Thursday, November 23, 2017

Argon 18 E112

No matter which triathlon distance you focus on, the largest portion of any race is generally spent on the bike.  So getting your hands on a good bike can possibly make the biggest difference to your overall race time (apart from investing in some hard training, of course!).

The E112 is the mid-range Time Trial / Triathlon bike from Canadian manufacturer, Argon 18.  Although not as numerous in the UK as some of the other more established brands, a few specialist retailers (including Swindon’s The Big Adventure Store) stock these machines and they are proving increasingly popular in magazine group reviews.

Having invested in the very well-reviewed Cannondale Slice 105 last year (also from TBAS in Swindon), the decision to take a flyer on the E112 wasn’t an easy one.  With reviews raving about the speed and comfort of the Slice, I really worried that the more expensive E112 (£1800 E112 frameset compared to £1800 all-in Slice) wouldn’t actually bring me any gains and could even make me slower. However, looking into the E112 in more detail, the stats certainly suggested the bike would be a little lighter (thanks to higher quality carbon) and also stiffer, which in theory should lead to better power transfer to the wheels.  The E112 shares the same mould as the range-topping (until next year’s 118 comes out) E114.

Argon 18 E112Still, it was with slight reservations that I handed over my much-loved Slice to TBAS to have the components switched over to the E112.  A few days later and the Argon 18 was ready – the brakes, cockpit, gears and wheels had all been carried over from the Slice and the bike had been set-up using my Retul fitting details from last year (interestingly, matching these figures necessitated using an Extra Small E112 frame – thus sealing the new bike’s ‘hobbit’ name!).

With its white, black and red frame, there’s no denying the Argon 18 E112 is a handsome / pretty bike (take your choice!). Climbing on board for the first time it was instantly comfortable (no doubt the near-exact match on the Retul stats helped) but also with some obvious differences from the Slice.  The E112 feels short and compact, especially when cornering.

A few days later and I had my first opportunity to really ride the E112 anger on a local 10-mile TT route.  My PB on the same route with the Cannondale Slice had been about 24:30, with a what felt like pretty much 100% effort.  Heading out of the start on the E112 the stiffness of the frame was immediately obvious, each pedal stroke translating directly into forward momentum.

Less than 24 minutes later (23:45 to be exact) I whizzed past the checkerboard indicating the end of the 10 miles and feeling far too comfortable.  Despite not giving it the full beans, I’d just taken 45 seconds off my 10 mile PB on the first run with the Argon 18 E112.  Not bad at all (especially as conditions were less-than-ideal).

A week later and a 25-mile TT – and another PB.  This time down from around 1:04 to 1:01:19 – a reduction of over two minutes (and good enough to place me in the middle of a bunch of dedicated single-sport roadies).

Handling

With a couple of hundred miles now on the E112’s clock, the handling has never been anything other than predictable and accurate. It feels different to the Slice (difficult to explain, but the back wheel feels closer and that changes the turn-in characteristics) but I’ve come to enjoy the compact feeling of the frameset and how it can be chucked through corners at speed.

One of the biggest differences is when climbing.  The extra stiffness of the E112 is really obvious and it definitely translates into faster climbing.  I’ve only managed to get it up to about 70km/h on a descent so far, but again the bike felt great with no wobble or comfort issues.

Comfort

This was probably my biggest fear when changing from the Slice, but in all honesty the E112 is great.  I am having a slight issue with fatigue in my glutes since changing to the E112, but I’m certain that’s a minor bike fit issue (which I plan to address over winter) rather than a characteristic of the bike itself.   Otherwise, it’s perfectly comfortable to stay down in a tuck for a full 25-mile TT (and, I’m sure, well beyond if you’re that way inclined!), with no noticeable increase in road vibration or added fatigue.

Conclusion

While I can’t claim to have a wide knowledge of all different TT bikes out there, I have to say that I’ve been really impressed with the Argon 18 E112 (I’ve also had a lot of compliments on the bike already – both in terms of ‘that looks nice!’ but also comments on it being a good choice).  Interestingly, when I was at the World Champs in Beijing last week, I saw more Argon 18s (mostly E112s and the more expensive E114s) than I’ve ever seen in the UK.  It seems other nations are much more clued-up than we Brits are!

Finally a big thank you to The Big Adventure Store for supplying the bike and supporting me through 2011 (and I hope beyond!).