Feature: Argon 18 Dark Matter Gravel Bike – Sea Otter 2018

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

“Argon 18 is a Canadian bicycle manufacturer founded in 1989 by retired cyclist, Gervais Rioux in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The name is derived from the element Argon, which is number 18 on the periodic table of elements. In June 2017, Argon 18 became the official supplier to Canada’s national road, track and para-cycling cycling teams, through the 2020 Olympic Games.” Source, Wikipedia. The company also supplies bikes to the Astana World Tour Team.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

The Dark Matter is Argon 18’s first foray into the gravel bike market. In 2017, they did test the waters a little with their Krypton endurance bike, which was a departure from the company’s tradition of aggressive geometry road bikes.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

The Dark Matter features shorter chainstays than the earlier mentioned Krypton bike (sorry, no geometry figures available at this time), but not so short that tyre clearance is compromised.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

A 700c x 45mm tyre will fit between these chainstays and beneath the fork, but no reference is made to the bike’s ability to handle 650b wheels.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

However, if you notice the drop down drive side chainstay, that feature lends itself well to big tyre clearance, including 650b, possibly somewhere in the area of 2.1″ wide.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

Argon 18 spec the Dark Matter with SRAM’s excellent Force 1 x 11 single chainring / 1x groupset.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

The front end of the Dark Matter features the company’s “3D Plus” headset cap system, that can raise the stem 0mm, 15mm or 30mm.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

The “3D Plus” system is similar to the headset system employed by Parlee with their Chebacco gravel bike. Regardless, this systems lends itself to a very clean looking front end.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

Cables are internalized through this removable port cover.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

Above, another view of the Dark Matter’s “3D Plus” headset cap system.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

Curved fork legs buck the trend of many modern gravel bikes, but this aeons old design is designed to flex and absorb vibrations.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

Above, the front brake housing is routed neatly through the inside of the fork. The fork does include well-hidden fender mounts.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

Flat-mount front SRAM Force hydraulic brake caliper, paired with a 160mm rotor.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

Once again, flat-mount disc brake caliper on the rear, and 160mm rotor. Note the Argon 18 logo on the rear 142 x 12mm thru-bolt.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

Above, the dropped drive-side chainstay can be seen and the added detail of an Argon 18 logo’d frame protector behind the SRAM Force crankset.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

A 42 tooth front single chainring paired to a 42 tooth big cog on the rear cassette provides a one to one gear ratio, perfect for scaling some seriously steep hills. The Dark Matter also supports a front derailleur / double chainring drivetrain, and the downtube protector pictured above (hidden behind the crankset) provides a mounting point for another bottle cage, and can be removed to expose a cable port for easy access to route cables, servicing, etc.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review
Photo supplied by our friends at BikeRumor.com

Pictured above is the neat removable front derailleur mount. It mounts to the frame using the seat tube water bottle cage bolts, but still allows a bottle cage to be mounted to the frame.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

SRAM’s Force 11 clutch rear derailleur is well proven in challenging conditions.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

The down low seat stays add a racy look to the rear of the bike, which play well with the bike’s short chainstays. Those features suggest the bike is targeted more towards gravel racing, but the Dark Matter would likely do well toting around an extra bottle cage and frame bag or two.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

Pricing and availability are unknown at this time, and Argon 18 do not list the Dark Matter on their website at the time of writing. Expect that to change in the near future.

argon 18 dark matter gravel bike review

According to representatives of Argon 18 on-site, the Dark Matter frame in size Medium weighs approximately 1,300 grams with paint but sans accessories, whilst the fork weighs approximately 470 grams.

Thanks for reading!

Argon 18

11 comments on “Feature: Argon 18 Dark Matter Gravel Bike – Sea Otter 2018

  1. Interesting: “However, if you notice the drop down drive side chainstay, that feature lends itself well to big tyre clearance, including 650b, possibly somewhere in the area of 2’1″ wide.”

    Are you sure 25″ wide tyres will fit? That might be overkill. 😉

  2. Jayson, from your post “Curved fork legs buck the trend of many modern gravel bikes, but this aeons old design is designed to flex and absorb vibrations.”, well hell yes! I was wondering with the design flexibility of carbon fiber, why haven’t the manufacturers figured out how to make a fork more compliant? On my Chebacco, I can feel that the rear absorbs a lot more energy that that stiff fork. Yes, it’s nice to have the stiffness for tracking and steering effects, but it sure make for a rough ride. Looks like Argon has figured that out.
    Can you get a test ride…I would be most interested in your opinion!

  3. I love the looks of this bike. The details is really making me drewl.
    Though i am not sure i believe it handles 650B 2.1 tires, which would kill it for me.
    A curved fork design for flex!?
    I doubt that will generate much in comparison to a Lauf grit.

    What strikes me every time when a new bike is coming, is that non of them is even near a fork that is playing in the same ballpark as Lauf Grit. I have this fork and i must admit, every time i mount a stiff fork, i am amazed of how much the Grit absorbs vibrations and makes the whole bike just paze over terrain which almost rattles my teeth out when i’m on the stiff fork.
    I would really love to see a new gravel bike with a dedicated designed light weight suspension fork.
    I don’t believe the revolution of gravel is ongoing when i just see another framesets with a stiff fork.

    Niners ideal of a full suspension is perhaps nice if you ride (only) harsh gravel + trails, but it will be heavy and waste energy.

    1. I am curious as to what tyre pressure you are running. I reviewed the Lauf fork, and found it mostly ineffective on bigger hits. On washboard / corrugated roads, it was a non-performer (my video proved this), but then again, so is every other type of suspension – it simply cannot rebound fast enough. Additionally, I don’t like the lack of rebound control of the Lauf fork. Out of the saddle, it is almost akin to a pogo stick. However, some people love the Lauf, and the technology has definitely put more people on bikes. If had to choose suspension, I’d go with the Fox AX. With that said, I’m a fan of bigger tyres and appropriate tyre pressure, that is my suspension. I have spotted several riders sporting suspension, yet their tyres are set to 60psi… no wonder they need suspension!

  4. Usually around 33-35psi front and and 45-49 psi rear.
    I am 85Kg’s.
    Usually on 47-50mm 650B tires.

  5. I saw this bike ridden at lost and found gravel grinder. Super sweet! This is not argon 18’s first foray into gravel, I rode my krypton x road with my lauf grit fork at lost and found. Clearance for 35 mil tire in back, disc brakes and low bottom bracket height has been the formula for serious gravel fun for me with the x road, from grinduro to lost and found and all my local trail networks. Dark matter, looks like argon has locked in advances in gravel design trends to showcase their take on a beautiful allroad machine. Big tire clearance, flat Mount disc, through axle and viable 1x gearing. Looking good!

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