr Aru and co.

Buy the Argon 18 Gallium Pro frameset from Amazon now

Verdict

A lightweight all-rounder offering pro-level performance and responsiveness

Spec

Argon 18 Gallium Pro
Frame Argon Nanotech Tubing HM7050 carbon frame and fork
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace 9100
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace 9100
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace 9100
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace 9100
Bars 3T Ergonova Team Stealth
Stem 3T Arx II Team
Seatpost Argon 18 ASP-6550 carbon
Wheels Fulcrum Racing Speed
Saddle ProLogo Zero II Nack CPC
Weight 6.66kg (size M)
Contact i-ride.co.uk

Buy the Argon 18 Gallium Pro frameset from Amazon now

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