Nicolai Argon CX Titelbild

A Dream Gravel Bike: Nicolai Argon CX meets SRAM

Sascha 27. November 2017

With winter knocking, I put my plan into action to assemble a dream gravel bike, mating a Nicolai Argon CX frame with the Force 1x groupset and other SRAM bling parts.

“This is exactly the bike that was missing in my line-up!” is a typical line that I have used to justify my bicycle purchases in the past. And I have to say, this time it holds true more than ever. I might even go further and claim that my new custom built Nicolai Argon CX gravel bike could replace a couple of my other bikes altogether. The new rig unites top performance, stability and comfort on any paved and unpaved surface like no other bike I have ridden.

My motivation for building up a gravel bike is two-fold. I started riding MTB as a teenager and switched more and more to riding Road during the last few years. However, on almost every ride I get into a situation where I find myself on an unpaved country road. In addition, the new bikepacking trend is very enticing and I look forward to many micro-adventures with my buddies.

Gravel bikes are great fun on- and off-road and make for a more comfortable ride than an aggressive cross racer.

Gravel bikes are great fun on- and off-road and make for a more comfortable ride than an aggressive cross racer.

Nicolai Argon CX frame and 3T Luteus II LTD Carbon fork 

Yes, the Nicloai Argon features the initials “CX” in its name. However, the geometry specs make it an ideal candidate for a gravel steed. The differences between Cyclocross and Gravel are small anyway and leave much room for discussion.  However, many details in a custom build depend on the individual preferences of the rider. Cyclocross racers normally favour a very agile setup, whereas typical winter training CX bikes are very similar to what the industry calls a gravel bike now.

The Nicloai Argon CX aluminium frame weighs in at 2.1 kilograms and features a very long wheelbase for being a CX frame. The same is true for the top tube, 560 mm in size M, and the reach of 387 mm. The flat head tube angle of 70.5 degrees makes for increased stability and more comfort on longer rides.

Geometry Specs - Nicolai ARGON CX

Geometry Specs - Nicolai ARGON CX

My fork of choice is the 3T Luteus II LTD with room for 27.5” and 2.1" tyres and 28” wheels and 44 mm tyres. It’s a very popular fork for Gravel as well as CX frames and it looks great. You can run it with rotors of up to 180 mm, but I went with 160 mm.

The Argon CX with Zipp’s 303 wheels offers a lot of stability and comfort, especially on gravel at higher speeds.

The Argon CX with Zipp’s 303 wheels offers a lot of stability and comfort, especially on gravel at higher speeds.

Zipp 303 Firecrest® Tubeless Disc Carbon wheels with Challenge Gravel Grinder Pro Tyres

The Zipp 303 is a mean and tough, but still very lightweight and aerodynamic wheelset, which is perfect for off-road use. It weighs in at 1645 grams and is still sturdy enough for a rider up to 115 kilograms. Since I weigh a mere 70 kilograms, it’s certainly built tough enough for me. It’s tubeless ready.

However, I worked with the Challenge Gravel Grinder Pro Open folding tyres in 36 mm  – and was not disappointed. I have put over 200 km on the Challenge tyres, found the ideal pressure of 3 bars and have no intention of switching to other tubeless tyres yet. They run well on dry dirt and road. I’m curious to see how they perform in the mud.

The Force brake provide alot of control and modulation when bombing downhill.

The Force brake provide alot of control and modulation when bombing downhill.

SRAM Force 1 groupset

I have no idea what gravel life would be like without 1x drivetrains. The Force 1 works flawlessly and I have all the gears I need. I’m riding a 42T chainring and a 10-42 cassette as I need the smaller gears for the steep hills, especially with heavy bikepacking gear.

A Gravel Bike is the perfect way to mate a variety of riding styles.

A Gravel Bike is the perfect way to mate a variety of riding styles.

Bars – Stem – Seatpost: Zipp Service Course and a Brooks Cambium C17 All Weather Saddle 

With bikepacking in mind, I selected the bars, stem and seatpost from the Zipp Service Course line. Weight was less important than durability. My saddle choice, a Brooks Cambium C17 was based on the same criteria. Of course, the Zipp parts go well with the wheels. I went with a wide 44 cm handlebar to have a little more control and better handling.

I had always been intrigued with Brooks saddles, but none of my pervious bicycles were really the kind to go with one. My new Nicolai gravel bike however, is a perfect match. I’m stoked. The natural rubber combined with a nylon liner look great and so far my behind has been super happy. 

A Gravel Bike's flexibility is what really fascinates me.

A Gravel Bike's flexibility is what really fascinates me.

My verdict

After 120 km on paved surfaces and 140 km on trails and gravel fire roads, my new Nicolai Argon CX has become my favourite bike. I love the performance on – and off-road. The 9.9 kilogram gravel bike unites all the qualities I’m looking for in a great winter bike. SRAM’s Force 1 and Zipp components function flawlessly and are equally to credit for this post’s Dream Gravel Bike title.

Give me your thoughts on my gravel build. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sascha

Sascha

Blog comments are published with first name and first letter of surname.
Blog comments are published with first name and first letter of surname.