Enigma Elite HSS ST review£3,469.00

Steel ride cracks the code for spirited yet smooth cycling

BikeRadar score4/5

The optional Union Jack-painted front end of the Enigma makes a striking visual statement, but the frame and fork it covers are what confirm the Elite HSS ST’s combative character.

    Frame and equipment: muscular looks and classic touches

    The stocky head tube gives room for a full-size tapered fork with hidden Columbus ceramic bearings. The fork base width means the head tube can be kept low for an aggressive ride position rather than perching you up high for pottering.

    The carbon Enigma fork has been chosen to produce the right blend of precision and palpable small bump absorption. It’s so good that, given the visual similarity, we actually asked Enigma if it had fitted an ultra-expensive ENVE Road 2.0 under the coordinated paint job rather than its own unit.

    Campagnolo chorus skeleton brakes scrub off speed:
    Campagnolo chorus skeleton brakes scrub off speed:

    Campagnolo Chorus Skeleton brakes scrub off speed

    Enigma follows up the contemporary front end with a gently sloped top tube and tight rear that keeps the metal needed to a minimum. That gives the Elite HSS an impressively low claimed frame weight of just over 1500g for the smallest size. Tube shaping’s minimal too, relying on the classic round profiles of the triple-butted Columbus Spirit tubing to join the tapered head to the conventional screw-in bottom bracket shell.

    The brazed-on tab for the front derailleur is a neat touch, and the sudden pre-dropout taper of the stout chainstays reminded us of the classic enhanced stiffness Max OR tubeset that Columbus developed to combat the rise of alloy frame popularity in the 90s. The cowled dropouts also give maximum contact area for the rear stays to complete a muscular looking frame.

    Enigma offers Ultegra-based 1.1 or Dura-Ace-based 1.3 complete bike options or can build you a custom spec bike like the Campagnolo Chorus stop and go/Zonda wheel sample here. Enigma has its own paint shop, with several two-tone options as standard on the Elite and a range of custom finishes including colour-matched Enigma stem and seatpost for £299+.

    Ride and handling: easy rider with plenty of zip

    While the frame and kit looks great it’s how it works on the road that makes it clear why Enigma’s owner Jim Walker often rides one himself rather than one of his more expensive titanium frames.

    While the relatively relaxed head tube gives a stable base feel, the steep seat angle pushes weight and authority onto the front tyre. There’s enough give in the frame to keep tyres glued better than you expect, so you can really rip the low front end through corners, clipping apexes and straining your neck for the fastest exit.

    The low front end encourages a little aggression:
    The low front end encourages a little aggression:

    The low front end encourages a little aggression

    The stout tubes are punchy enough to make going full gas a rewarding experience on climbs or sprints and help you churn a fading gear over the brow of a hill and spin straight into the attack. Even with the relatively low bar position it’s forgiving enough for a lazy summer ride.

    The Enigma feels as classy and coherent to ride as it is to look at and its easy yet enthusiastic character is a great example of why steel still deserves consideration if you want more from your riding than clinical speed and mass market value.

    This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

    Guy Kesteven

    Freelance Writer, UK
    Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
    • Age: 45
    • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
    • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
    • Waist: 76cm / 30in
    • Chest: 91cm / 36in
    • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
    • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
    • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
    • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
    • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
    • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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