Enigma Ex CR review£3,250.00

Hand-built British beauty

BikeRadar score4.5/5

The words ‘made in Britain’ aren’t seen on many bikes these days – or much else, come to think of it. But there are still pockets of high-quality engineering across the country, including Enigma, who still make all of their frames by hand in their Sussex workshops.

Their new Ex CR shows that there’s still a place for steel at the top table of frame-building materials. It's durable, strikingly stylish and comfortable enough for day-long rides – as well as being light – and it's not bad value for a bike that should provide you with a lifetime of riding pleasure.

Ride & handling: Doesn’t hang around on the flat, climbs well and descends surefootedly

Pedalling off on the Enigma is a positive experience. The handling is immediate, snappy and responsive, the bike doesn’t hang around on the flat, climbs well and descends surefootedly.

It may not have the all-round suppleness of titanium, but the combination of the steel frame and carbon seatpost still means even after a few hours in the saddle you’ll likely be smiling rather than suffering. But the frame is also stiff enough to make sure you’re not wasting energy when you’re pedalling.

As for any weight penalty, forget it. Our test model weighed just 7.68kg, a shade under 17lb. With more exclusive equipment, this could be reduced to a level that would worry the UCI.

The finish on the enigma is spot on: the finish on the enigma is spot on
The finish on the enigma is spot on: the finish on the enigma is spot on

Frame: Classy steel frame with tidy welds and a spot-on finish

Enigma have recently added titanium to the materials from which they build bikes, but the Ex CR is made from Columbus’s stainless steel XCR tubing. Italian companies Cinelli and Pegoretti have both produced XCR frames, but in the UK Enigma have the sole rights to use this material for the next year.

At a time when complete carbon fibre road bikes are available for as little as a grand and Enigma’s titanium frames less still, why would you splash out on a steel bike, especially considering the rarefied frame-only price of a grand-and-a-half, which doesn’t even include the forks?

One of the great qualities of stainless steel as a bike-building material is its corrosion resistance and its resulting longevity. As with titanium, a well looked after steel frame should last as long as its owner.

A second reason is the striking looks of a hand-built, custom-finished bike. The Enigma’s paintjob is understated, but of all the bikes that we’ve ridden recently, this is the one that has garnered the most praise. The combination of red, cream and polished stainless steel proved a winner, while the super-smooth welds are as tidy as it’s possible to make them. 

Finally, the price includes custom building – the Ex CR is custom-built only – by Enigma’s frame-building maestro Mark Reilly. Bike delivery is therefore expected to take six to eight weeks.

Simon has been cycling for as long as he can remember, and more seriously since his time at university in the Dark Ages (the 1980s). This has taken in time trialling, duathlon and triathlon and he has toured extensively in Asia and Australasia, including riding solo 2900km from Cairns to Melbourne. He now mainly rides as a long-distance commuter and leisure/fitness rider. He has been testing bikes and working for Cycling Plus in various capacities for nearly 20 years.
  • Age: 53
  • Height: 175cm / 5'9
  • Weight: 75kg /165lb
  • Waist: 33in
  • Discipline: Road, touring, commuting
  • Current Bikes: Rose SL3000, Hewitt steel tourer
  • Beer of Choice: Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • Location: Bath, UK
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