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The updated Enigma Escape is a compliant, capable and versatile road, gravel and adventure bike that offers all the magic ride quality and durability titanium is renowned for. It's a fair bit cheaper than quite a few rival titanium offerings too, making it a good choice in a crowded market.
If you want to escape into the countryside and ride over everything that comes your way, the Enigma Escape is a grand choice. It offers all the compliant and fluid smoothness that titanium has become highly regarded for over the last couple of decades, and combined with the 38mm wide tyres it feels planted and calm on any sort of surface, be it rough country lanes or gravel tracks.
Smoothness is a key attraction of a titanium frame – but steel frames are also silky smooth. There is a difference, though, as I found by riding the Enigma Endeavour steel bike at the same time as the Escape: the Escape feels more flighty than its steel sibling, more agile and responsive.
The steering is well judged and a delight, neither too fast nor too slow, and the Escape is right at home carving corners, mixing tight switchback turns in the woods with quick corners on the road. When you get on the pedals it shows a proper turn of speed.
Thankfully, the Shimano RX800 hydraulic disc brakes are powerful enough to bring things under control. The new groupset offers a more usable spread of gears for riding off-road or using the many accessory mounts, and the shifting quality is flawless.
Tyre choice is personal and terrain-dependent, but the Panaracer Gravel King tyres cut a fine balance on road and dirt, a suitable fit-and-forget tyre, for sure.
At 9.62kg the Escape is light enough to help you clamber up steep climbs, and while sprinting performance might be lacking compared to lighter and stiffer carbon rivals – I'm thinking the Open Wide and Cervelo Aspero here – it's by no means tardy when it comes to making rapid progress. It feels less a bike for hustling and more for cruising, taking in the views and enjoying the refined ride quality.
Enigma says it wanted to create a drop bar bike without limits, and while that's probably stretching the truth a little bit, this sort of bike is less limited than most other drop bar bikes. It's right at home on the road and more than capable of handling some root-infested, mud-covered woodland singletrack, which is probably the realistic breadth of riding terrain such a bike needs to cater for.
For my local roads and off-road tracks, the Escape is highly suitable. It's comfortable and fast enough for dispatching all the road miles and it's not intimidated by a bit of gravel or dirt.
I have to say, it does amaze me that titanium still has such a draw for cyclists despite the advance of more modern materials.
Enigma has been plying its trade with titanium for many years now, and that experience shows in this frame. It's both made to a very high standard and complete with sensible details that'll make it easy to live with.
The frame is made from 3AL 2.5V titanium tubing, size-specific for this second-generation model. Using different diameters of tubing for each frame size allows Enigma to better tune the ride quality and reduce weight. This move to size-specific frame tubing is something we're more inclined to hear about with carbon frames, or very high-end bespoke frame builds, so it's good to see Enigma offering it on the Escape.
It has also improved the standover clearance on smaller models.
Increased tyre clearance was the main update with this Mk2 Escape. The frame and fork now take 700x45mm tyres or 650Bx50mm which should keep it abreast of current tyre width tastes.
A new fork was developed to create the extra space, and the chainstay spacing increased.
That new carbon fork is called the CSix and comes in two versions, with or without Anything cage mounts. Each fork has internal routing for the brake hose and a dynamo hub, so it just comes down to how much carrying capacity you want. A fork with an uncut steerer tube weighs a claimed 435g.
You get external cable routing which makes it easy to build a bike, and sorting cables out in the middle of nowhere is a cinch compared to internal routing. The front disc hose does go inside the carbon fork, though, and there's internal routing for a dynamo up front.
Also external is the threaded bottom bracket, and there are eyelets for a third bottle cage, rear rack and mudguards.
With the Anything mounts on the carbon fork, you could load the Escape up for long adventures.
It's flat mount callipers for the disc brakes, and 12mm thru-axles at both ends.
The bike tested here retails at £3,899 with the latest Shimano RX800 groupset, with a 2x mechanical setup and hydraulic disc brakes.
Standard builds start at £3,499 with Shimano GRX600, or if you prefer you can plan your own build by buying the frameset for £2,186. The reality is, all Enigma's bikes are built to order, so it's possible to spec whatever you like – if you want SRAM's latest Force eTap AXS 1x groupset it'll cost you £4,799 – custom geometry, features and paint are all available for extra charges, offering a reasonable level of customisation that isn't available from many mainstream titanium brands.
Shimano's latest GRX groupset, its first offering to the growing gravel and adventure market, has been well received and quickly embraced by bike brands. There's a host of gearing options to suit a broad range of requirements.
This GRX800 is the top-end mechanical shifting setup with hydraulic disc brakes. It offers accurate gear changes from the newly shaped lever blades, which are easier to reach from the hoods or drops. The hydraulic disc brakes are as solid as we're used to from Shimano, with one-finger application of the lever all that is ever required, even in the most hairy situations.
The choice of one or two chainrings is entirely down to personal preference. I found this setup a good option for the road and off-road riding the Escape is so well suited to. Changes between the two chainrings are effortless and there was the right gear for most occasions.
Away from the groupset to the rest of the build and we find a nice pair of Hunt 4 Season Gravel Disc wheels fitted with 38mm wide Panaracer GravelKing tyres. Hunt is a brand that needs no introduction to regular readers of road.cc, and this affordable aluminium wheelset with its wide profile rim is the ideal base for the fat gravel tyres this bike is going to spend its life fitted with. The shallow rim profile means you don't get pushed around in strong winds, and off-road they aren't so massively stiff that you'll be rattled to death on anything rocky. They're also durable enough to take a big blow to the rear wheel when you get a bit too eager launching off a drop.
The GravelKing tyres are well liked and for good reason. They strike a good balance of rolling speed on harder surfaces with just enough tread to find grip on wet and loose stuff. I've clocked up thousands of miles on these tyres on various test bikes, and used them at Dirty Reiver, with no complaints.
Contact points are always critical on a bike, and here Enigma's own Ellipse saddle is a nice shape with generous enough padding that I didn't need to instantly swap it out.
The PRO Discover handlebar is made from aluminium with a light flare to the drops. This puts your hands further apart in the drops than when on the hoods, and increases the feeling of control over the bike when descending. I'm not personally a fan of some of the massive flares currently available – this handlebar is just enough.
An Enigma branded aluminium stem and carbon seatpost rounds out the build, which on our scales comes in at 9.62kg (21.2lb).
Titanium isn't the frame material to choose if you want the best value for money. Prices might have come down from the heady days of the 90s, when it was an exotic space-age material, but it's still a pricey proposition. That said, the Enigma is cheaper – a lot cheaper – than some.
Another UK brand, Kinesis, has the GTD (Go The Distance) for a very comparable price of £2,200 for the frameset, and like the Escape, it has adventure and bikepacking versatility in its sights.
Another new entrant in the gravel market is the J.Laverack GRiT, but it costs more at £2,500 for the frameset. It's not a bike we've ridden yet.
There's also the Mason Bokeh Ti, which, if it's anything like the aluminium Bokeh I tested, should offer a very good ride. But at £3,450 just for the frameset, it makes the Escape look like a bargain.
One comparable titanium gravel bike that is less than the Enigma is the Reilly Gradient, which comes in at £1,699 for the frameset. I was impressed with it back in 2017, and the frame has been updated since then so it should be even better.
If performance is what you crave, the Cervelo Aspero is a serious contender, but you'll need to find quite a bit more cash for the £5,299 asking price, and it isn't nearly as versatile as the Escape.
Then there's also the Enigma Endeavour for £3,699 you could consider, which is beautiful to look at, with a ride to match.
Titanium gives a ride quality that is less muted and more alive than a steel frame, and is enough to justify the premium price tag for many people. In the Escape, it offers impeccable ride manners and performance that shines on any road or off-road surface, and the abundance of mounts ensures it's ready for any adventure, big or small, you might have planned.
Fast, compliant, capable and versatile titanium gravel and adventure bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Enigma Escape 2020
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Enigma lists this spec for the GRX600 1X model – our test bike has the Shimano GRX810 2X groupset and Hunt 4 Season Gravel Disc wheels.
Frame Escape 3al 2.5v
Frame Finish Hand Brushed
Logos Satin Bead
Axle142x Rear Bolt Thru
Seat Collar Enigma Alloy
Carbon Spacers 3x 10 1 x 5
Fork C-SIX GRV Full Carbon
Headset Enigma Evo TK036A
Stem Enigma Alloy
Handlebar (O-O or C-C!!) Pro Discover Handlebar - Gravel
Saddle Enigma Ellipse
Seatpost C-Six Carbon 31.6
Rims Shimano RS370 Clincher
Tyres Panaracer Gravel King 700x43c
Chainset Shimano GRX FC RX600 GRX 172.5mm 40t
BB Shimano BBR60B
STI Shimano GRX ST-RX600 11spd
Rear mech Shimano GRX RD-RX812
Brake calipers Shimano GRX BR-RX400 flat mount
Brake Rotors Shimano SM-RT800 140 & 160
Cassette Shimano CS-M7000 SLX 42t
Chain Shimano CN-HG601
Tape Enigma Embossed
Frame Technical Information
Material 3al 2.5v titanium
Frame Weight TBC
Bottom bracket 68mm British Thread
Seat tube (internal) 31.6mm
Seat tube (external) 34.9mm
Front derailleur attachment 34.9 band on
Dropout arrangement 12x142
Maximum tyre clearance 45mm (700c) or 50mm (650c)
Brake type Disc - Flat Mount
Extras Eyelets for rack & mudguard fittings
Cable Routing Suitable for Mechanical, DI2, EPS and ETAP
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 says: "The Escape is a highly adaptable and hugely capable all terrain titanium adventure bike. It's equally at home munching mile after mile of tarmac on an ultra endurance road event or some back of beyond forestry bridleway for those seeking for a bit more solitude. Whatever you throw at the Escape it handles it with ease.
"It's beautifully constructed, supremely versatile with handling that inspires confidence and encourages you to push the boundaries of your riding.
"The primary focus of the Escape is for mixed road/offroad, and touring use. It's also quite at home on audax rides, endurance racing, commuting, gravel, allroad, singletrack and more. It sits in our core range as the model most suited to offroad use. If you're interested in something a little more road focussed we recommend you take a look at the Etape."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
It's the company's only 'Adventure, Gravel & Touring Bike'. Framesets start at £2,185.99; full builds from £3,499.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The finish on this frame is extremely good.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Escape 3Al 2.5V hand brushed titanium.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Enigma says, "The geometry is intended for to make the Escape good for mixed road/offroad, and touring use. It's also quite at home on audax rides, endurance racing, commuting, gravel, allroad, singletrack and more. It sits in our core range as the model most suited to offroad use."
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
I found the fit perfect with no changes necessary.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The titanium frame is very compliant, helped by the big volume tyres at low pressures.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It doesn't flex unduly when you're sprinting or climbing but it's not savagely stiff like a carbon race bike.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Power transfer is adequate for the sort of riding this bike will be used for.
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? Neutral.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Tyre choice will impact the ride and capability, but these Panaracer Gravel Kings work well just about everywhere.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It undercuts a few British titanium rivals by a bit and some by a lot, and there are only a few cheaper options.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Titanium is never going to be the cheapest offering, but if you want a compliant, capable and versatile bike for all your cycling adventures, the Escape is a very good choice, and though the price tag is hefty, it's cheaper than quite a few rivals.
About the tester
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, mtb,
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.