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I have a $15,000 bike sitting on the back of my truck right now. The fair market value of my 2002 Toyota Tacoma currently sits around $5,000. I am, in essence, a cycling cliché at the moment: My bike costs three times more than my truck.
But I didn’t pay for the bike. Some people would pay that amount for Argonaut’s Road Disc bike. The question is, should you?
Manufacturing a carbon frame is time-consuming and expensive. Large manufacturers can cut those costs by focusing on production volume and refining processes and suppliers. Smaller companies have more difficulty keeping prices down. For boutique carbon builders who are laying carbon by hand, it’s nearly impossible to create a high-end carbon bike at an affordable price.
That could explain — at least partially — the breathtaking price tag on Argonaut’s Road Disc bike. But let’s not kid ourselves: $15,000 is not a justifiable price tag for any bicycle. Why does Argonaut think you should part with that much money for its bike?
“It’s a good question and something that I find myself having to defend often to people who don’t know the process,” says Argonaut founder Ben Farver. “It’s easy to do so because it comes down to the engineering that’s in the bike. Every bike is made from scratch from the raw material, so we don’t get any economy of scale in batch making, in any part of the frame. It’s all made from raw material, laid up on a rigid latex bladder, with a rider’s specific layup pattern, and he gets his own 3D CAD file, his specific geometry, then going all the way down the line to the fabrication of the frame itself and the paint execution, and the tailored build everything down to the bar tape.”
On top of that, Farver says, he pays US labor rates, health insurance, liability insurance, and everything else that comes with creating a U.S.-made product. Even the carbon is sourced from the U.S.: Mitsubishi manufactures it in Newport, CA.
But even if U.S.-made products don’t whet your whistle, there’s much to appreciate about the Road Disc. It’s dialed, from fit to finish. It’s sub-16 pounds, it rides like a dream, and when you order one, the focus is entirely on you. There’s very little that’s stock about this bike.
The ride itself is befitting of a bike this expensive, made with this much care. It’s smooth, responsive, comfortable — basically all of the elements we talk about when we sing the praises of our favorite bike. I couldn’t find much fault in the ride quality or build. It was impeccable. The only way I could think to improve this ride would be to add dropped seatstays for a bit more comfort, but frankly, the bike was plenty comfortable anyway.
That’s largely due to what Farver calls “flex that makes sense.” The super-thin tube shapes are a striking feature of this bike, and that’s done to allow flex where it’s needed. It also keeps weight down, which conversely allows Farver to reinforce areas that need it to enhance lateral stiffness. The design seems to work quite well, offering enough compliance that you’d think this had dropped seat stays if you weren’t looking.
And the paint job is incredible. It’s done in Bend, Oregon, and the process comes from the automotive industry. It ultimately creates a translucent finish that shows off the carbon weave below with a shiny sheen that warrants a second look close up. It’s finishing touches like these that make the Argonaut seem worth the exorbitant price — almost, anyway.
I asked Farver about the quality control process on the Argonaut road bikes today, and it sounds exhaustive.
It’s a three-part process that involves weighing and documenting each individual component of the frame, compression-testing every head tube, and stress-testing one out of every twenty frames that go out the door. It’s clear Argonaut has taken its product seriously and learned from past mistakes.
Farver also touts the bike’s geometry as a major selling point. While customers will get the full fit discussion to ensure the frame fits perfectly, my test bike was more of a stock model.
The overall fit of the Road Disc bike felt completely dialed to me, which is striking since I didn’t send Argonaut any of my measurements. (If you’re ready to plunk down this much cash for a custom bike, rest assured that you will, indeed, send in your measurements, along with a whole lot of other information that will help the builder create the perfect bike for you.) This bike felt as though it was, indeed, made specifically for me.
After riding this bike extensively, it was hard to find any faults in its ride characteristics, handling, build, and finish. It’s an excellent product. Even so, the price is a lot to swallow. If I was a customer who could afford such things, I’m certain I’d come away from the experience feeling like I had spent my money well. For the rest of us, this halo product sits more than arm’s length away. If you’re budget-conscious, you can certainly find bicycles that ride just as well at nearly half the cost.