By Joe Parkin | Photo: Van Swae
I first met Argonaut's Ben Farver in the Paved magazine booth on the second day of the 2012 Interbike trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, through a mutual friend.
The booth was a flurry of activity and I'd been conversation-hopping from road bikes to mountain bikes, listened to countless story ideas and promotional plans, and caught up with a glut of old friends that I only see about once a year. We decided—or perhaps I requested—to pick up the conversation at a later date. And the subject promptly disappeared from my brain.
A few weeks later, our mutual friend told me that Farver was interested in building me a custom Argonaut, and that he was confident it'd be the best bike I'd ever ridden. Of course I gladly accepted the offer.
Step one in Argonaut's custom-bike timeline is completion of a somewhat-lengthy questionnaire designed to determine the customer's riding style and ride-quality preferences, as well as the nuts-and-bolts details like height, weight, position on the current bike, etc.
The question I found most interesting asked, "Tell me about your favorite bike. Why do/did you love it, and how did it handle. Are there any qualities you'd like to carry over to your new bike?"
I answered by naming two old race bikes—a titanium Serotta I had when I was on the Coors Light Cycling Team here in the United States and my bonded, lugged, carbon-fiber Koga-Miyata that I used to campaign the second half of my final season as a pro in Europe. These were both early-90s bikes, not exactly comparable to today's rides. But this is my dream build, and I want to be reminded of some long-gone race experiences when I ride it.
Based on my answers, the Argonaut that showed up at our Southern California office boasted steering characteristics that are slightly quicker than middle-of-the-road. The custom carbon-fiber lay-up allows for a bit of flex, which I've always felt gives a bike a lighter and livelier feel than some of the stiff-for-stiffness'-sake bikes on the market today.
My old Koga-Miyata was equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace components, so we opted for a tip of the hat to the Belgian-based, Tulip Computers Team, circa 1991, and have stayed battery free by choosing Dura-Ace 9000. Since Shimano has wheelsets in this century and a full complement of PRO components—bars, stem, saddle—we're keeping it uniform and pro-level proper. My 57.5-centimeter build tips the scales at just 15.5 pounds.
From a purely aesthetic point of view, which is also important, I truly like this bike's overall lines and subdued finish. For me, the little hints of color are just enough to keep things interesting without overdoing it.
The big question, however, is whether Farver delivered the best bike I've ever ridden—a bike that has some of the best characteristics from past favorites.
He absolutely nailed the ride quality I requested, and the bike reminds me of faster days. Is this the best bike I've ever ridden? Admitting I've experienced the best would feel a bit like settling—accepting an end. So I won't. I will tell you this much: Riding this bike is a dream come true.
$6,500 (frame only) / argonautcycles.com