We review the Argon 18 E-112 105 Ironman triathlon bike
Argon 18’s entry-level E-80 really impressed us this year, and moving a step up the ladder to the race-proven E-112 should get you an even more cost-effective, upgrade-ready ride. It’s aggressive and purposeful on paper and in the flesh, but has its ride been compromised as a result?
FRAME AND FORK
If the frame looks familiar, it’s because the E-112 uses the same mould as Argon 18’s 2010/11 flagship bike, the E-114. The major difference is that rather than the ONEness bayonet fork of the 114, the 112 uses a conventional single-steerer fork with front mounted brake. However, Argon 18 has added its own edge to conventional in the shape of the oversized 3D System headset extenders. These screw into the head tube to raise the level of the upper bearing, and Argon claims they increase fork and stem stiffness by up to 11 per cent compared with normal skinny spacers in the maximum 25mm rise set-up.
Internal cable routing also disappears into three ports behind the stem. There’s no shortage of stiffness in the mainframe, with geometric aero profiles extending back to the deep, wheel-hugging cutout seat tube without any trace of tapering. The screw-in bottom bracket is topped with a deep web across the base, and the seat tube extends relatively high above the top tube, with a rear clamp bolting into bullet-shaped blisters on the seat clamp. The seatpost is also reversible to give either a 76º or 78º seat angle, and the rear brake is conventionally mounted above the wheel.
Curved triangular-section chainstays stay the same depth all the way to the replaceable alloy horizontal dropouts, which allow adjustment of the wheel position in relation to the frame. The faceted aero seatstays are interesting mainly because of their sheer depth, which would shame most chainstays. Despite the brutally stiff looks, Argon 18 uses its HDS (Horizontal Dual System) to deliberately split the carbon lay-up in half along a nominal line from the rear dropout to the top of the head tube. Below the line it’s all about torque transfer and impressive power delivery, and above, it’s deliberately laid up to be more forgiving and compliant.
As you might expect for a bike tagged as a 105 version, our test bike had a full set of Shimano controls, with Dura-Ace tip shifters. The 53/39-tooth chainrings are totally appropriate for a naturally fast bike, but the slotted front mech mount can take compact rings too. Smaller frames (XS/S/M) bikes get shorter 172.5mm cranks. The 3T stem is size-specific, and the 3T Aura Pro bar is particularly flat and aero, with a naturally comfortable curve to both extensions and cow horns. The Fulcrum Racing Quattro is one of our favourite mid-price wheelsets but the frame is definitely crying out for something deeper and more aero when you can afford to upgrade. That eats into the value of a relatively expensive package, but the frame is a sound investment.
The Argon isn’t in any way slow in its standard format, though. As soon as the road opened up and we applied some power, the E-112 produced a really clean, crisp feel. That created a far more positive, encouraging response and significantly faster results than the woolier/softer feeling bikes on test. There was no obvious plateau or deflection point in the speed curve either, with the Argon continuing to accelerate with convincing ease right up to the point where we ran out of legs. It’s also light and powerful enough to handle climbs reasonably well if it has to.
Taking into account the conventional wheels, the speed sustain is very impressive, bowling us along as though we could actually feel the aerodynamics slicing through the wind more effectively. A lot of this efficiency is due to the fit of the AFS triathlon/time-trial geometry. On paper our riding position was pretty aggressive, but it never felt like we were compromising comfort to gain drag coefficient on the road. While we were expecting a serious kicking from the massive stays, the HDS optimisation makes life in the slimline saddle pretty good, even on high-mileage or rough road sessions, and the 3T bars are also a friendly place to lay your forearms.
There’s no trace of any softness in the handling though, with clarity from the lower half of the frame giving plenty of traction feedback. It’s still more than surefooted enough to keep the poised and clean character alive through corners as well as under power, and the brakes are reassuring allies on steep descents, even with the ultra-narrow bladed levers. While the deep frame tubes can gust a bit in sidewinds, it is perfectly happy coping with deep-section wheels at all speeds, which confirms its excellent potential for upgrading at a later date.
- Frame and forks
Size tested: M
Sizes available: XS, S, M, L
Weight as tested: 8.71kg
Frame weight: 1,540g
Fork weight: 535g
Frame: 5565 Nano-Tech monocoque carbon
Fork: E-112 monocoque aero carbon
Chainset: Shimano 105, 53-39T
Bottom bracket: Shimano 105
Cassette: Shimano 105, 12-25T
Chain: Shimano 105
Derailleurs: Shimano 105
Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace TT
Front: Fulcrum Racing Quattro
Rear: Fulcrum Racing Quattro
Tyres: Continental Attack and Force, 700×22/24c
Wheel weight: 1,160g front / 1,610g back
- Other components
Stem: 3T Arx Pro, 100mm
Bars: 3T Aura Pro, 420mm
Headset: FSA Orbit IS
Saddle: Prologo Zero
Seatpost: ASP-4000 aero
Brakes: Shimano 105 dual-pivot
+ Naturally fast and clean ride, with excellent position and handling
+ Surprisingly forgiving for such a precise and power-friendly frame
– Crying out for an aero wheel upgrade to unleash its full potential
– Expensive for this spec – but the frame is worth it