Each bike has a specific purpose, and that is why the design and geometry of a road bike will not be the same as that of a cyclocross bike, despite they both have drop bars. During the last fifteen years, engineers and bike builders have been experimenting with optimizing every possible aspect and at a certain point, the changes in the geometry were barely visible. Nonetheless, that is not the case for gravel bikes, which being in the middle of both worlds, have been constantly evolving to meet the demands of the market and racing style.
The North-American custom-built carbon frame brand Argonaut has been following this progression and with the release of the GR3 (Gravel Racer Three) they continue to push the envelope of what is possible with carbon fiber. Born from the desire to specifically address the needs of the modern gravel cyclist, the GR3 is a major leap forward in gravel bike design, addressing everything found on a typical “gravel” ride: a mix of road, smooth gravel, rough terrain, and eventual single tracks. In the first edition of GiRodeo held by The Service Course in collaboration with Enve Composites we had the chance to see it and try it, and what an amazing ride it was.
A bike made for gravel racing (or not)
The GR3 is meant to go fast through all types of terrain you might encounter on a gravel ride. Professional gravel racing is the ultimate testing ground due to the power, speeds, duration, and harsh conditions found only on race day, and victories and podiums at the biggest races around the US are proof of it. The GR3’s GravelFirst™ geometry connects you to your terrain like no other. Custom-tuned carbon fiber layup reacts to every movement, keeping you locked in to every moment and giving a direct connection to the surrounding. The GR3 is the clash of a full-on enduro bike with a pure roadie, blurring the edge of what an advanced custom gravel machine is capable of.
At the core of the GR3 is the GravelFirst™ geometry, representing a significant leap forward in gravel bike design. The frame and fork have been designed with wide tire clearance, which allows you to mount up to 50c tires. However, this has not limited the industry’s best 415mm long chainstay, which brings the rear wheel close to the bottom bracket making the bike jump at every pedal stroke and allowing you to easily carve through tight and technical turns. The low, 75mm bottom bracket drop and slack 68.5º front end result in a very stable overall control when going downhill, skipping over ruts, and ripping through corners as you were flying.
The core element separating the GR3 bike or any other Argonaut bike from the rest is their ability to custom make and tune every frame to address the physiology, ride style, and preferred terrain of each rider. Every tube, head tube, bottom bracket, and seat cluster are layed up by hand, specifically addressing the needs of the customer. Thus, they have a custom carbon layup pattern delivering unique ride quality through the refinement of torsional stiffness and vertical compliance.
Besides the aforementioned, the GR3 is furnished with a responsive and rocksteady fork, internal cable routing for clean cockpits, a sloping top tube to lower the center of gravity, and the Argonaut stem designed in-house for stiffness, durability, and improved ride quality. All in all, the bike is a two-sided product between the brand and the customer and different paint jobs are also available.
Our impressions from the ride
On the first ride of the GiRodeo, which had a rather rolling terrain, we were able to have the first contact with the Argonaut GR3 and one word jumped directly to our minds, speed. Its geometry is designed for the purest American gravel style, with a long front part that makes it very stable and allows you to ride fast. However, that does not mean that it is slow in the corners since we can get into them without any problem thanks to the shorter rear. It compensates the front part and although we have to be more aware in very tight turns, if you are able to carve as in a MTB, this bike will allow you to do it and will make you come out of the corner even faster. By having short chainstays, Argonaut had to find a compromise between the maximum tire width and the space of the chainring, so they went for wide tires and a single chainring, following the market trends.
Exchanging opinions with other participants of the event, several builders, including those who work with steel, have agreed that the GR3 is an incredible piece of engineering and art. Not only does it have an unusual geometry, but the finishes and the design in general are very elaborate. Thus, the Argonaut GR3 is a bike made for speed but at the same time transmits good riding sensations and is comfortable for long rides.