Argon 18 E-80 review

Cost-effective speed machine

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
£1,699.99 RRP

Our review

Slightly heavy, but its smoothness, precision, power transfer and aerodynamics make it worth buying now and upgrading later
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Canadian brand Argon 18 have updated their E-80 intro model quite significantly for 2012. The result is a strong complete bike for a surprisingly appealing pricetag that comes with massive speed and upgrade potential for those who are willing to invest further.

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Ride & handling: Excellent balance of precise handling and long-haul comfort

While its 9.13kg (20.1lb) weight doesn’t get the E-80 off to the best of starts, the longer, further and faster you ride the more you’ll realise where its true strengths lie. Every Argon we’ve ridden has been universally praised for setting up a very easy to maintain, confident aero position with minimal fuss. That was certainly the case with the E-80, which fitted us like a glove straight from the box. 

The handling is intuitive and responsive, but never in a nervous way – it’s more fluid than snappy. This was particularly obvious when we swapped the Argon onto deep-section Planet X wheels for part of the test. It coped with their gusty wind-blown nature without any drama or reduction in its confident character and they really unleashed the true speed potential of this extensively drag detailed frame. 

While it felt slightly sluggish at cruising speeds, lifting the pace to race speeds with the faster wheels created a lightning rocket of a ride. We’re not just talking in terms of sub £2,000 bikes either, but an ease of speed in the big ring and small rear cog end of the spectrum that would put the frighteners up superbikes with prices several times more that the E-80’s.

Remarkably – for an aluminium bike – the ride quality is almost as seamlessly smooth as the welds. It’ll definitely let you know when you’ve hit a pothole but even on acne ridden winter back roads it has a real float and subtlety about it – something that’s normally reserved for a far more expensive composite chassis. This doesn’t come at the expense of power delivery or precision handling either, and once we were settled into a tuck we genuinely didn’t want to stop blitzing the big ring along.

Frame: State-of-the-art aero chassis at a remarkably good price

The E-80’s short head tube sets up a potentially very low tuck position and the carbon-legged aero fork plugged into it has been reprofiled for better aerodynamics. The side-pull U-brake is tucked behind the fork crown to minimise drag but can be front mounted if you prefer. The rear V-brake is hidden behind the bottom bracket.

Thin-blade rear stays triangulate at chunky horizontal slotted dropouts. Built-in axle adjusters let you slide the wheel right into the wheelhugger seat tube cutout without worrying about torque creep and tyre rubbing. The gear and rear brake cables all run internally, which dramatically reduces the amount of drag the frame produces and also looks neat and tidy.

While the new triple-butted 3005 Thermo Tech aero tubing is definitely alloy, smooth welds and the matt black finish mean you’d be forgiven for thinking it was carbon fibre even when right up close. It’s lighter on the scales than some carbon aero frames we’ve tested as well. The seatpost is carbon fibre though, as well as being reversible to give 76° or 78° effective seat angles. 

Equipment: Wheels are good, but it’s begging for deep sections to reach full potential

SRAM Rival provides a lightweight, slick running transmission via neat tip shifters. Once set up right the Tektro brakes work well through the broad brake levers to add confidence. The Token bars and clip-on extensions are simple and heavy pieces, but their shape is actually very good with reasonable adjustment. The top-spec titanium railed Pro Logo saddle is an ideal place to enjoy the aero talent of the Argon from.

The Fulcrum 7 wheels are excellent quality, high durability rolling stock. Swapping wheels during testing confirmed their weight definitely erodes the E-80’s immediacy though and it deserves an upgrade to something aero and/or lighter as soon as possible. The Continental Ultra Sport tyres are stalwart high-mileage all-rounders. 

The hidden brake front fork, internal cabling and smooth welds enable excellent aerodynamic performance
The hidden brake front fork, internal cabling and smooth welds enable excellent aerodynamic performance: the hidden brake front fork, internal cabling and smooth welds enable excellent aerodynamic performance
Russell Burton
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This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine, available on Zinio.

Product Specifications

Product

Name E-80 (12)
Brand Argon 18

Description Continental Ultra Sport 700x23c
Rear Derailleur SRAM Rival
Standover Height (cm) 76.6
Wheelbase (cm) 99.6
Top Tube (cm) 54.5
Seat Tube (cm) 55
Chainstays (cm) 40
Weight (kg) 9.13
Stem 3TTT ARX-Pro
Shifters SRAM TT500 tip shift
Seatpost ASP 4000 2 way seatpost
Seat Angle 76
Saddle ProLogo Zero Pro Ti
Rims Fulcrum Racing 7
Rear Wheel Weight 1800
Headset Type FSA Orbit IS-2
Available Sizes XS S M L
Head Angle 72.5
Handlebar Token Monaco extensions and base bar
Front Wheel Weight 1290
Front Derailleur SRAM Rival
Frame Weight 1740
Frame Material Triple butted 3005 Thermo Tech alloy
Fork Weight 570
Fork E80 specific carbon fork
Cranks SRAM Rival 53/39
Chain SRAM PC-1031
Cassette SRAM PG-1050 11-25
Brakes Tektro R725 front, TRP T822 rear with RX4.1 brake levers
Bottom Bracket SRAM Rival
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 27.5