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The Argon 18 Subito is a great gravel bike.
It’s a real joy to ride, supremely playful, agile, fast, and confidence-inspiring to ride. Actually, it’s much more than a great gravel bike… it’s a great gravel eBike!
And that makes things so much better.
My Gravel eBike Experience So Far
I’ve already tested two Specialized Turbo Creo SL eBikes. These bikes are widely considered the pinnacle of gravel eBikes – a benchmark in terms of what can be achieved if money is no problem.
But here’s the thing: I like to a bike first, and then if the occasion calls, add some assistance from the electric motor.
I’ve found the Argon 18 Subito to be a bike first, where you can ride it without any assistance and still have a great time. In comparison, the Turbo Creo SL feels like an e-Bike first.
This is a very crucial difference and I’ll soon explain why.
The Argon 18 Subito Gravel eBike
Argon 18 knows how to design fast bikes. Their Dark Matter gravel bike was one of the most fun and enjoyable gravel bikes that I have tested so far.
But adding eBike components to a bike usually adds weight, and often requires a higher frame stiffness too. These two factors often kill the agility and feel of the bike.
But then, there is a guy called Martin Faubert, the lead designer at Argon 18, who decided to defy this logic and create something special. You can read my interview with him HERE.
The Subito is the cousin of the Dark Matter gravel bike, and both are based on Krypton frame. The Subito might be significantly heavier at 12kg (26.5lb) but it’s still super agile and very fun to ride, even with the motor off.
Compared to the Dark Matter model, the comfort level is also improved on the Subito. This is because it has a shorter seat tube, which exposes more of the seatpost. And more exposed seatpost = more flex = more comfort.
The wide Challenge Gravel Grinder 700x43mm tires (measuring 45mm on the Vision rims) can be easily ridden at 25 psi front and rear, which also improves the overall comfort.
I definitely recommend maxing out the comfort on this bike because it will beg you to ride it hard and fast. I installed a Redshift ShockStop stem and Redshift ShockStop seatpost, which had me riding comfortably at the maximum speed (25km/h) without feeling tired or beaten up.
Bike Setup For The Comfort Test
I compared the vibration levels of the Argon 18 Subito against my titanium benchmark bike on my two local test tracks.
The differences were in the tires, handlebars, and fork.
The handlebar on the Subito was an FSA Adventure Compact Alloy while the benchmark bike used a Coefficient Wave handlebar.
And the fork was the Argon 18 Dark Matter fork on the Subito, and OPEN U-Turn fork on the benchmark bike.
Vibration Test Results
You can see my vibration measurement procedure & outdoor test courses HERE.
As you can see, the Subito is comparable in terms of vibration damping when it comes to the rear of the bike. This is for both the bumpy forest trail and the fast gravel road. This is simply due to the superb Redshift ShockStop seatpost that can make the rear of almost any bike comfortable.
Where it differs is at the front. The different front tire, fork, and handlebar of the Subito resulted in 2% less vibration damping on the bumpy forest trail and 9% less on the fast gravel road.
I suspect that more than half of the vibration difference at the front is made up of the different tires. In my recent supple tire comfort test, the WTB Byway damped 5% more vibrations than the Challenge Gravel Grinder on the fast gravel road.
Yes, let’s finally talk about the electric support that this bike provides.
The Subito uses a Mahle 250W rear hub motor that provides up to 40Nm torque. This is not a big number when compared to mid-drive motors from companies like Bosch or even Fazua.
The motor is also not as sophisticated as the others in terms of sensitiveness or response to pedal inputs. The support it provides really depends on how quickly the cassette is turning relative to the hub. This means that you can just slightly jiggle the pedals forward and backward to get something like a moped!
It also means that this motor is also slow to disengage when you stop pedalling. This takes some time to adjust, especially when you like to pedal until the very last moment before hitting a tight corner. This is also not the best when you are riding on the verge of 25km/h as it does not disengage very smoothly, in fact, it really just switches between its on and off modes.
So yes, mid-motors are much more reactive to the rider input. But I actually prefer the primitive rear hub motor because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to mimic my every move. It’s just a blunt shove of assistance when I need it.
This motor and rider decoupling seems to even contribute to the fact that the Subito feels like a bike first.
Another reason the Subito is a bike first is the standard bottom bracket shell and standard Q-factor. It feels just like any other gravel bike, and there is literally zero resistance at the cranks with the motor off.
For The Joy of Riding
I like to think I’m in good physical form. I can easily do 80 or even 100 kilometre long gravel rides. But even when I feel particularly strong, there are times in my long rides when I feel tired, or dare to say, slightly bored. This is usually somewhere near the end.
Those are the moments when the Argon 18 Subito shines because you can pedal without a lot of physical effort, increasing your ride enjoyment until you’ve got your energy back.
The other occasion where I found Subito great is for commuting. I love riding a bike to work, but when I arrive I’m usually slightly frustrated that I have to take a shower (or at least change my clothes).
The Subito solves this problem because you can ride to work on the highest level of support, and then ride home without any support on the return leg.
Is This the Perfect Gravel Bike?
You could argue that the battery range is its biggest flaw because I rarely got more than 40km/25mi out of the battery. But for me, this was not a big deal because this is a bike first so I’ll happily ride it with an empty battery.
And if you really need more range, you can always buy a range extender battery.
This is not the perfect bike for climbing because the motor does not use your gear ratios to offer the highest possible torque at the rear wheel. To use its support effectively I’ve found the Subito likes to climb best at higher speeds of 15 to 20km/h.
The other flaw comes with the fact that you have to be careful not to run into heavy rain.
I immediately switch the motor off and hide under the trees when I get caught in rain storms. I also attempt to cover the power button to be sure that no excessive amount of water can go in.
But my biggest gripe with this bike is the 25km/h speed limit. This clearly has nothing to do with the bike itself, but honestly, you reach 25 km/h with support so quickly that it almost feels like a punishment to be robbed of this additional power!
Would I Buy The Argon 18 Subito?
My titanium benchmark bike has not left my garage for weeks at this stage. For every single ride, I’ve chosen the Subito and honestly, I haven’t even missed my titanium bike.
This is a big surprise for me, and I think it speaks volumes of the Subito.
If you are looking for one bike that will do gravel, road, and commuting while constantly putting a big smile on your face, then don’t look any further.