Argon 18 E80 review£1,634.04

Value aero package

BikeRadar score4/5

While Cervelo definitely dominate the bike charts in Canada, Argon 18 have been quietly turning out some distinctive, multi-World-Championship winning bikes for the past 22 years. The E80 blends the rare elements of economy, exclusivity and real-world performance into an outstanding package.

Ride & handling: Aero geometry and handling has been honed by top pros

We’ve only ridden top-end Argon bikes before and, while the E80 certainly looks fast, appearances can be deceptive. But it soon became obvious that the Argon is every bit as quick as it looks. We do a lot of our testing mob handed, jumping from bike to bike in quick succession like wine-tasters swilling and spitting different grapes in rotation, rather than downing a whole bottle. This dramatically highlights the contrasts between the bikes and, in this test, whoever jumped onto the Argon immediately jumped into the lead position.

Not only is the position of the bike immediately engaging, efficient and comfortable, but it just seems to thrive on whatever drive you can supply. Testers who were lagging and trying not to bring up their breakfast on the the other test bikes were suddenly charging off the front and turning everyone else’s legs into a fry-up on the Argon. Despite heavier overall weight than some of its peers, it could make life very hard for them at will too, even on gradual rise and corner kick sections where they should have had the upper hand.

It’s not just powertrain delivery that makes the Argon so quick either. They might not be the most hyped or wind-tunnel honed aerodynamics, but it’s obvious that with a wide range of riders on top, in a wide range of wind conditions, the E80 is simply really bloody quick. While a compact chainset was no issue on the other bikes, we’d have been gutted not to have a full range of go-fast ratios on the Argon 18.

Impressively for a straight-line speed weapon, it’s equally combative on descents and corners. In fact, outstanding handling balance and tracking accuracy meant we were looping the loop round roundabouts at silly speeds while waiting for the other bikes to catch up. Despite the razor-blade saddle, we were never in a hurry to get off the bike either, with more than adequate comfort and overall fatigue levels for whatever distance you favour.

The Argon 18 was a wild card entry, but it managed to trump every other contender we’ve ridden at a similar price point. Not only does it have looks and exclusivity on its side, it’s also inspiringly quick, immediately ergonomic, combatively confident and excellent value.

Frame: Properly aero, alloy chassis

It’s alloy as opposed to carbon, but the E80 has the same internal cable routing and ‘AFS’ TT/Tri geometry as Argon’s flagship frames. It’s a smoothly profiled, properly aero chassis too, with a concave headtube smooth-welded on to a deep teardrop downtube and teardrop top tube. The ovalised seat tube gets a rear wheelhugger cut-out, with thin, teardrop seat stays and seriously big rectangular chainstays completing the circuit. The rear-facing dropouts aren’t screw adjuster equipped though, which means care is needed to ensure you align the wheel straight when installing.

The semi-carbon aero fork uses a rear-mounted U-brake for clean aero lines, and you get the same type of brake conventionally mounted out back. A reversible elliptical carbon seatpost gives a wide range of seat angles. Despite the triple-butted tubing, this alloy chassis is noticeably heavier than the carbon competition, but it turns out it’s got the muscle to back that up.

Smoothed welds give a carbon-fibre look to the triple-butted alloy frame: smoothed welds give a carbon-fibre look to the triple-butted alloy frame
Smoothed welds give a carbon-fibre look to the triple-butted alloy frame: smoothed welds give a carbon-fibre look to the triple-butted alloy frame

Equipment: Excellent for the money, keeping overall weight competitive

We’re seeing more and more SRAM kit on complete bikes right through the price spectrum, and the Argon is no exception. It’s good to see mid-level Rival (rather than entry-level Apex) at this price though, and operation, from the tip shifters to the full-size chainrings, is smooth and accurate. The big 53T chainring also gives the E80 longer legs in terms of pedaling speed than the compact chainset equipped bikes we compared it with - although you have fewer spin-not-stomp options when you get to the climbs.

The Fulcrum Racing 7 wheels aren’t particularly light, but they’re very reliable and tight through the cranks, and surefooted Continental tyre-feel boosts responsiveness. Unlike a lot of aero-orientated brake set-ups, anchorage on the Argon is positive and powerful enough to go on the offensive rather than the defensive on straights.

The Token bar and extensions on the end of the 3TTT stem create a stout, well-shaped and handling-enhancing cockpit too, and we’ve already mentioned the simple, but effective, reversible seatpost. While it looks far too thin for comfort, the Prologo saddle wasn’t an issue for any of the testers, no matter how long we sat on it or rough the road. It’s also a significant part of a kit package that keeps overall weight of the Argon reasonably low, despite a chunky frame and fork.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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