The Argon 18 Gallium Pro's innnovative frame design features an adjustable height head tube and offers a balanced ride of comfort and stiffness. A road racer's delight.
We tested the Argon 18 Krypton back in 2011 and found it a solid, stable and comfortable bike. While that model is the third-tier offering from the Montreal-based company, the Gallium Pro we have here is their most expensive and lightest bike, and takes pride of place at the top of the range. Its unique 3D headset provides a range of fit options and the frame is designed to provide comfort and stiffness in equal measure.
Frame and fork
A key and very distinctive feature of the Gallium Pro is the adjustable 3D Headtube, which allows you to choose from three head tube lengths. The system uses thread-in extensions, in a choice of 15 or 25mm, giving you three options of head tube height. Without any extensions the headtube on this 56cm frame measures just 13.9cm, rising to 15.3 and 16.3cm head tubes. Even the tallest option places the Gallium Pro in the company of some of the shortest head tubed bikes available. Just how racers like their bikes then.
The idea of this 3D system is to get away from a stack of unsightly headset spacers. but there's more to it than just aesthetics. The extensions actually form a structural part of the frame, so there's no compromise in stiffness, when raising or lower the head tube height. A sound idea and one that is truly unique. The only other system that even comes closer that I can think of is Look's C-Stem, but that's merely an adjustable stem. Unless you settle with one of the available extensions on Argon 18's system, some spacers are necessary to ensure there's enough steerer tube length for adjustment.
And by chuff it works. With a 25mm spacer and a couple of headset spacers, the front end of the Gallium Pro was as stiff as any other high-end carbon frame's, if not stiffer than some. If you want to be able to easily adjust the fit of your bike, maybe because you want to wean yourself onto the lowest setting for the summer, this is a neater solution than a too-long steerer tube and loads of headset spacers. It not only looks nicer, but is going to be stiffer, without a doubt.
When designing the Gallium Pro, the Argon 18 engineers set about creating a bike that balanced outright stiffness with ride comfort. To achieve this they developed what they've dubbed Horizontal Dual System (HDS). They drew an imaginary line through the frame, from the top of the head tube to the rear dropouts. The frame parts above are skinny and intended to provide dissipation of road vibrations, while below this virtual line the tube profiles are oversized to create the necessary levels of stiffness a frame in this category requires.
So the downtube is hugely oversized, there's a BB86 bottom bracket shell and huge asymmetric chainstays. In contrast, the seat stays are as slender as the skinny top tube, intended to offer some degree of vibration damping. You might expect a 27.2mm seat post as well, but Argon 18 have fitted a 31.6mm seatpost. Yet, despite my reservations, it didn't appear to have any negative impact on the Gallium Pro's comfort, which is nothing short of superlative. More of that later though.
The frame is made from 7000 high-modulus Nano-Tech carbon fibre in a monocoque construction. The geometry differs slightly from the norm with Argon giving the Gallium Pro a low bottom bracket and shorter head tube. The frame weight for a medium size is a claimed 920g, putting it right in the mix among the lightest of the light. Argon's own Ga 31 Pro monocoque fork finishes the front end nicely and weighs 340g. This their own ASP-6500 seatpost at 226g.
The all-important head tube lengths we've already covered, the other vital geometry stats are as follows. A 72.7 degree head angle and 73 degree seat tube, 98cm wheelbase, 40.8cm chainstays and a a 54.4 cm seat tube.
Argon 18 bikes are brought into the UK by i-ride.co.uk (who also look after De Rosa, Merckx, Campagnolo, 3T Speedplay, to name a few brands from their portfolio). You can buy just the frame, fork and seatpost package for £1,999, or they can do you any Campagnolo build you want. The Record, Fulcrum and 3T build pictured here will set you back £5,086.
You could have an Athena and Fulcrum Racing Quattro build for £3,411, to give an idea of where the prices start. It's worth mentioning too that the second-tier Gallium, which actually pops out the identical mould as the Pro but uses less posh carbon fibre, costs £1,599 for the frameset. So that's a good option if you're finding the Gallium Pro's price tag a little on the high side.
Lucky me, I had a Campagnolo Record 11-speed equipped test bike to ride for a short while. The shifting is quite excellent, with a lot more feedback than Shimano and SRAM. The hoods are by far and away the most ergonomic in the hands, but the thumb shifter does take some getting used to.
Showcasing i-ride.co.uk's portfolio of brands were the fine Fulcrum Racing Zero wheels. A little stiff on harsher roads but they spin up extremely quickly and feel great at high speed and when throwing the bike around the lanes. There's nothing bad that can be said about the 3T bars and stem (except the stem was too short for me) and the Prologo Nago Evo saddle I whipped off and replace with a far comfier Prologo Scratch.
Rolling it onto the roadcc scales revealed an impressive 6.79kg (14.9lb) weight. A whisker under the UCI weight limit, a Garmin mount and some bottle cages would be all that would be required to make it legal. Not that I'm ever going to enter a UCI race in my lifetime, so it's a moot point. Stuff the UCI weight limit I say.
The combination of the low weight and the race-ready geometry makes for a bike that is very accurate when you're slinging it down the road and through corners. Handling is sprightly at low speeds and when you crank it up to max velocity it feels very stable, lean it hard into a long sweeping bend and it tracks with confidence.
Unlike some race-ready bikes that can leave you reaching for the phone number of the nearest chiropractor, the Gallium Pro blew me away with how incredibly comfortable it proved to be. Even the roughest roads on my regular training loops couldn't unsettle it. The wheels, not usually the most forgiving, didn't cause any issues either, so good is the frame and fork at smoothing out the road. On one occasion I even stopped to check I had enough air in the tyres. I did.
This unflappable suppleness is the Gallium Pro's most redeeming quality. There's just a hint of feedback through the contact points so you're not completely isolated. And when you get aggressive and throw down some watts it's stiff as a board and will track straight and true as you sprint for the town sign.
Usually you expect race bikes to clobber your back into submission, but that just wasn't the case with the Gallium Pro. Sure, it's low at the front, and even with the tallest extension it might not be to everyone's tastes. But if it is to your taste and you want a fast bike that is as happy being slung around a road race or crit circuit as it is on a leisurely ride to the coast for fish and chips, the Gallium Pro is a surprise hit.
Race ready, smooth riding machine that handles superbly at speed and is just as rewarding when the pace slackens too
road.cc test report
Make and model: Argon 18 Gallium Pro
Size tested: 56
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Combining rigidity, comfort and light weight in ideal proportions, our OPTIMAL BALANCE design and fabrication philosophy has reached its pinnacle with our flagship 2013 Gallium Pro model, official bike of Team SpiderTech powered by C10.
While this uniquely elegant machine is the result of an exhaustive research and development effort, its design wasn't simply a mathematical engineering exercise; the final objective was to come up with a bike that would foster an exceptional synergy between bike and rider, and offer an extraordinary riding experience.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
The 3D System is one such exclusive innovation: this structural adjustment system permits a wide range of handlebar heights for a given frame size without compromising front end stiffness. A higher or lower bar position is easily obtained to suit the rider's physique, fitness level and riding style, all without compromising performance.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Excellent construction, the 3D Headtube system is a remarkable innovation.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is made from 7000 high-modulus Nano-Tech carbon fibre in a monocoque construction.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
A 72.7 degree head angle and 73 degree seat tube and choice of three head tube heights.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
With a longer stem it fitted perfectly.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It was extremely comfortable, with a very supple road manner.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, when sprinting and doing hard efforts.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The huge chainstays clearly transferred power effectively.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Perfect.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The bike handled like all good race bikes, fast and with confidence. Good at low and high speeds equally.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Only the saddle, but that's a personal thing. I changed it for a favourite.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The 3T bars and the Campagnolo cranks.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The fast Fulcrum wheels.
It's Record, so it's no cheap
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Very much so.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, possibly.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,