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Argon 18 E-118 Tri+ Disc: cycling ready, triathlon fast

A race-ready UCI-legal bike that offers excellent handling and aerodynamics

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

The concept behind Argon 18’s E-118 Tri+ Disc was simple – why couldn’t triathletes and cyclists enjoy a super-aero ride that was still really light. For years we’d been told that weight wasn’t nearly as important as aerodynamics when it came to time trialing and triathlon racing, but it always seemed like the people who were telling us that either never raced on courses like Ironman Nice or Ironman Lanzarote.

Beyond just weight, though, to understand what makes the E-118 Tri+ Disc such an interesting development on the triathlon front, you need to understand some of the history behind Argon 18. While it seems like Argon 18 has really burst onto the triathlon scene over the last decade or so, the Quebec-based company was actually founded in 1989. In 2001 the company launched its first 100 per cent carbon fibre frame and, four years later, released its first monocoque (one piece) carbon frame. The innovative bike that really grabbed triathletes’ attention came in 2008 with the E-114 – it featured the market’s first integrated cockpit, the beginning of the company’s ONEness concept which has become a mainstay in its triathlon line up. In 2012 Argon 18 launched the E-118, which was a UCI-legal bike, but like Cervelo’s P5, quickly became popular with triathletes.

The integrated cockpit offers lots of adjustability and excellent aerodynamics.

It’s not as though triathletes weren’t aware of the brand before the original E-118, though. In 2006 Samantha McGlone took the Ironman 70.3 World Championship on an Argon 18, while Torbjorn Sindballe and Bella Comerford took the ITU Long Distance World Championship on Argon 18 bikes, too. A couple of years later the company saw success on the Big Island, with McGlone taking second and Sindballe third.

Related: Argon 18 E118 Tri+ Disc photo gallery

While Cervelo has been dominating the Kona bike count for years, Argon 18’s progress in terms of numbers at the Ironman World Championship has been more gradual. That’s mirrored in the company’s involvement with elite cycling, too. While Cervelo jumped onto the world cycling scene in the 2000s, it wasn’t until 2015 that Argon 18 appeared at the Tour de France with Team Bora-Argon 18. In 2016 the Danish Olympic team rode Argon 18’s Electron Pro track bike to two bronze medals. A year after that the company started working with the Astana Pro Team, who rode the company’s Gallium Pro to stage wins at both the Tour and the Vuelta de Espana (Tour of Spain).

So, like Cervelo had to do back in the mid-2000s when it had to develop bikes that were UCI-legal, but would also work for triathletes, Argon 18 found itself needing to take care of the needs of the world’s top cyclists and triathletes.

Heather Jackson enjoys the ultra-low position afforded by the Argon 18 E-118 Tri+ Disc as she starts the bike at the Ironman World Championship.

The E-118 Tri+ Disc is very much the result of that dynamic. Triathletes used to riding heavier bikes will immediately notice the 250 g that’s been shaved off the previous version of the E-118 (the E-118Next), which is an impressive feat considering the new frame features disc brakes, which usually add weight. It’s not only weight, though, that you’ll notice while riding the E-118 Tri+. The snappy handling no-doubt helped the Astana Pro team capture the team time trial at the Vuelta last year. While most triathletes won’t have the handling skills to push the bike to its limit like a pro cyclist might, they will no-doubt enjoy the stiff, performance-oriented frame that offers a really responsive ride. Much like the latest version of Cervelo’s P5, this is a bike that you can comfortably hammer in and out of corners.

None of which makes any difference, though, if you can’t dial in both a comfortable and aero position – the true key to triathlon performance. This is where over a decade of dialing in its integrated aero cockpit thanks to the ONEness concept really comes to play for Argon 18. The updated front end in the E-118 Tri+ disc allows for an extremely aggressive riding position with a lower profile (the stack height is two cm lower than the E-118Next) and sets the grips on the handlebars a whopping four cm lower – that means you are more aero no matter how you’re riding this bike.

With lots of adjustment possibilities, you can achieve an aero position that remains extremely comfortable, which ultimately will get you the most performance come race day. The fact that there’s not a cable to be seen to catch the wind only adds to the performance of this bike.

Disc brakes provide excellent stopping power. Somehow Argon 18 managed to add disc brakes and still lower the overall weight.

Our review model came equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 components and HED Jet Plus Black 6 and 9 race wheels, making it race-ready right out of the box. The disc brakes provide excellent stopping capabilities, so you can push to the limits even on the most technical and demanding rides, while the light weight and stiff, responsive frame are great for climbing, too.

Even puppy Charlotte was impressed by the race-ready package that includes Shimano Ultegra Di2 components and HED Jet Plus Black 6 and 9 race wheels.

Put it all together and Argon 18 have come up with a very impressive package – one that serves the world’s top professional cyclists and triathletes, while also providing discerning and demanding age groupers with a bike that will provide no excuses come race day.

Equipped with Ultegra Di2 components and HED Jet Black 6/9 wheels the E118 Tri+ Disc retails for $11,800. ($6,950 frameset.)

This story first appeared in the July, 2020 issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada.