Phil’s Enigma Excel
There’s nothing better than coming up with your dream bike build and bringing it to life, whether it’s a daily commuter or a full-blown race machine. Custom builds are a big part of what we do here at Richmond Cycles, and it never gets old!
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Enigma are one of our most popular options when it comes to going custom, and for good reason! Their Ti frames are truly something to behold, and clearly our very own Phil agrees, having recently built up his very own Enigma Excel from their Signature series (it’s a serious machine!). We sat down with Phil to discuss his component choices and his thinking behind the build:
What was the inspiration behind the build?
Prior to this build, I’ve actually had an Enigma for quite some time, having ridden my previous Enigma road bike for a number of years now. The Core 325Ti frame is fantastic, but I felt like it was time for an upgrade – I’ve been curious about 64Ti tubing for a while now, so this was the perfect opportunity to give it a go! I really wanted to make this build something special, which is why I opted for the Signature Excel. There’s something really special about a hand-crafted machine built by a bloke in a shed just down the road in Hailsham, so I had to do it justice.
What drew you to Enigma?
I love the way they look, love the way they ride, and love the story behind the brand. British-made, hand-crafted locally – what’s not to like? I’ve ridden many titanium bikes in the past, some good, some not so good, but Enigma has never failed to impress me. Ride quality aside, I’d be lying if I said aesthetics weren’t important – Enigma’s tech is second to none, but their appearance isn’t aggressively modern, maintaining that contemporary feel and traditional appeal!
Why the Signature Excel?
Being the only road bike in their lineup utilising the Ti64 tubing, it was the natural decision. Supposedly lighter, stiffer and suited to a racier bike, I have been keen to give it a go for quite some time now. Opting for Enigma’s Signature series also means the bike is hand-built by the wizards in their Hailsham-based workshop to your exact spec. Despite the opportunity to select custom geometry, having owned an Enigma before, I was very happy with the standard geometry, so didn’t feel the need to make any changes.
How does Ti compare to other frame materials?
Interesting question! Compared to aluminium I’d say it’s much more absorbing, reducing road buzz and making the ride less harsh. When it comes to carbon, I often find it feels too stiff and brittle, whereas Ti feels buttery and smooth – you get a much comfier ride without sacrificing spring! The way I like to put it is that Ti bikes really feel like they want to go forward, while still rewarding you with a beautiful ride quality.
Tell us about the spec, what components and why?
I’ve been thinking about this bike for a long time, well over a year, maybe even 2 from absolute conception! What I love about the Enigma process is that every single detail and consideration is your choice – I would consider myself somewhat geeky, so delving into the nitty gritty of a bike build is right up my street.
I always told myself that if I was going to buy a hand-built 64 frame, I wasn’t going to skimp out – luckily, I had the opportunity to build a really well-specced bike. The ultimate goal was to create a high-performance road bike that is super reliable and will work flawlessly day-to-day, but I also have no shame in admitting that aesthetics played a significant role in my component choices, all the way down to the steerer spacers!
Everyone has their favourite groupset – mine is Shimano! Dura-Ace Di2 is the best of the best, favoured by almost all of the best teams and riders in the world, so with a bike this special, it only made sense. I haven’t got any bad words to say about their new 12-speed offering, it is absolutely phenomenal and so far has been every bit as good as I was hoping!
Nearly entirely comprised of ENVE, I had a very similar setup on my previous Enigma and absolutely loved it. When it comes to ENVE, you know everything is going to be made well – while on the expensive side, their build quality is second to none, and it’s clear that they pride themselves on creating a great product.
Opting for their ergo bars, I’m a big fan of the slightly flattened top for comfort, combined with a fairly shallow and compact drop with a shorter reach – much more common these days with longer modern brake levers – great for all riding positions, whether it’s on the hoods, drops or tops!
The ENVE fork was a must-have. It’s what I had on my previous bike, and it was perfect: super stiff laterally, without sacrificing comfort and compliance. It only made sense to equip this bike with the same one. Plus, having switched from rim to disc brakes, the addition of a thru-axle at the front makes it even stiffer. Diving into corners has never felt better!
When it came to the hoops, I knew exactly what I wanted. The Bontrager Aeolus RSL race wheels are the lightest, fastest and best tech offering Bontrager has in their wheel lineup and come on, just look at them! DT Swiss internals also swayed my choice – they’re absolutely bomb-proof, so you know they’re going to last – hand-build, great quality, excellent warranty and customer service. You really can’t go wrong!
In the past, I would usually opt for a slightly shallower depth rim, but this time round I fancied something that would hold its speed a bit more when the pace goes up, hence the choice of 50s. So far, so good – they feel super fast and super smooth, and while I can definitely notice the extra depth in strong winds, it’s never anything more than a gentle push.
Thoughts on the bike so far?
What a machine! It’s an absolute weapon, and I’m not just saying that – I genuinely mean it. It’s like taking my previous Enigma and turning it up to 11. Faster, stiffer, more racey, it just wants to go fast. It has exceeded my expectations in every way, it really is an amazing bit of kit. I’ve probably ridden about 1,500km on it so far, and haven’t got a bad word to say – I absolutely love this bike!
Have you got any epic rides planned for it?
I’m actually off to the Pyrenees for a few days in a couple of weeks, so I’m looking forward to getting some climbing in the legs and enjoying some sun. For a bike that wasn’t made with weight in mind, at just a smidge over 8kg (including pedals, cages and headunit!), it certainly won’t be holding me back – not bad for a metal bike!
Are there any more bike builds on the horizon?
There’s nothing on the horizon right now, but never say never! In terms of road bikes, to be quite honest, I can’t see myself outdoing this one – it’s pretty much everything I’ve ever dreamed of! However, when it comes to off-road offerings, gravel in particular, there’s definitely some potential for upgrades.
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