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Close look: The lively Argon 18 Krypton frame is ready for just about any ride

Take the all-road bike on an around-the-world trek or adventures close to home

Argon 18 Krypton Photo by: Nick Iwanyshyn

It’s hard to put a hole in a bike frame. To be more specific, putting a mount or an opening for a brake hose or a storage compartment within a carbon-fibre tube means you have to reinforce that part. There’s some extra finessing needed on the engineering side. Argon 18 knows the ins and outs of such features. For example, its designers put a storage compartment near the bottom bracket of the E-119 Tri+ Disc bike. Still, Mark Beaumont didn’t want storage on the new Krypton.

You might have thought Beaumont, an endurance and adventure rider who holds the record for circumnavigating the world by bike, would dig the extra spot to stash things. The Edinburgh-based cyclist is also an Argon 18 advisor. “I feel my job with Argon 18 is to be a friend and a challenger—to be outside enough to not agree with everyone—but ultimately to respect their experience,” he says. “They are far better bike designers than I am.”

When Beaumont learned about the proposed storage compartment for the Krypton, he definitely adopted the role of challenger. “I thought it was a bit gadgety. Despite the fittings on the bike for bikepacking and fenders, I wanted the bike to look sleek. I wanted it to look high-performance. I didn’t want it to be like a Christmas tree with lots of stuff hanging off of it. Anything you add on to the bike like that, I want it to age as well as the rest of the bike does. So, this idea of having an integrated tool space—I needed convincing. There were probably six weeks of conversation. The design team came back with a prototype. Eventually, I said, ‘That looks great.’”

Argon 18 Krypton
The Argon 18 Krypton features a storage compartment at the bottle cage mounts on the down tube. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn

Ethestically, the compartment fits with the bike. It works well, too. On the engineering side, there’s also a certain elegance. According to Alexandre Côté, Argon 18 road and gravel product manager, the shape of the down tube actually provides support for the storage compartment opening. Designers only had to add a little bit of extra material for reinforcement.

The road to the new Argon 18 Krypton

The design process of the new Krypton, with its ensuing debates, began in summer 2021. Before that, there was the first generation of the endurance bike. Argon 18 announced the Krypton CS and Krypton GF in August 2017. Two years later, the Krypton Pro came out. It was the top-end bike with a more refined carbon-fibre layup. It was even raced at Paris-Roubaix.

Following the bike’s introduction, it quickly became one of the company’s most popular bikes. But, by 2021, it needed a refresh.

What the new Argon 18 Krypton needed

According to Alexandre Côté, the fit of the Krypton didn’t need to change. That’s the feedback he got from Beaumont as well as through the company’s own research. The Krypton, like many of Argon 18’s bikes, uses the 3D+ fit system. It lets you add a good number of millimetres of height to the stem, if you need it, without compromising stiffness and, let’s face it, esthetics.

So if the fit geometry was dialed, what needed fixing? “The interaction of the bike with the road or the surface it was on needed to change,” Côté says. “By interaction, I mean handling, the reactivity on the climbs. We wanted something with a sportier feeling. But most of all, we wanted to improve the comfort at the front end.” Things were just too stiff up front.

Argon 18 Krypton
The dropped chainstays of the new Argon 18 Krypton bring the rear wheel a bit closer to the bottom bracket compared with the first-generation frame. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn

Also, the team at Argon 18 wanted to address some discrepancies it noticed between the top-end Krypton Pro and the entry-level GS and CS models. The geometry of all those models was the same, but the layup was different. In most cases, the carbon fibre used in the entry-level models is heavier than the high-end stuff, and might not be set with the same precision. Usually, you only notice the weight difference between the top-tier and the bikes beneath. In the case of the Krypton models, the Pro actually handled better by virtue of its layup. With the new models—Krypton Pro and Krypton—Argon 18 wanted to close that performance gap. “The Pro gets the Pro treatment, but that doesn’t mean the entry level gets the entry-level treatment. We wanted the two bikes to be similar in terms of ride feel,” Côté says.

The new Argon 18 Krypton: Make it snappier, make it more comfortable

Compared with the old Krypton, the new bike has shorter chainstays. On a size medium, they’ve gone from 42.0 cm to 41.5 cm. With the slightly tighter wheelbase that results, along with the new layup, the bike does get that added liveliness that Argon 18 was after.

While the 5 mm change (2 mm for sizes small and extra small) has a notable effect, Côté cautions that you shouldn’t make too much out of some of the other differences in geometry numbers. Take the head tube, for example. On a size medium, it’s 16.4 cm on the new frame, 1.5 cm longer than the old model’s head tube. But Côté and his team were more concerned with keeping a similar stack and reach between the old and new Kryptons. Back to that size medium frame, there’s only a 4 mm difference in stack across first generation and second generation bikes, and only 2 mm difference in reach. So, pretty much the same.

Argon 18 Krypton
The redesigned front fork of the Argon 18 Krypton added 15 per cent more compliance at the front, which a a serious boost in comfort. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn

The front fork of the old Krypton has a noticeable bend in its blades. You can see this shaping on Argon 18’s gravel bikes—the Dark Matter and the Grey Matter—as they inherited their forks from the Krypton. On the new frame, the fork blades are much straighter. Côté says the new design gained a whopping 15 per cent more compliance at the front, significantly boosting rider comfort while keeping the handling sharp.

Argon 18 Krypton tire clearance: lots

While the new Krypton has shorter chainstays, it also has more tire clearance. If you have a 2-by SRAM AXS drivetrain, such as Force or Rival, you can fit tires as wide as 38c. A Shimano Di2 road group (Dura-Ace, Ultegra, 105) allows for a maximum of 35c. If you go 1-by, you’re into gravel bike territory with room for 40c treads. If you take advantage of the frame’s fender mounts, you’ll get a reduction in tire clearance.

I asked Côté if he thought the new Krypton would make an appearance at Paris-Roubaix as the old Pro model had. He suspects pro riders would opt for the Argon 18 Sum Pro, the company’s flagship race bike. Like many top-end road machines, it has room for a good amount of rubber, about 30c. But for me, if I were to do the Paris-Roubaix Challenge, Côté recommends the Krypton. I’m inclined to agree with him.

Argon 18 Krypton
The frame of the Argon 18 Krypton has clearance for 40c tires, if the bike is outfitted with a 1-by drivetrain. A 2-by drivetrain can give you a clearance ranging from 35c to 38c. Pictured is a 30c Vittoria Rubino Pro. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn

Features with flexibility

Beaumont advocated for a bike that isn’t overly complicated. The seatpost has a standard, 27.2-mm diameter. “If Mark were to do another attempt to get an around-the-world record, which I’m pretty sure he isn’t planning to,” Côté says, “but if he were in that position, what would happen if his seatpost breaks? If he’s supported, sure, he could have another seatpost with him. But if you’re an unsupported rider, what do you do? You wait for Argon 18 to ship you one to Ulaanbaatar because you have a specific D-shape seatpost and your clamp has fallen down to your bottom bracket. All of this for an aero advantage? For the Krypton, such as seatpost doesn’t match. It doesn’t fit the simplicity, reliability and versatility of this bike. Instead, it just makes sense to use a post that can be serviceable from almost anywhere in the world.”

Argon 18 Krypton
The Argon 18 Krypton has a 27.2-mm diameter seatpost. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn

The T47 bottom bracket on the new bikes—which threads into place—is arguably easier to service than a press-fit BB that requires a press.

The first generation of Krypton Pro had its cable and brake hoses hidden in its stem. Now, the new Pro and regular Krypton resemble the old entry-level model: beneath the stem, you can see the brake hoses run from the bars to the top of the head tube. This design gives you the option to use a range of components at the front of the bike. The Krypton I tested has an FSA Energy SCR Compact bar, which I liked on my tarmac-oriented rides. If my riding on the Krypton were to skew more toward gravel, I’d opt for the Cadex AR handlebar I have on my gravel bike. The switch would be fairly painless.

Argon 18 Krypton
The brake hoses are visible, not fully integrated, on the Argon 18 Krypton. This design makes stem and handlebar swaps a little easier. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn

Canadian prices for 2023 Argon 18 Krypton models

Argon 18 Krypton models Spec Canadian price
Krypton Pro SRAM Force AXS $11,350
Krypton Pro frameset $6,400
Krypton SRAM Force AXS $7,600
Krypton SRAM Rival AXS (Plus) $6,300
Krypton SRAM Rival AXS $5,900
Krypton SRAM Rival 22 $4,300

Argon 18 Krypton first impressions

My test model is a standard Krypton frame (not the top-tier Krypton Pro carbon-fibre formula) with what the company calls the SRAM Rival AXS (Plus) build. It has a 10-36 tooth cassette and 48/35-tooth chainrings. It rolls on Hunt 4 Season Disc wheels with 30c Vittoria Rubino Pro tires. My scale says the whole bike weighs 8.62 kg.

A common refrain I have for all-road bikes is “it handles well, for an all-road bike.” The Krypton, however, handles well. Full stop. The company has achieved a peppy ride feel with the new bike. It reacted well to my accelerations and took me through hard corners easily. I only had a minimal amount of spacers added above the head tube, which put me slightly upright, but not perched. I wasn’t in an aggressive race-bike position, but I still felt strong and efficient as I pedalled.

I took the Argon 18 Krypton on all kinds of roads, naturally. It was smooth on tarmac and handled great on gravel, the farm and cottage country variety. I liked the gearing and its steps between cogs best on gravel roads. For tarmac, there were a few occasions when I was looking for the right gear.

The comfort offered by the frame is quite good. In the later stages of my long rides, my legs would be sore from all the pedallng, but my contact points wouldn’t be protesting. I’m impressed by the speed, comfort and easy-going, ready-for-anything nature of the Argon 18 Krypton. My ride essentials aren’t coming out of its storage compartment anytime soon.

Argon 18 Krypton
Argon 18 Krypton. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn
Argon 18 Krypton
Argon 18 Krypton. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn
Argon 18 Krypton
Argon 18 Krypton. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn
Argon 18 Krypton
Argon 18 Krypton. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn
Argon 18 Krypton
Argon 18 Krypton. Image: Nick Iwanyshyn