The Enigma Escape is a versatile titanium gravel bike meant for mixed riding that might include roads and trails, and dirt or gravel. It could serve as everything from a posh commuter to a long-distance adventure bike.
The original Escape launched in 2017 and this updated model arrived in 2019, with the addition of size-specific tubing and tweaked geometry that increases standover height on the smaller sizes.
Enigma offers various builds and lets riders pick and choose individual components to suit their needs. I tested an Escape built with mechanical Shimano GRX components and Hunt wheels.
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Enigma Escape frameset: simple, classic, practical
Its frameset is replete with mounts for mudguards and luggage, and this particular bike has the optional full carbon C-Six ADV fork that includes the triple bosses on each leg, which accept ‘anything’ style cages.
The frame itself is pleasingly simple with classic lines and nice details such as the cowled rear dropouts. The new Escape has size-specific tubing which means smaller sizes get narrower tubes, with butting taking wall thickness down as thin as 0.6mm on the smallest bike.
Cable and hose routing is all external and the bottom bracket is a standard threaded unit, so there shouldn’t be any maintenance headaches. The frame will accept pretty well any drivetrain combination you can throw at it.
The geometry isn’t in any way radical, with numbers typical of the genre. Reach and stack for a 54cm frame are 371mm and 583mm respectively. These are similar to a relaxed endurance road bike while, at 71 degrees, the head angle is a touch slacker.
In keeping with the adventurous theme, tyre clearances are ample – up to 700×45mm or 650×50mm.
The build: Shimano GRX and Hunt wheels
The GRX rear derailleur features a switchable clutch to keep the chain in check, while the front matches the wider spacing of the GRX cranks.
The RX810 cranks come in a 48/31t ratio only, giving a pretty useful range of gears for on- and off-road riding when combined with the 11-34t cassette. To get even lower gears you could, of course, drop down to the RX600 105-equivalent crank, which comes in 46/30t only.
Enigma’s cheapest wheel option for the Escape is Shimano’s RS370 clincher, but this bike sports a set of tubeless-ready Hunt 4Season Gravel Discs which are a reasonable weight for their class (1,629g claimed) and have an internal width of 20mm, a good match for gravel tyres.
The finishing kit is all Enigma’s own and, by default, the Escape would typically be built with flared gravel-specific bars.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of flared drops however, so I took advantage of how customisable the Enigma is and opted for a set of standard road bars.
This build weighs in at a pretty reasonable 9.3kg – not too shabby for a metal-framed bike with metal wheels, disc brakes and chunky tyres.
Riding the Enigma Escape
The Escape’s ride quality is classic titanium, with a pleasantly damped feel and not a hint of fatiguing buzz.
I found the rear end to be on the firm side, no doubt in part because of the 31.6mm seatpost fitted as standard. I queried this design choice with Enigma’s Richard Lambert and he pointed out that fitting a more flexible 27.2mm post with a shim is perfectly possible (and something Enigma will do for you), but the option of the fatter post is one that some heavier or taller riders may prefer.
It also makes fitting a dropper post easier (Enigma can add dropper routing for customers who need it), something more gravel riders are now doing, and allows the use of a large diameter top tube which, in combination with the rest of the frame, produces the desired lateral stiffness.
In any case, on a bike with clearances this big, the rider’s choice of tyres and pressures are also major factors when it comes to comfort.
The 40mm Panaracer GravelKing SKs on my test bike have a pattern of fine blocks on the centre tread, with longer rail-like blocks on the shoulder.
They roll fast on the road and past experience suggests they’ll be very good on dry, dusty trails (remember those? Me neither). On packed dirt and mixed gravel they’re fine, but in actual mud they quickly load up as the knobs are simply too low profile and too tightly spaced.
Attempts to pedal through sloppy ruts produce lots of wheelspin and limited forward progress. This isn’t a criticism of the bike, just a reminder that no one tyre can excel in all conditions.
On tarmac, the Escape is one of those gravel bikes that can easily fool you into thinking it’s a standard road machine, and it would make a lovely all-weather commuter or winter trainer with a set of full mudguards.
It doesn’t feel particularly compromised by its versatility, but it offers the option to be more adventurous than the winter hacks of yore.
You’ll quickly butt up against the limits of a bike like this if you try to use it as a drop-bar mountain bike, but as an ultra-capable all-roader it works really well.
Enigma Escape verdict
There’s a lot to like about the Escape. It’s a handsome bike that rides well and, appropriately specced, it’s suitable for a really broad range of riding activities.
Titanium has a certain timeless quality as a frame material. The tech has evolved and improved – the Escape has disc brakes, thru-axles and a stout, modern head tube – but fundamentally it doesn’t look hugely different to a Ti bike from 20 years ago.
The Escape isn’t particularly cheap – you pay a significant premium for Ti over comparable steel bikes, and it’s heavier than similarly priced carbon options, but you don’t buy a bike like this solely for its on-paper specs.
It’s a lovely looking thing that won’t suddenly go out of fashion, and that counts for something.
|Price||AUD $7527.00EUR €4666.00GBP £3888.00USD $5063.00|
|Available sizes||50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60|
|Handlebar||Enigma 40cm road|
|Tyres||Panarace GravelKing SK 700c×40mm|
|Shifter||Shimano GRX RX810|
|Seatpost||C-Six carbon 31.6mm|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano GRX RX810|
|Front derailleur||Shimano GRX RX810|
|Bottom bracket||Shimano BSA threaded|
|Frame||Escape 3Al/2.5V titanium|
|Fork||C-Six ADV full carbon, 1 1/8in to 1.5in tapered steerer, 12mm thru-axle|
|Cranks||Shimano GRX RX810 48/31t|
|Cassette||Shimano HG800 11-34t|
|Brakes||Shimano GRX RX810 hydraulic disc|
|Wheels||Hunt 4Season Gravel Disc 700c|