What, not carbon? In the current climate of composite moulding and weaving that has taken the pro peloton by storm, it’s rare that I get the opportunity to test a bike made of anything else. It came as rather a pleasant surprise, then, to find out that this bike under scrutiny, the Eulogy, was made not from the black stuff, but from titanium.
The manufacturers, British-based company Enigma specialise in building bikes made virtually entirely of titanium, based on its merits of strength and low weight. But can titanium really compete in this carbon age? There’s only one way to find out…
Frame: elegant mix of Titanium with carbon where it can do a job
First things first: how did the bike look? It had been so long since I’d tested a titanium bike that I’d almost forgotten the special aura they have about them. Once fully assembled, the Eulogy cut a timeless shape that will look as good in 10 years’ time as it did on our encounter.
The top-, seat-, and downtube all had different diameters but, put together, created a beautifully balanced frame, both in looks and, as I was about to find out, performance. The wishbone chainstay – one of the few concessions to carbon on the bike – along with the titanium drop-outs, completed the overall look nicely.
It’s fair to say that titanium bikes are never going to rank at the top in terms of their stiffness-to-weight ratio, but when I took the Eulogy out around the Rhine Valley, in Germany, the ride was so much fun that particular coefficient paled into insignificance. While I found the bike to be light and stiff enough to win over any pro on the European circuit, what really struck me was the smoothness of the ride.
In this respect, I’ve not found the Eulogy’s equal in any of the many carbon bikes I’ve tested. At the same time, however, the carbon forks and chainstays transmitted enough road feedback to keep the ride real. I decided to take Enigma’s offering onto the Petersberg to really get the measure of it.
Ride: fast into corners and fast out too
As you already know, I was impressed by its well-balanced geometry. So well balanced that, when descending, even the nasty hairpin bends were a breeze to negotiate. The bike responded quickly and predictably, even when I left it to the very last moment to touch the brakes.
Talking of brakes, it took me a little while to get used to the way the Eulogy’s were mounted. Enigma had connected the front brake to the right lever, which of course is standard for British bikes, but the opposite of what you’d find on most bikes abroad. You can imagine the results: the first time I tested my braking reflexes on the downhill, I was almost pushed over the bars by my saddle, which had reared up when the braking on the front wheel got too much. As to which position is best, it’s just a matter of taste. It’s certainly not a problem with the Eulogy, more a point to bear in mind if you’re not used to it.
I gave the Eulogy a full work-out and coaxed it into some manoeuvres that pushed it to the limit of its tyre grip. Even when stretched this far, the frame was pleasingly stiff and handled well. What was also noticeable, though, was the headset. It squeaked a bit and I wasn’t able to get the top lid as tight as I’d have liked it with the tools I had to hand.
When I contacted Enigma about this, they assured me the problem was a one-off and purely down to the bike’s set-up. The Campagnolo Record Compact carbon cranks proved their worth on the climb of the Petersberg, and gear shifting was a doddle thanks to the Record groupset. The gear ratio on the 50/34 chainrings with a 12-23 cassette would have been enough to tackle the biggest climbs in the Alps or Pyrenees, so the Rhine Valley proved no problem.
Equipment: great wheels classy finishing kit
Particularly impressive was the way I could accelerate out of the hairpins on the way up the climbs. The new Shamal wheels may have kept their classic name, but those supplied with the Eulogy had little in common with the deep-alloy-rim version I rode in the mid-’90s. The new Ultra version features alloy rims and Campag’s 7×3 spoke configuration on the back wheel.
The Shamals were coupled with Michelin Pro Race Clincher tyres and, together, the pair gave a formidable performance – lightweight, stiff and eye-catching thanks to the Shamals’ carbon hubs. I had no hesitation in pushing the Pro Races to their limit as I was confident they could produce the goods no matter what the conditions.
There was almost no flex in the oversized bottom bracket when I gave the big gears a turnover out of the saddle, and that was probably thanks to its beefy diameter. It looked good, too; the joins where the tubes and chainstay met it, welded or bonded, were perfect. An extended seat-tube stretched all the way up to the saddle and was responsible in large part for the Eulogy’s slick look.
Enigma have opted for a Reynolds carbon seatpost, whose shorter-than-usual length saves extra weight. Taking on the role of derrière support was an Enigma Ellipse titanium saddle. It was fairly comfortable, average weight and looked good enough but, for me, it was nothing to boast about to your mates.
A Deda Zero 100 stem and Newton bars took care of the steering. While the bars were stiff and comfortable, I didn’t think their dark hue really did the bike’s titanium appeal justice. That said, a bike computer on one side and a heart- rate monitor on the other and you’d barely notice the bars.
Looks aside, the steering was where I could really feel the Eulogy’s difference to other bikes. The front end didn’t feel particularly stiff to me but, surprisingly, when called upon to react to my steering commands, the Eulogy responded quickly and reliably.
If you’re the type of rider who’s constantly on the edge, you might prefer a more nervous ride, but if you’re looking for comfort on a long ride without sacrificing too much in terms of response, you’ll love riding the Enigma. I did. So much so that I wore my legs out with uphill intervals and sprint sessions, which wasn’t great preparation for the 50km ride back home into a headwind… A bike can only perform as well as its rider, and during our journey back to Cologne, I rather let the Eulogy down. But that doesn’t change the fact that this titanium temptress is a class act and a valid alternative to its carbon cousins.
If you’re looking for the optimum stiffness-to-weight ratio and sub-UCI regulation weight, then you should probably be looking for a carbon bike. But dismiss the Enigma Eulogy at your peril – this is no fly-by-night “fashion” frame, but a timeless beauty that will stand by you for the best part of a lifetime.
Its stiffness and response are as good as you’ll find on a titanium frame, and in terms of comfort, you’ll struggle to find better. Enigma haven’t been afraid to use a touch of carbon here and there where appropriate, either. Suitably high-end components complete the package. If you’re looking for comfort and performance, you must try this.