Reviewed: Argon18 Nitrogen Pro
The Nitrogen transfers rough roads to the hands and backside with unfortunate efficiency, but power is transferred just as efficiently to the rear wheel, and it feels as slippery in the wind as anything we’ve ridden. It’s a give and take, as so many aero bikes are.
The question, then, is does the good outweigh the bad? That depends on you, and your riding style. Love a good breakaway, hitting out alone, just you and your power and the wind? Love the occasional weeknight time trial? Maybe even dabble in triathlon? For you, the Nitrogen’s scale tips toward “buy it.” It’s head-down, ride hard in a straight line kind of bike, and thanks to its slippery frame shapes and integrated brakes, it will reward your watts with more speed than most.
That’s not to say it the Nitrogen doesn’t handle well. It does. Argon 18 took few chances with geometry, sticking with a near-73 (72.7) head angle and 100.3cm wheelbase on our size large. The result is stable handling at high speeds, handling that is particularly good in the drops or in aero bars, with extra weight on the front end. It’s more road racer than crit rat, but it is capable of tackling either discipline.
The tri-curious will love the reversible seatpost, which allows the Nitrogen to switch into triathlon mode faster than you can say “wetsuit,” or “pee while riding,” or “knee-length compression socks,” or even “tank top with arm warmers.”
On second thought, consider avoiding triathlon mode.
Now, those brakes. It’s true that non-standard brakes are not our favorite, but a few companies have stepped away from traditional dual-pivot calipers with success. The new Trek Madone is one example; Giant’s Propel is another. The Nitrogen uses the same basic design as the Propel, which borrows its linear-pull brake concept from 1990s mountain bikes. So yes, the Nitrogen has V-brakes.
“But I remember the ‘90s, and I distinctly recall not being able to stop,” you say. Well, for one thing you won’t likely be riding your Nitrogen in the mud. For another, the stiff, short arms of the Nitrogen’s integrated brakes combine with increased leverage of a road brake lever for brake feel that is actually quite good. They’re not Dura-Ace calipers, but the Nitrogen’s stoppers offer plenty of power and modulation in a sleek, drag-reducing package. Descending on some aero bikes is scary; the Nitrogen is not one of those bikes.
Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Vision’s underrated, 55mm-deep wheels complete the sleek, let’s-go-fast-all-day package.