We test the beautiful steel Enigma Elite HSS ST
We have a lot of good-looking bikes come through the doors here at Cycling Weekly and it can take something a little bit different to really catch the attention of the office.
Something, for example, like Enigma Elite HSS ST.
It might seem strange to start by discussing a bike’s paintjob, but it’s difficult to know where else to start with this eye-catching orange and white design.
The unique look is thanks to the work of Engima Paint Works, Enigma’s in-house paint division, which offers a range of custom and semi-custom designs, and will even spruce up your existing frame with a new look.
The star of the Enigma Elite show is without question the frame. Made from Columbus Spirit HSS triple-butted steel tubing, each frame is constructed by Enigma’s small team of experienced frame-builders in the company’s East Sussex workshop.
As you’d expect from a steel bike there’s also an option to have the frame built with custom geometry to suit your requirements, although you will have to add £300 to the asking price for this service.
The other thing I have to mention is that paintjob. One of two standard colour schemes on offer, the pages of this magazine really struggle to do justice to how — well — orange
that orange is.
However, if you’d like your bike to be a little more understated, then other custom paintjobs are available, ranging from basic solid colours for £210, up to fully custom designs that can be brought to life by Enigma’s in-house paintshop.
Although the Enigma website offers three different builds for the Elite HSS, the company will be happy to spec the bike as per your requirements.
This test model came with an Italian build to match the Italian tubing. The groupset is the latest iteration of Campagnolo Chorus, which comes with precise shifting and a four-arm spider design that is a serious aesthetic departure from the five-arm Campag cranksets of old, and is likely to divide opinion among the purists.
The groupset is matched with Campagnolo Zonda wheels, far from the lightest or stiffest wheels on the market, but a good match for a frame that thrives on less-than-perfect road surfaces. These are topped with Michelin Pro4 Service Course tyres — lovely fast tyres for summer rides, complete with white sidewalls to match the frame.
The rear end might not be as stiff as a similarly priced carbon bike (although it’s not far off), and weighing in at 8.08kg means that it can’t compete head-on in a scales challenge either, but all of that is completely missing the point when it comes to what this bike is so very good at.
The steel frame is perfect for British roads, soaking up road buzz with aplomb, leaving your legs free to put down some power rather than taking a battering from poor tarmac.
This superb ride quality also gives you the confidence to attack rough descents knowing that the tyres will stay glued to the road.
This is a great attribute for any bike to have, and makes the Elite HSS ST more than worthy for consideration as your next race bike, especially if you’re worried about how your bike will fare in the event of a crash.
It’s also fair to say I had a hell of a lot more fun riding this bike than I have on a number of hyper-expensive carbon machines.
Unfortunately, with the level of craftsmanship that goes into a steel frame, you’re always going to pay a premium.
This is especially so with one that is manufactured in the UK, and made out of lightweight materials that enable the Elite HSS ST to be valued as a great bike for more than just its robustness.
However it’s hard to overlook the appeal of an indestructible frame. You could snap a carbon bike in half on a crash on your very first ride, leaving yourself stumping up for a new frame and seriously out of pocket.
But with a steel frame you’re investing in a bike that will be able to soak up years of abuse, be easily repairable in the event of a crash and still be as good to ride as ever.
Thankfully there is much more to buying a bike than getting out a spreadsheet and finding the lightest/stiffest/most aerodynamic machine you can buy for your money, which is why we still get to see stunning bikes such as the Enigma Elite HSS ST. This is a bike that sits right on the line between form and function. The frame really is a thing of beauty, with a paintjob that makes it look bang up to date without looking out of place on a material that has been used to make bikes for well over a century. It’s also one of the most fun bikes I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. The 8.08kg weight means it’s never going to be the most agile climber, but you never get the impression that you’re having to lumber up steep gradients, while the excellent handling and smooth ride quality allows you to attack descents and nip along dodgy lanes without feeling like you’re being bounced all over the road. And the best thing is that you can buy this bike safe in the knowledge that you’ll still be having the same amount of fun in 10 years’ time