East Sussex-based Enigma Bikes are better known for their titanium frames, but the steel offerings are equally accomplished. We could have opted for top dog Columbus XCR stainless steel Extensor frame, but in-house frame builder Mark Reilly wanted to show what they can do with their 1.95kg (4.3lb) £975 Elite frame.
Highs: Beautiful fillet brazed joins and a sprightly but stable ride feel
Lows: The cost mounts up quickly when you add the fork and extras
Buy if: You’re looking for a compact frame with an agile, comfortable ride
That’s the base price for the TIG-welded frame with a standard paint job. Fillet brazed joins add another £100, a Columbus Minimal painted carbon fork another £235, and this particular paint job by Enigma graphic designer Damon Fisher ups the price by a hefty £350.
As with the finishing componentry, this is all entirely up to the customer. Not all frames are UK built, but Reilly says “all steel frames we try to make in-house”.
The Columbus Spirit niobium triple butted tubes of the Elite have slimline profiles with subtle, flat-sided ovalised top and down tubes. Smooth fillet brazing over the TIG welds makes for aesthetically pleasing tube joins, and a slightly sloping top tube combines with a fairly short head tube to create a compact main frame with lots of seatpost showing.
Our bike came with Enigma’s Carbon Matrix stem and carbon seatpost. A tiny amount of flex in a long seatpost adds a degree of shock absorption through the skinny seatstays.
Our 55cm frame has a 49cm seat tube and 55cm top tube. Geometry is a fairly neutral 73 degrees at the head and the seat (angles vary according to sizing), which makes for a confidently stable ride that will suit both racers and casual sportive riders.
Climbs, descents and high speed cornering feel very accomplished and the road buzz absorption of the skinny tubes smooths your ride a treat.
Finishing detail is superb: the brake cable is routed through the top tube, the head tube is ring-reinforced top and bottom, there’s enough clearance for 25mm tyres, there’s a slotted tab for the front mech, and the gear hanger is a bolt-on unit.
Parts choice is up to the customer but it’s worth pointing out that if, for example, you go for Enigma’s finishing parts instead of the big brand options, and a Campagnolo Athena groupset instead of Centaur, you’ve already saved enough cash to choose a unique paint job. Just a thought.
Athena features an 11-speed compact chainset with carbon arms: athena features an 11-speed compact chainset with carbon arms Tom Simpson/Future Publishing
Athena features an 11-speed compact chainset with carbon arms
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.