British titanium specialist Enigma's latest model for 2015, the Evade, offers that fine combination of fast, energetic and effortless pace coupled with a smoothness and refinement to make a wonderfully fast long-distance cruising bike.
Enigma now split their range into Fast Endurance, Endurance, Versatility and Off-Road, which helps you better understand the diversity of their models. The Evade fits into that first category, a 'classical yet contemporary design so typical of Enigma, created for fast, smooth endurance riding' they say.
Nice looking bikes pass through the road.cc office on a regular basis, but to my mind few have looked quite as sharply appealing as the Evade. Painted titanium is a rare sight – the aesthetic appearance of a titanium frame is a USP – but Engima display great skill with the airbrush with their new Paintworks option and this is a classy demonstration of their talent. It wins your heart even before you've set pedal on it.
Even if you're not swayed by its looks, you will be swayed by its ride and handling. With the use of oversized titanium tubes and a reasonably racy but not overly aggressive geometry, the Evade provides plenty of excitement and speed, all backed up by the wonderful smoothness you'd expect from a titanium bicycle.
The Evade is well balanced. It's nimble and the steering is light, and there's enough feedback to help you exploit all the grip of the Mavic tyres. It's a bike happy and willing to be pushed hard. It was right at home in a leg-burning chain gang, and wasn't embarrassed by the armada of lighter and stiffer carbon fibre bikes. It held its own. Such riding revealed no shortcomings, with adequate frame stiffness when wringing the last few watts out of the legs.
On a more gentle but still reasonably fast-paced four-hour ride through the rolling Cotswolds countryside, the Evade really displayed its capacity to be a fine long-distance bike, with comfort and agility well balanced. It handled a wide range of road surface conditions and kept this reviewer comfortable throughout. The frame and fork remain elegantly composed over the roughest road surfaces and there was never any point when I wanted wider tyres than the 25mm ones fitted.
The smoothness of the ride is impressive. That is, of course, a big appeal of titanium, and fortunately none of the fabled titanium ride quality has been lost with the oversized tube profiles used in the Evade. In this guise, it's a worthy alternative to a carbon fibre frame, with an engaging and responsiveness that easily puts some carbon bikes to shame.
If I'm being really picky, the Evade does show its weight on steeper gradients, but only really at lactic-acid inducing pace; anything less and the slight weight penalty over a comparable carbon fibre bike isn't as detectable on the climbs as you might imagine. And at 7.52kg (16.58lb), the Evade can hardly be described as heavy anyway. The high level of stiffness in the frame provides a solid pedalling platform; there's no hint of bottom bracket flex when climbing out of the saddle and the front end is stiff and direct.
Where the Evade rewards you is on descents. It has brilliant high speed stability. Sudden mid-corner bumps or holes don't cause a harsh unsettling of the Evade. It's unfailingly composed, and through high speed turns with the Evade banked hard over, it feels superb. Grip levels from the Mavic tyres are predictable and the wheels are stiff under load.
The Evade, first launched at the London Bicycle Show in early 2015, is constructed from 3AL/2.5V double butted titanium. The down tube and head tube are both oversized, 44mm in diameter, a key difference to the other models in Enigma's range. The company's own carbon fibre fork with a tapered head tube is slotted into that head tube.
As we've come to expect from Enigma, and as witnessed on previous test bikes like the Elite HSS, the quality of the workmanship is second to none. All the welds are extremely tidy, the attention to detail is top notch. There are Breezer-style dropouts with a replaceable gear hanger. And in a pleasing nod to easy home maintenance, it has an external threaded bottom bracket and external cable routing. The frame accepts a 31.6mm seatpost.
You can choose the Evade in one of five stock sizes (53 to 59cm) or pay extra and go down the custom geometry route. The bike tested here was a stock 56cm, which fitted me perfectly, with few modifications required, with the geometry showing parallel 73-degree head and seat angles, a 56cm top tube, 409mm chainstays and a 16cm head tube.
Enigma claim a frame weight of 1,350g, which, while heavier than many carbon fibre frames, is still very competitive. Though not really a fair comparison, the frame weight of the admittedly entry-level BMC TeamMachine SLR03 carbon road bike reviewed recently was 1,230g, so there's less in it than you might imagine. If you make the same comparison with a flagship carbon race bike the gap widens significantly, but then you're looking at a substantially bigger cash outlay. But of course weight isn't really a big factor when considering a titanium frame, it's just interesting to see that the weight difference isn't that much of a penalty.
You have a number of choices for buying an Evade. You can buy just the frame for £1,399 or frameset for £1,655, or go for a complete bike. The most affordable complete bike is a Shimano 105 11-speed build coming in at £2,699 with Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels and Engima finishing kit. That price rises to £3,899 for a top-spec Shimano Dura-Ace build with Mavic Ksyrium SLS Wheels. There's an Ultegra bike in the middle, and you can choose Campagnolo EPS or Shimano Di2 as well. The most expensive build also offers a choice of any finish, while the cheaper bikes are limited to a brushed appearance with a choice of decal colours.
When we asked Enigma if we could test the Evade, they pulled out the stops and actually sent us their show bike, decked out as it is with a Campagnolo Chorus 11-speed groupset and Mavic Ksyrium 125th anniversary wheels. And what a build. The yellow details of the Mavic wheels have inspired the paint job of this special bike, with matching bar tape, Fizik Antares saddle, and yellow decals on the frame, fork and stem. It's a wonderful demonstration of Enigma's custom paint shop programme, and a sign of their growing confidence to steer away from the typical titanium appearance.
The Campagnolo Chorus groupset provides lovely ergonomic hoods and crisp shifting, with noticeably more 'clunk' as each push of the lever sends the chain across the cassette compared with a Shimano or SRAM drivetrain, not that that's a bad thing. Paired with the Mavic Ksyrium 125 wheels and their Exalith 2 ribbed brake track, the brakes are forceful, providing ample performance in the dry and wet. Mavic's own 25mm tyres provide oodles of traction and the volume is sufficient to smooth out wrinkles in the road surface.
The Mavic Ksyrium 125 wheels have a list price of £1,100, a significant contributor to the high price tag of this overall build. But they're light, with their claimed 1,370g weight positively contributing to the sprightliness and quick turn of pace the Evade is able to muster when given half a chance. You can read the full details of these special Mavic wheels here.
Enigma's own finishing kit is unassuming but all good quality kit. The custom painted stem – matching the Mavic parts – is a lovely touch. A couple of steerer spacers provide some handlebar height adjustment. The bar is pleasingly shaped with reasonable reach and drops, and a carbon fibre seatpost is decorated with a yellow band to complete the package.
This bike build would set you back £5,000 if you were to replicate it. While there's no doubt that's a lot of money, the more affordable 105 bike compares favourably with other titanium options, so Enigma are working hard to be reasonably competitive on price.
This is a stunning looking bike with stunning performance. It's a very dynamic and engaging ride that rewards those cyclists who like to wring every bit of performance out of their legs but still want the smoothness and comfort for those days when they're not chasing speed. It's docile and supple at low speeds, stiff and responsive when you turn the power up.
Enigma's new Evade offers an exciting and fast-paced ride with impressive smoothness and composure
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Make and model: Enigma Evade Ti
Size tested: 56, black
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Grade 9 3AL 2.5V seamless double butted titanium
44mm head tube for inset type headsets, compatible with integrated or tapered steerer forks
44mm OS down tube
Breezer style dropouts with replaceable gear hanger
English threaded BB
31.6mm seat post size
35mm band type front changer
Frame weight from 1350 grams
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Enigma say: "The NEW Evade is our latest model, a classical yet contemporary design so typical of Enigma, created for fast, smooth endurance riding. With its oversize 44mm down tube and matching head tube designed to increase lateral rigidity, the Evade delivers exceptional performance, fast, comfortable and superbly balanced. Handcrafted from the finest 3AL 2.5V double-butted titanium the Evade is available in a range of off-the-peg sizes with a custom option available at extra cost, plus a whole host of finish options can be specified to make your Evade individual for you."
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Top notch build quality and stunning weld work.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
3AL/2.5V double butted titanium with a 44mm down tube and head tube, and carbon fibre fork with a tapered steerer tube.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Five stock sizes, this 56cm has 73-degree seat/head angles, 409mm chainstays and a 16cm head tube. Custom geometry is an option as well, but you pay extra for that.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
With a stem change the bike fitted me perfectly.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Extremely comfortable, handles all manner of road surfaces very well.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
No hint of flex in the bottom bracket when climbing or sprinting.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, very efficient power transfer.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively and direct.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's brilliant on the descents, the balance is perfect, the front end is very direct and there's good feedback from the tyres.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
You could gain more smoothness, if you wanted it, with a carbon handlebar and different wheels - the Mavic wheels are quite stiff, but not unduly so.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The high stiffness of the Mavic wheels provide plenty of stiffness when pushing and leaning the Evade over in the corners, and the fork is stiff when braking hard or climbing out of the saddle.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
There isn't really much to criticise here.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The compact chainset provides plenty of low gears for climbing, the 11-speed setup giving a wide spread of usable ratios, and the brakes are really good.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The wheels are a highlight but they're certainly not cheap.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
A really comfortable Fizik Antare saddle, the Enigma handlebar is nicely shaped, and the carbon seatpost provides some compliance.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
This is a costly build, but with a Shimano 105 bike coming in at £2,699, it's clear you could pick up a much more affordable Evade if you wanted.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Evade frame is very impressive, but as flattering as this build is, the smart money would be on one of the Shimano builds if you're on a budget. Still, this is a highly capable bike for the money, if your budget can stretch to it.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
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.