R&D Deep Dive: Fit Meets Function – Cockpit Design
The new E-119 Tri+ Disc features a fully redesigned cockpit to offer the best fit, adjustability, and aerodynamics to our athletes. Our design goal was to offer a cockpit that made travel and fit easy and intuitive, with fewer small parts and quick positioning adjustments. We also wanted to fully integrate the hydraulic fluid reservoir, to align with our integrated disc calipers.
Like all the design goals for the new E-119, maximizing aero advantage was essential. We focused on possible aero gains that could be achieved from integration as well as features like the new mono-post design for the risers. But of course, as all triathletes know, the most substantial aero gains are achieved through an optimized rider position, something we also focused on throughout our design process.
Cockpit Design & Rider Fit
The E-119 Tri+ Disc cockpit was redesigned in partnership with Mat Steinmetz from 51 Speedshop. Mat’s expertise in bike fit was essential, as 51 Speedshop is well-known for its aero extensions that greatly allow for increased fit range for triathlon cockpits. The choice of a mono-post, design of the armrest cups and pads came from this collaboration, and Mat helped us define the fit window based on his extensive experience in fitting triathletes.
While the fit window of the new bike is similar to the previous-generation E-119 cockpit, it allows riders to get 9mm lower as a result of the cockpit design, and integration with the handlebar and fork. The previous extension could achieve a range of angles from -15 to +15 degrees, while the new extensions offer a range from 0 to +20 degrees. Based on data from actual fit sessions and rider feedback, we found that this was the primary range that gave athletes their preferred position, therefore focusing on this range allowed us to provide the right fit for the broadest range of athletes, based on real-world data.
51 Speedshop is a recognized industry leader in the design of extension bars. With their expertise, our new extensions offer geometry that features a natural rise and places the hands close together. The mid-section features an aero profile that closely follows the forearm and hand, drawing on the design we developed for the Electron Pro TKO, developed for Cycling Australia’s Olympic track team. And while integration is important, we worked on an open platform to ensure compatibility for all riders. The bars still follow the round 22.2mm diameter standard, so that other extensions and shifters can be swapped out if riders already have a favorite setup.
Allowing the rider to hold the aero position for the full IM distance is a fundamental consideration in the cockpit design. Our new armrest cups and pads allow for a larger contact area with the arm for more comfort. The cups also have more pronounced sides to lock the elbow in place, but without a restrictive feeling. The handlebar has been widened from the previous version, to allow for better handling. With usability and rider convenience in mind, the cockpit also features a dedicated bracket for both a regular water bottle cage between the extensions, as well as a bracket for a head unit to be mounted on the extensions.
The ability to get the right fit is essential, but the ease of adjusting and traveling with the cockpit is also of critical importance to triathletes. Adjusting the angle of the cockpit is hugely simplified with our new design, with only two screws to adjust, easily accessible on the top of the cockpit. Adjusting the stack is also easily done by changing the number of spacers and adjusting the two dedicated screws. Travel prep is similarly intuitive, if using a bag or case, as there are fewer small parts in the cockpit that would need to be removed and re-calibrated upon arrival. Perhaps best of all, these adjustments can all be done without losing the position of the extensions in the cockpit, something that will make most triathletes feel a bit of relief!
Integrated Hydraulics - The hydraulic reservoir is integrated into the handlebar.
We used TRP’s standard parts on a proprietary brake lever and handlebar design, featuring a unique oval shape. That shape offers a more natural and comfortable grip, but also allows for the entire hydraulic reservoir to fit within the basebar. Not only does that give a sleek, clean setup, it provides an aero advantage due to the entire front brake hose being hidden, from the lever to the calipers. The handlebar design also provides riders with the ability to flip the basebar, again prioritizing the ability to get the ideal fit.
Lastly, to be sure we maximized the sleek design of the hidden reservoir, we designed our own grips – say goodbye to bar tape! Because each shifting standard is slightly different - and we wanted full compatibility – we’ve provided grips for Shimano Di2, SRAM AXS MultiClic, as well as mechanical gearing.
Testing Rider Position in the Wind Tunnel
As we mentioned earlier, the biggest variable in aero performance is the rider’s position. Our cockpit redesign definitely took this into account - but how exactly do we know what adjustments to make? During the development of the new E-119 Tri+ Disc we went to the wind tunnel to map the CdA of several rider positions.
The variables we tested were:
- The angle of the extensions
- Stack height under armrests
- Width between armrests
- Extreme positions, such as the ‘praying mantis’ high hand position
Three repetitions per setup were measured, with the wind at 0° and 45 km/h. As this was early in the process of development of the new E-119 Tri+ Disc, these tests were meant to inform the design process – not validate it. As the new E-119 was still in the early prototype phase, the bike used for these tests was the E-118 Tri+.
Evaluating Rider Position - Our cockpit design was influenced by our study of optimal rider positioning.
While these tests informed our design, we also saw that the most important part of fit is the individual athlete’s ability to hold the position while maintaining other performance benchmarks, such as power transfer to the pedals. It’s also essential to consider the entire body position, as the angle of the forearms in the extensions directly affects the position of the head and shoulders, depending on the rider’s flexibility and other elements of their preferred fit. In this case, raising the head would then affect aero optimization even if the ideal forearm position is held.
In short, the optimal position for each rider is exactly that: specific to each rider. While there are generalizations that can be seen in increased or decreased CdA, the design of our new cockpit reflects that each rider should have the ability to easily and precisely adjust their position, and find it comfortable for the long haul.
Interview with Mat Steinmetz from 51 Speedshop
The new E-119 Tri+ Disc features a fully redesigned cockpit, a collaboration between Argon 18 and 51 Speedshop. We spoke with Mat Steinmetz from 51 Speedshop to go behind the design – and got some fitting tips along the way!
A18: What made you want to work with Argon 18? Is there a similarity in your approach?
When Argon 18 reached out to 51 Speedshop to potentially collaborate on the front end of the new E-119 Tri+ Disc, my interest was piqued when they voiced their understanding of just how challenging it can be to design a cockpit that is fast, comfortable, and most importantly, highly adjustable. With this mutual understanding, I felt we could get to work.
Argon 18 understands the value 51 Speedshop's expertise in rider: bike interaction can bring to the new E-119 Tri+ cockpit and how that can put their customers at a performance and comfort advantage. Our team at 51 Speedshop thrives on critical feedback, and Argon’s internal engineering and product management teams provided timely insights that made this a high-functioning collaboration.
There are three contact points on the bike: pedal/shoe/crank, saddle, and handlebar. The handlebar is often the contact point that bike companies attempt to tackle on their own, especially as more front ends become proprietary to the bike. These contact points can make or break the success of the bike when a rider gets out on the road. I think we can all agree that if a saddle is uncomfortable, we can raise it, lower it, move it forward or back, change the tilt angle, or replace it to try something new. Because the same can't be said for the front end of the bike, it's now imperative that the attention and understanding put into designing and manufacturing a cockpit be led by a team of individuals with deep knowledge of the rider: bike interaction.
A18: What was the biggest success of the collaboration – what element of the new cockpit do you think triathletes will most appreciate?
When you start working on a front end, there are so many things to consider - we needed to think about the diverse set of individuals who will be riding this bike with a front end that cannot be easily swapped out. This is where the process began: how wide or narrow do the arm cups need to adjust; what if they want to swap the extensions; can they adjust the handlebar height, fore/aft adjustability, and bar angulation range? We needed to consider all of these aspects of the bar to ensure we didn’t eliminate any customers who will want to ride the new E-119 Tri+ Disc bike.Once we had a design in place, the Argon 18 engineering team went to work, providing extensive testing on both structural integrity and aerodynamics. They examined where we needed to add material and where we could reduce material to save weight. This was a true collaboration. In the end, what I think triathletes will most appreciate is the simplicity of the front end. It's clean, light, easy to adjust, intuitive to work on, and has a large fit window allowing athletes to dial in their fit.
A18: You’ve fit a huge range of athletes over the years. What’s one tip you could share with our readers? Perhaps something that people often overlook?
My first recommendation would be to get a professional bike fit from an experienced fitter in your area. A bike fit is the biggest performance upgrade you can make to your bike. You’re looking for SPEED = Sustainability + Power + Aerodynamics. In that order...
Sustainability/Comfort = The ability to sustain the aero position for the duration of the event. Comfort is relative to the individual and those that are new to the position will find it unnatural at first. However, the unique thing about the TT position is that it is highly adaptable the more time you put in.
Power (torque x angular velocity) = The ability to apply force to the pedals without restriction. This is where saddle and bar placement need to be positioned in a manner that allows the rider to power the bike within a range of accepted biomechanical parameters. For example, if the bars are too low, closing off a rider’s hip angle, there will be restriction over the top of the pedal stroke reducing the ability to apply force and reducing power output.
Aerodynamics = The reduction of rider frontal surface area and shape in order to minimize resistive forces that inhibit forward motion. This is the final step of the process, and if you ignore the first two steps and go straight after aerodynamics, you will not have a successful outcome. I’ve spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel and velodrome working to optimize an athlete’s coefficient of drag. There have been times where I’ve made slight tweaks to the position, but typically all that is left are items such as head/shoulder posture, elbow width, hand height, and equipment changes (ex. aero helmet, wheels, bottle placement). Anytime I’ve seen a complete departure from Sustainability & Power in order to chase aero, the process fails.