The joy of riding
Subito made by Argon 18 is a great bike. A real joy to ride, supremely playful and agile, fast and confidence-inspiring bike. Yet, it is so much more than just a bike. It is a bike that has an electric motor. And this makes things so much better…
I have already tested both carbon and aluminum Creo bikes from Specialized. They are widely considered as a pinnacle of gravel ebikes. A benchmark in terms of what can be achieved if money is not a problem. Yes, they are great ebikes. But here is the thing. I like to ride a bike, and then, on certain occasions, have additional help from the electric motor. Not the other way around. Creo, despite the low weight and very clever engineering, is still an ebike first that you can confidently ride without the support of the motor. Subito is something else. First, it is a truly great bike, that can also be ridden with the motor assist. Believe me. This is a very crucial difference. But I get that you may don’t see it that way yet. So let me explain…
Argon 18 knows how to design road bikes that are fast but also fun to ride. Their Dark Matter gravel bike was one of the most fun and enjoyable bikes that I have ridden so far. I liked it a lot. But it was not a perfect bike, especially in terms of comfort so naturally, you could expect that something like an electric version of the Dark Matter will be worse. In both departments. First, the additional weight for sure will kill the fun and agility of the bike. And then, the frame itself will be probably harsher as well because generally, you need a stronger frame to withstand additional watts that are provided by the motor itself. This is a very sensible reasoning. But then, there is a man called Martin Faubert, lead designer at Argon 18, who decided to defy this logic and create something special.
You can say that Subito is a long cousin of Dark Matter (and both are based on Krypton frame). But the main difference is the weight. Subito is much heavier (but still, at around 12 kg, surprisingly light for an ebike) but despite this fact, it is also more fun to ride. Dare to say: more agile! How is this possible? To be honest, I can only guess that part of the answer is a shorter chainstay that counters the effect of dragging a heavy rear wheel (because of the motor mounted in the rear hub). The top tube is also slightly shorter compared to Dark Matter resulting in a more compact, shorter bike. The rest of the geometry seems very similar but the result is quite different. For me, it is beyond belief that despite the added weight, this bike is the most flickable bike I have ever ridden. It’s like the weight somehow disappears the moment you start pedaling hard and cornering really hard. You can have so much fun with this bike, even with the motor off, that I could recommend it to anyone on this feature alone. But, like I said, Subito has so much more to offer.
This is the highly recommended configuration. Suspension stem and seatpost for the best possible comfort which means you can ride harder and faster for much longer!
The comfort, compared to Dark Matter, is also better. On the back, because the front of both bikes are practically the same. Why on the back? Because Subito has a shorter seat tube which exposes the sestpost much more and this results in much more flex = comfort. Overall stock Subito with carbon seatpost and rigid FSA stem is noticeably less comfortable than my benchmark bike, but the wide Challenge Gravel Grinder 700x43c tires (measures almost 45 mm on the Vision rims) can be easily ridden at 25 PSI front and rear which improves the overall comfort experience. Subito also comes in 650b variant (although in Europe you still get the 700c version) which means you can get even beefier tires that you can run at even lower air pressure. And this is very important with a bike like Subito which begs you to ride hard and fast, whatever the situation. This is why I would strongly recommend any future owner of this bike to improve the already good standard level of comfort by using a suspension stem and a suspension seatpost. Then you will be able to fully use this bike potential which means ride always at least 25 km/h (or 32 km/ if you live in North America) without feeling tired or beaten up.
Yes, lets finally talk about the electric support that this bike provides. Subito uses a MAHLE ebikemotion 250 W rear hub motor that provides up to 40 NM torque. This is not a big number when compared to a mid-motors from companies like Bosch or even Fazua. It is also not as sophisticated as those in terms of the sensitiveness or quick responses to different pedal inputs. Ebikemotion support depends only on how quickly the cassette is turning relative to the hub. This means that you can just slightly move pedals forward and backwards to get something like a moped. It also means that this motor is also rather slow to disengage when you stop pedalling (which takes tome time to adjust, especially when you like to pedal hard to the last moment in tights corner) and it is not the best when you are riding on the verge of speed limit (it does not disengage that smoothly and most often constantly switches between on and off modes). So yes, mid-motors can be much more reactive to the rider input, but there is something odd, artificial in riding this kind of bikes whereas Subito with its rear hub motor is much more analogue. You can say more primitive but also more bike-like. And this is the main reason I really fall in love with this bike.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, for me Subito is first a great bike, that adds on top of that the joy of having an electric motor and for me, most of this sensation comes from the fact that it is a bike with a standard BB and standard Q-factor so you ride it as a standard bike. Creo and other mid-drive ebikes do not have any of that so even if there is no friction when pedaling without the power assist, you still feel that it is not a standard bike and no amount of design trickery will change that. It is a real pleasure, despite the weight, to ride this bike without the motor support and use it only when you feel like it. This opens a lot of possibilities and, at least to me, makes this bike something else entirely.
The joy of riding
I like to think that I am in good physical form. I can easily do 80 or even 100 km/h rides. But even when I feel particularly strong, there are times (to be honest many), especially at the end of a long ride, where I feel simply tired or dare to say, slightly bored and I start to ride slowly, not sitting and not really enjoying the ride. Those are the moments when a bike like Subito shines the most because then you can simply turn the power support and again ride around 25 km/h without a significant effort and have a lot more fun when doing so. The other occasion, where I found Subito great is commuting. I like the idea of riding a bike to work but usually when I am there, I am not only energized but also slightly frustrated because I have to take a shower or at least change my clothes. Subito solves that issue because you can ride on the highest level of support when going to work, and then ride hard without support when going back. Or ride with the support both ways. Or… I think you can start to see my point. This bike gives you so many more options. Opens so many new doors so it almost feels like rediscovering the joy of riding the bike and going back to the times when you were young, adventurous, and full of energy. I really liked that feeling and I am very happy that Subito brought back it back to my life again!
So, this is a perfect gravel bike?
Almost. You can argue that the range is it’s the biggest flaw because during my rides I hardly got anything more than 40 km but again like I said, I really do not treat this as an ebike first. Nor should you. This is a truly great gravel bike, that also offers additional power support when you need it. It is not a bike that makes you just relax and enjoy the views. You still have to pedal, even on the most powerful level of support and this, at least for me, is what also makes it so special and the overall experience so much more engaging. And if you really need more range, you can always buy a range extender (but it will also add more weight). This motor also does not depend on the cadence which means that it is not a perfect bike for climbing. From my experience, it works best around 20 km/h so it means that in order to use it support effectively, you should ride uphill with at least 15 km/h. This is very doable and a lot of fun, but it also means that you will still have to work hard when climbing.
The other flaw comes with the fact that, like any electric bike, you have to be very careful not to run into heavy rain. During my rides, there were times that a light rain has caught me and I still managed to ride with the assist switched on. But when I was caught by the storm, I immediately switched the motor off and hide under the trees. I also tried to cover the rear hub and the power button placed on the top tube with my body to be sure that no excessive amount of water will go there (for sure this was a strange look for other people). At that moment I was really afraid that something will be broken but to my surprise, the next day everything worked just fine. Nevertheless, owning a bike like Subito makes you much more conscious of the weather forecasts, and to be honest, this can kill some of the fun because it is not just you, the bike, and the adventure, but also a pretty woman on TV saying that there will be a heavy rain in your area tomorrow 😉
But, at least for me, as someone living in Europe, the biggest gripe with this bike is the 25 km/h speed limit. I know, that this has nothing to do with the bike itself but honestly, you reach 25 km/h so quickly when riding with support that it almost feels like a punishment to be suddenly robbed of this additional power and not be able to accelerate more and ride faster with so little effort. It was the same story when I was reviewing Specialized Creo bikes so I guess I just have to accept this limitation (and with Subito it is less annoying because it is lighter and behaves more like a bike) but to be honest, just thinking of what this bike could be if there was much less strict speed limit makes me sad and angry. Just imagine that you buy a Ferrari with a 160 km/h speed limit. Arghhhhhh…
Would I still buy it?
Definitely. Actually, I am really thinking about buying one but maybe in the spring when the condition will be more suitable not only for bike riding but especially for ebike riding. Why? Like I already said, this bike is something unique because it offers so much fun and opens so many new possibilities thanks to its motor that it is really hard to resist the temptation to buy one instantly (which also suggest that possibly the best way for Argon 18 to get new customers is simply to allow many people try this bike first). On top of this fun, there is also a very well configured bike with Shimano GRX 1x groupset (which works really surprisingly well when you have additional electric support when needed), quite comfortable Prologo Proxim W350 saddle (although it is a short saddle that takes time to get used to) and Challenge Gravel Grinder tires that offers plenty of comfort. What I would change is the front wheel with only 24 spokes (Vision AGX) because riding hard on this bike (and believe me, you will ride hard, almost constantly at least 25 km/h) will require the strongest wheel possible when you don’t have a proper front end wheel suspension (fortunately, rear-wheel has 32 spokes which is good, because changing the rear wheel due to the motor would not be an easy thing to do).
To sum up
Since I got the Subito for testing my titanium benchmark bike does not leave my garage most of the time. I have been using Subito as my daily driver and I did not miss my Enigma at all. Which is a big surprise for me because I think that my titanium bike is fantastic. I think this statement sums up Subito quite nicely. If you are looking for one bike that will do all of your riding and will constantly put a big smile on your face, then don’t look any further. Buy this one. Subito!