Enigma Etape £2175

A titanium stunner. Designed for audax but ready for sportier rides, or even races

BikeRadar score 4/5

A carefully selected spec keeps the weight down on this titanium mile-eater despite its mudguards. That practical touch is a clue to a bike with perfect manners for the long haul that’s also enormously versatile.

Until a number of bike companies started sourcing titanium frames from to China at the end of the last century, the material was only available in US-built bikes. By looking East they brought the price of this tough and rustless metal to within reach of lesser mortals.

UK based Enigma is the newest company to latch onto this trend using plain gauge 3Al/2.5V grade titanium tubing.

Ride & handling: balanced and far from ‘budget’ feel

Titanium frames can be softer than this but the Enigma Etape caters for light and heavy riders alike with a great balance of stiffness and compliance.

The Etape rides so well it had us wondering why anybody ever coined the term ‘budget titanium’. Far from looking like a bike destined only for commuting, sportive and audax riding duties, we would gladly ditch the mudguards and place it on the start line of any road race or criterium. That’s not something we’d say about many titanium mile-munchers.

However, its curved seat and chainstays do little more than add visual appeal.

The Etape has a great willingness to react swiftly to sudden changes in direction – for instance when the bend that you’ve set it up for suddenly tightens.

Mudguards are no longer mandatory for audax events but Enigma has designed plenty of space for them. In fact there’s enough space for larger diameter tyres too. That’s good, as fat road tyres are becoming more popular on bikes designed for distance riding.

It all adds up to both a superbly adept bike at speed and a highly versatile one into the bargain.

Frame: excellent quality for the price

This plain gauge 3Al/2.5V titanium frame is not quite up to US standards of weld quality but weld quality is still good and thre details of the frame design are commendable commendable.  

The Etape has stylish curved seatstays that are said to reduce vibrations, with ample clearances for the supplied mudguards.

Those mudguards come already attached to the Etape because the company pitches it as a light touring or Audax bike.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that sportives aren’t the only long distance rides out there. Audaxes are characterized by long distances that have to be completed in a time limit -  200km in 13.5 hours for example – buit there’s also a maximum speed limit of no more than 30km/h which stops Audaxes turning into unofficial races.

Like sportive fans, Audax riders look for fast but comfortable steeds. Rather sensibly, they also realise that sometimes it rains and if you’re on another rider’s wheel mudguards are a nice touch. It’s odd that we have yet to see guards on a carbon fibre frame designed for sportives.

Although the Enigma has mudguards, thanks to its lighter gear and finishing kit it manages to undercut the similarly priced Litespeed Sportive on overall weight by 50g.

The slack frame angle and longer than average chainstays create a wheelbase that is 2cm longer than on a race bike but it is still tight enough to be pressed into service for road racing duties with the mudguards removed.

Equipment: careful choice keeps the weight down

Even with mudguards the Etape ends up pleasingly light thanks to its kit choice.

The Campagnolo Centaur gears look like the far more expensive Record kit. The carbon compact chainset – the best of its type for value – employs a rugged Hirth joint that is also used in automotive engineering.

Enigma uses its own finishing kit consisting of strong 7075 butted aluminium handlebars, a forged and machined handlebar stem of a length that can be specified to suit the rider and completed by a 350mm carbon micro-adjustable seatpost.

The compact 34/50 chainring and 13-26 cassette gear combination completes the perfect package to make this a strong recommendation in terms of its versatility.

Wheels: mile-eating practicality

The Harry Rowland built wheels remained perfectly true and the availability of replacement parts makes this a more practical proposition for sportives than ‘factory’ wheels.

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