Saturday, July 7, 2012

My new Argon 18 E-118

At the beginning of the year I was really wanting to replace my aging Fuji Aloha 1.0 (now approximately 5 years old) with something new...especially considering I'm best at TT's and was losing time to those with nicer bikes. I know it's all about the engine but at the same time, in TT's if you have extra drag from wind resistance it costs you time.

With my crash at Kings Valley earlier in the year I had to come to the realization that getting a new TT bike wasn't going to happen since I had to replace my Tsunami. Then, my wife went to me because I was looking at purchasing a new stem...and was looking at the TT bikes in the shop and she told me to buy one. Well...I'm not one to argue with my wife so we went to a few stores and checked out a couple bikes.

I was originally looking at two bikes: The BMC TM01 and the Felt DA3. I talked with salesmen from both shops and told them a must have was changing the cranks from stock length to 170mm since I knew what worked for me. Other than that, it was a matter of finding the right size and going from there.

The shop with the Felt ticked me off...I was looking at a $5000 bike and told them my one need and he went off on how he had to check to see if it was a viable option because he had to maintain his "Margins" and needed to check with their rep to see what type of crank it had and if they could do it! Seriously??? One, you don't know what type of crank is on it? You can't just look that up in your books? Margins? It's a $5k bike, you have a lot of room for movement there.

So I moved from there knowing they didn't have my size in stock anyway and went to look at the bike I was really interested in...The BMC. At the shop they were more than willing to change out cranks for me and we had a deal ready to go, credit card pulled out...then...Oh, BMC is out of stock (nation wide) in the M/L size and all they had on the floor and shop was a small.

While I was at the shop I was looking at the Argon 18 bikes and liked them a lot. At the time I was most interested in the E-116 since it was closer to my price range. We left the shop without a bike, but I touched base with the salesman later in the week to see what the price for the E-116 would be with a different set of bars. He wrote me back with a price, but they didn't have one built up in my size...but had one there that needed to be built up.

Upon follow up...the salesman said, they couldn't get it built during the week (I e-mailed him on a Monday) because of tune-ups, fittings and other stuff. I let him know that was fine, but was a bit dumbfounded as I was sitting there ready to buy a $4k+ bike and he's wanting me to sit around and wait for them to build it up.

Well...the week passed and no communication from the salesman...During the wait period I started doing research and found an online shop that had the E-118 with full SRAM Red components for $5375 and just couldn't pass it up. So with no communication from either shop...I ordered the bike and they had it built up and to me within a week. The only problem I had with the build were these: The built it up with the bars in the upright position (so I had to reverse them) and they didn't shorten the aero extensions which had to be 2+ feet long. I had to literally cut 1 foot off of each bar to get them within acceptable reach.

So, I decided to not ride the night it came in and get to work on the bike so it would be fit correctly and ready to ride. After four hours, I had finally got all the kinks worked out and it was built up. I did end up switching saddles to my main brand of Selle San Marco Glamour Aspide (though I could see switching to a Specialized Toupe down the road).

I was able to take it out on Thursday for it's first spin. Initial impressions is that it's a much faster bike than my old Fuji. The fit is a little different as it's a little shorter than my old bike, but that's actually a good thing.

With my fit I have the bars lower than my Fuji, but the saddle in the same forward position. With the bars lower, I brought them back toward me so my elbows are closer to my knees which gives me more of a 90 degree angle between my body and upper arm and at my elbow, where as before they were stretched out a little more. It also allowed me to narrow my elbow width a little more which I wanted to do, but couldn't on my old bike.

The end result is more of a pro look...but more importantly a nice flat back, that still has a very good hip angle that allows me to produce a lot of power while in the aero bars.

The bike it's self absorbs chip seal roads well, but is a little harsh over sharper impacts. The handling is quick while in the drops, but is more stable in the aero bars. The braking is better than expected given all I've heard about TT bikes and their brakes. Even the rear brake has good lever feel, modulation and power. 

I did have to raise the saddle by nearly 1" from these pictures to get proper leg extension. So my saddle to bar drop is closer to 14cm now, which is much more than on my old Fuji.

On it's first ride, without trying I set two Strava KOM's on flat segments around here (averaging around 27 mph on the flats with no aero gear, but a 4-5 mph tailwind)...and I wasn't pushing it since it was a recovery ride. As I said...the bike is fast :)

I'm looking forward to getting some more miles on it and racing it at the State ITT Championships this year...hopefully I can improve on my 54:08 time of last year.