When you get into the rarefied world of the German superbike, you’ll find obsessive attention to two things: stiffness and low weight. Comfort is something you get from tyres, bar tape, seatpost and saddle – but it’s certainly not engineered into the frame. So when the beautifully understated Engage CLADE e11 landed with us that’s exactly what we expected.
The huge chainstays, boxy down tube and bulky asymmetric bottom bracket shell all signify a bike with rigidity at its heart. Then there’s the 6.22kg (13.71lb) weight, which is impressively light for a 58cm bike. Kit clearly plays a part, though its sub-800g frame is a hell of a feathery starting point. But from the moment we first rode the e11 it became obvious that this bike is very, very different.
The front end is typically taut and stiff, with the 3T Rigida LTD fork offering flex-free performance and contributing to the swift, sharp steering. The carbon bar and lightweight stem do a great job of minimising road buzz, too.
But it’s at the back where things get very interesting. The compact frame leaves plenty of carbon seatpost exposed, which means plenty of unsupported post flexing – and smoothing out rougher road surfaces in the process.
But the seatpost isn’t the only thing to flex. The asymmetric seat tube tapers quickly to a slim profile that’s engineered to flex considerably. The feel resembles that of the pivoted Trek Domane – but that the Engage achieves this purely using materials is very clever indeed.
Engage have opted for the lightest mechanical groupset around: SRAM Red. It’s paired with the excellent FSA SL-K chainset and shifting performance is faultless, the new front mech performing just as well with the SL-K as it does with Red’s own chainset.
Engage provide nearly all the components themselves
Engage’s all-carbon brakes are ultra-light at just 145g a pair, but unlike some lightweight single pivots the power and feel isn’t compromised – though they aren’t without fault. The soft compound pads’ connection with the carbon rims offers good feel and consistency, but it’s occasionally noisy and the pads have worn at an alarming rate; after just a few hundred miles they already require replacing.
Overall, though, it’s hard to fault the brilliantly innovate Engage Clade e11. It’s rigid, rapid, handles swiftly and is exciting to ride. But what sets it apart from other premium German bikes is its sublime comfort.
If your pockets are deep enough and you want a classy all-rounder for rough roads, tough sportives and the heat of racing, this stunning debut from Engage would make a great left-field choice for the discerning rider.
- Gears: SRAM Red
- Brakes: Engage Gavial carbon
- Wheels: Engage Sphere 50c
- Handlebar: Engage Apsis ergo
- Stem: Engage
- Seatpost: Engage Revit
- Saddle: Engage Fluke
- Chainset: FSA SL-K
- Tyres: Continental GP4000 tyres