Argon 18 has released a new bike for ranging far and wide on gravel: the Argon 18 Grey Matter. The Montreal-based company drew from its carbon-fibre gravel racer, the Dark Matter, to create a bike for tackling long, rough routes. The Grey Matter’s frame is aluminum and it has features that let you load up for multi-day bikepacking trips.
New frame, lots of mounts
The Grey Matter frame isn’t exactly an aluminum-ified Dark Matter. The Grey Matter doesn’t have the Dark Matter’s curved top tube, seatstays with bends at the seat tube and dropped drive-side chainstay. Still, the Grey Matter has some modern touches with the sloping top tube and lowered seatstays to boost stiffness. The carbon fork has the signature bends first introduced on the endurance-focused Krypton and then adjusted for gravel on the Dark Matter. The bends help to lessen the effects of road vibrations. In the case of the Grey Matter, its fork has mounting points to help you carry extra gear on big outings.
On the subject of mounts, there are two on the top tube, five on the down tube and three on the seat tube. You can also affix fenders and a rear rack.
The frame has clearance for 42c tires on a 700c wheel. You can go as wide as 47c with 650b hoops.
Changes in geometry compared with the Argon 18 Dark Matter
If you take a medium-size Grey Matter and compare it with a Dark Matter of the same size, you’ll see a few differences. The Grey Matter’s wheelbase, 102.7 cm, is 3 mm shorter. The head tube at 160 mm is 11 mm shorter. The bottom-bracket drop (7.5 cm) is 0.5 cm greater. The stack of the Grey Matter (58.5 cm) is 0.5 cm less, and the reach (38.8 cm) is 1 mm greater.
The Grey Matter has Argon 18’s 3D+ fit system. It is an innovative way to add stack at the head tube without relying too heavily on spacers. Too many spacers beneath your stem reduces the stiffness at the front end. With the 3D+, you add an extension that contains the top bearing for the headset. My model came with a 25-mm 3D+ extension and a 15-mm cap on top of that, through which the cables and hoses pass. I set the stem on top of the 15-mm cap.
The smart spec of the Argon 18 Grey Matter
My test bike, on which I’ve done a few rides, has well-chosen, solid-value components. The drivetrain is SRAM Rival 1 with a 40-tooth chainring working with an 11-42 tooth cassette. Many of the other parts are by FSA: headset, stem and 27.2-mm Gossamer seatpost. The FSA Adventure Compact handlebar has a bit more flare than I like, 12 degrees, so I’m not a fan of the position it puts my hands in at the hoods. In the drops, however, it’s comfortable and offers great control. I do like the Vision Team Aero i23 AGX wheels. They are really good value aluminum hoops that roll well and can take what you throw at them.
Prices for the Argon 18 Grey Matter models
|SRAM Rival 1||$3,300|
|SRAM Apex 1||$2,900|
First ride impressions of the Argon 18 Grey Matter
I was impressed with the Argon 18 Grey Matter on my first rides. I liked its sibling, the Dark Matter, but I remember thinking its handling could be a bit sharper. I chalked it up to the tall 3D+ configuration I had on that particular Dark Matter. The latest Grey Matter I’m testing is nicely responsive. (It also has a slightly lower stack.) I took it on some twisty trails, and it was game.
On steep singletrack inclines, the Grey Matter climbed very well. I could find a good balance point to keep traction easily. Compared with my personal gravel racer, the Grey Matter needs less finessing to maintain grip. Part of the reason Argon 18’s bike is good at trucking up steep stuff is the wide-range gearing on the Grey Matter.
Over rough trails and roads, I could move quickly. But I feel you could get more out of this bike with a tubeless setup. The 38c Vittoria Terreno Dry tires had good grip, yet they lacked the more suspension-like behaviour that comes with wide tubeless tires.
So far, I’m having fun on the Grey Matter. It’s a straight-ahead machine that can take you on various roads and trails. It comes at a good price, which, ideally, leaves you with a bit of extra dough…for frame bags.