Argon 18 E-80 review

Cost-effective speed machine

BikeRadar score4/5

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.

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: the hidden brake front fork, internal cabling and smooth welds enable excellent aerodynamic performance

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine, available on Zinio.

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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