Let the Enigma Etape catch your imagination.
October 27th, 2016
Enigma are renowned for their exquisite titanium frames, but one bike seems to catch the imagination more than the rest: the Etape.
When we were looking at new brands to bring to Richmond Cycles, one conversation struck a chord. We were talking to our friends at Bicycle Works in Edinburgh, who told us the Enigma Etape was unique.
“The guy who wants class and quality. Something that will last. Something he can use to smash his pals on the Sunday club run. Something that will carry him round the Marmotte or the Maratona without breaking him. But he can also sling a pair of mudguards on it, tyres with a bit of bite and ride it from Cornwall to Sutherland without touching a main road. That guy will buy an Etape, because there’s nothing like it.”
To find out for ourselves, we took the Richmond Cycles demo Enigma Etape to Belgium to ride the Tour of Flanders race route.
We’ve ridden aluminium, steel and carbon over these roads on the first weekend in April many times, when the cycling world descend en masse for the Ronde van Vlaanderen and its preceding sportive. This will be the first time we’ve attacked the route on titanium, though. And not just any old titanium. The 3/2.5 AL tubing that Enigma shape so lovingly in East Sussex into the Etape is magical stuff. It’s ridiculously strong. Yes, you could snap it if you rode it into a wall or dropped a holdfull of baggage on it, but look after it and it will not – cannot – change, soften or degrade, no matter how long you ride it.
We’re always taught that comfortable bikes are flexible and stiff bikes are a hard ride. Granted, the best carbon fibre bikes continually challenge that equation, but a metal bike? Surely not.
The trick is that the absorbency is inherent in those titanium tubes. Build them strong, build them stiff, build them light, but they’ll still soak it up. The Etape floats over the pavé in a way we’ve not thought possible. And when we get to the super steep little cobbled hills, it’s clear that the comfortable ride is not compromised by any loss of power.
Among many tests over the special route we’ve devised to bring Flanders’ highlights together, the Koppenberg is unsurpassed for gradient. Unbelievably, the Etape flies over the treacherous lip halfway up that has been the graveyard of ambition for many thousands of cyclists over the decades. In fact, so easy was this feared moment that we question if we’ve maybe remembered it wrong, and the worst is yet to come. But no, the brief respite of the open fields, the steepening up to the cottages at the summit, and it’s behind us as quickly as it arrives.
That long wheelbase encourages craziness on the serpentine descent back to the Schelde Valley, trust put in Continental rubber fully justified. The Etape is smooth, fast and anything but boring. Zing. That’s what it’s got.
A short Sunday ride taking in the secteurs of pavé around Haveluy in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais including the dreaded Arenberg Forest is enough to remind us that a) Paris-Roubaix really is the world’s hardest race, and b) the Enigma Etape really can go anywhere.
Come and have a go yourself. You’ll see what we mean.