This is Enigma’s redesigned Elite, handbuilt in the UK from the latest Columbus Spirit HSS tubeset by Joe, the son of company founder Jim Walker at their Hailsham workshop. A frameset costs £1,499 and the Campagnolo Chorus 11-speed build we have here would set you back £3,450.
Enigma may be best known for producing fine titanium frames, but they do a lovely line of steel frames as well. The Elite has been in the range since 2008 but for 2014 it has been updated and makes use of the new Columbus Spirit HSS triple-butted tubeset, which features an oversized 44mm profiled down tube and tapered head tube (1 1/8in-1 1/2in).
It’s a handsome looking frame, the oversized tube profiles give it a good presence in the company of carbon and aluminium rivals. And while it has never gone out of fashion, it does feel like steel is in vogue at the moment, especially with a company like Columbus still developing new tubesets that push the material even further than has previously been possible.
The frame is finished with stainless steel braze-on fixtures for the bottle and front derailleur mounts, Breezer dropouts and a traditional English threaded external bottom bracket. They say the frame weight is 1,600g, which is about what we'd expect for a good steel frame.
The Elite looks resplendent in this shade of red, don't you think? Contrasting white panels on the inside of the fork legs and stripes across the top tube and down the seatstays set it off nicely. You can choose any colour you want, and you can also specify the colour of the decals. They’ve also painted the stem and full carbon Columbus Grammy fork to match which is a really nice touch.
Four sizes are available from 53 to 59cm, each a compact geometry with a 9° sloping top tube. This is a 55cm with a 55cm top tube, 51cm seat tube, 15.5cm head tube, 72.5 degree head angle and 73 seat angle. As the frame is handmade in the UK, they offer a custom option so you could get it made to measure if you don’t fit the stock frames.
It has been sent to us with a Campagnolo Chorus 11-speed groupset with Campagnolo Neutron Ultra wheels, fitted with Continental GrandPrix 4000S II 23mm tyres. Enigma’s own stem, painted to match the frame, is joined with their own-brand aluminium handlebar and carbon fibre seatpost. The saddle is a Fizik Aliante.
The complete bike as pictured here weighs 7.93kg (17.48lb). That’s competitive with other steel bikes we’ve tested, such as the Stoemper Taylor and Genesis Volare Team. It’s also competitive on price, other options for steel frames you could add to the mix include a Rourke Reynolds 853 for £1,270 or a Condor Super Acciaio for £1,299.
So plenty of choice, then. The Enigma gets an extra nod for being made in the UK and for being available as a custom order as well, which will appeal to many people. I’m interested in seeing how the Elite compares to the Taylor and Volare, three steel bikes that use quite different tubesets.
Full review soon. More at www.enigmabikes.com/products/elite
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.