In my quest for a winter bike, or the perfect all rounder (a Unicorn as suggested by Rich Land), one of several key factor’s to having bikes on or off my short list has been geometry. I had the Enigma Ethos recommended to me as a terrific all rounder but I wasn’t sure about the geometry/fit compared to the other bikes I’d been either riding (owning) or considering.
After a discussion and a quick measure up with Mark Reilly at Enigma a couple of weeks ago, Mark suggested that I come back down for a fitting on their jig so we could more accurately establish the correct size. The fitting jig has handlebars, a saddle and cranks and would be used to work out the ideal position for me in isolation from being on a bike. So this Thursday gone, I went back to Enigma and took my turn on the fitting jig.
How it’s supposed to work is that once the best position has been calculated, the measurements are then transferred into Enigma’s CAD system and then the correct frame size can be determined as either standard or custom. According to Mark, about 90% of people fit a standard frame and at the start of the jig session, we were sort of expecting a 57cm might be a good fit. However, once Mark started measuring angles and moving me around a bit to get me looking right on the jig things started to get interesting. The first thing was that the seat height that he suggested we start with (and coincidentally is the same seat height I use on my bike normally felt too low). Then my knees were in the wrong place compared to the bottom bracket … and things kind of snowballed from there.
So cut a long story short, Mark’s view was that whilst it was possible for me to ride standard off the peg frames (and I obviously have been to date), his view was that I would be better off and could get a better fit still by going custom. Now what was especially interesting about this is that when I bought my first bike (my Allez) back at the of 2004 from Sigma Sport, they told me that whilst they could put me on a standard bike – a custom frame would be better for my dimensions. In simple terms, I have slightly longer legs than normal and a slightly shorter torso. It also appears that some of the extra length in my legs are in the length of my thighs. So in this case Mark was suggesting a seat angle in the 72 degree range rather than the 73 degree range to compensate for this.
Once we’d finished with the jig, we sat down and Mark took me through the CAD system in terms of entering what the jig had told him into the system and then starting to adjust the frame design to make the best fit for me. The position we ended up with was shorter in the top tube than I’d been riding and higher in the front end than I’d been riding. This is fundamentally what Sigma Sport told me back in late 2004 and what I’d decided to ignore until now. However in my bike fit with Adrian Timmis, he’d also told me that I should really go for a headtube no shorter than the 165mm my Allez was and suggested 170mm would be better for me still. However, Mark is suggesting a bit higher again.
So as you might imagine, it was a very interesting and thought provoking session.
We then started talking about the custom process and what was involved. This included that I could choose from a wide range of colours and there were some options like polished braze ons if I wanted them (I don’t think I would). Mark then offered to take me down to the framebuilding area to see the jigs they use to put the frames together and the steel they would use to make a frame for me should I go ahead (Columbus Life).
I have to say that without exception everyone I have met at Enigma so far have all been incredibly friendly and welcoming and that including the guys down on the production floor. It was great to see the jig with which the frames are first tacked together before being either tig or fillet brazed welded together. Mark showed me some of the butted Columbus Life tubing prior to it be used to make a frame and as he pointed out – the raw finish on the steel before they even start working on it is absolutely superb. Even as a layman I could see right away why Mark likes it so much.
Enigma and Mark have a tremendous reputation as frame builders, so if they say I would benefit from a custom rather than standard frame, then I absolutely believe that as I don’t have a fraction of their knowledge of frame design and fitting. As of today, I still have one or two questions about the design Mark is suggesting so I’ll get in touch early next week to talk these through.
I have to say that the idea of a custom made “Savile Row” kind of solution as opposed to an off the peg one has a lot of appeal for a number of reasons, so I’m giving it some serious thought.
Whether or not I go ahead with it – my experience with Enigma has been a pleasure and I have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone reading this post. It was also great to be able to see frames being built and how they go about it.
Thanks for reading