The Enigma Endeavour is not only the prettiest looking bike I’ve seen in a while, it’s also one of the sweetest riding, with delightful smoothness and fine handling – on the road and in the woods. It isn’t exactly cheap, but it is handmade in the UK, which might just be enough to convince you it’s worth it.
Enigma may be best known for titanium road bikes, but it does offer steel options as well. The Endeavour is a brand new steel gravel and adventure bike that follows the path of its second-generation Escape titanium model, so it's for those looking to spend a little less – or for riders who simply prefer steel.
The handmade frame is part of its Core range of small-batch, pre-made bikes, which enables Enigma to offer more affordable bikes with shorter lead times than its bespoke offerings.
The frame is finished with a paint job that evokes memories of classic Klein mountain bikes (if you're of a certain age, that is...), and includes a colour-matched carbon fork, stem and seat post. These are the sort of details you just don’t find on mainstream production bikes.
Underneath the paint are the bones of Columbus Zona steel, with some Dedacciai and Reynolds tubing added to the mix.
It’s a thoroughly modern-looking bike with oversized tube profiles, and disc brakes using 12mm thru-axles with flat-mount callipers.
Cables are externally routed, which certainly offers easier build and maintenance, if not cleaner looks. Claimed frame weight is 1.85kg for a size 52cm and 435g for the fork.
Tyre clearance is ample for a 42mm tyre on a 700c rim, or 47mm on a 650b wheelset, with the pictured bike rolling on 38mm slick Panaracer Gravelking tyres.
Don’t take too much notice of that tyre choice – you can opt for any tyre you want when you order an Endeavour. This choice is perfect when the roads are covered in water, mud and grit and you want extra comfort, and they’re not completely hopeless off-road either – they managed with quite a bit of mud surprisingly well. You want to set them up tubeless though.
The Endeavour can accommodate any accessories you might want. The frame has three bottle cage mounts, rear rack eyelets and you can add full-length mudguards too. The new carbon GRV fork – the company’s own design – has internal dynamo routing and three Anything bosses for racks or cages.
You can choose a fork without the bosses if that’s overkill for you.
There’s compatibility for all modern groupsets, with mechanical cables outside and electronic wiring going inside the frame. You can choose 1x or 2x as well, while the cable guides can be removed if you don’t need them.
There are four sizes of frame, from 52 to 58cm. This size 56cm test bike has the sort of numbers you expect for a gravel and adventure bike: the 375mm reach and 602mm stack provides a good fit for me, while the 71-degree head angle is slacker than a road bike and the 75mm bottom bracket drop is lower than a cyclocross bike. It's topped and tailed with a 165mm head tube and 430mm chainstays.
An Endeavour frameset will set you back £1,699, while complete builds start at £2,999 with Shimano’s new GRX 600 groupset and end at £3,399 for a SRAM Force eTap AXS build.
The pictured test bike costs £3,699 and is equipped with a Shimano GRX 800 mechanical 1x groupset with an optional (£225) Hope upgrade kit. This includes 20Five tubeless wheels, bottom bracket, headset and seat clamp, all they're all nicely colour-coded to match the frame decals.
The Endeavour is a joy to ride. The steel frame and carbon fork combine for a joyously smooth ride. It deals with any poorly-surfaced road with impressive capability, pretty much smoothing everything in its path. The wide tyres help, and with the 38mm Gravelking tyres inflated to 35psi, there are no road or surfaces that can unsettle the bike.
Add mudguards and it makes a great daily commuter, shaking off the British conditions better than a skinny-tyred road bike and running way faster than a mountain bike. Add bikepacking luggage or a rack and bags and you’re a cobbled-up plan away from a touring holiday or adventure through the Scottish glens.
The fun continues when you get off road. On slippery terrain, the Endeavour is very stable and easy to keep on your chosen line. The steering is laid back, so you can carve lazy corners with ease. Even at crazy speed or bouncing over rocks, it never feels like it’s about to get skittish or out of its depth. It’s very composed.
These tyres aren’t the best for the most savage of terrain but they coped with muddy farm tracks and bridleways surprisingly well, provided you don’t mind getting a bit wild in the corners. On drier and harder gravel tracks they're effective with good cushioning and rolling speed. Flip the ratio of road/gravel in favour of the latter and you might want to change to a burlier tyre. I also recommend going tubeless.
Back on the road and the speed the Endeavour's capable of is quite impressive – it doesn’t give away much to a regular road bike. The Shimano GRX gearing gives a good range for dealing with climbs (where the Endeavour shows good form) and on fast-rolling roads with the wind on your back.
The PRO Discover Gravel handlebar offers just enough flare in the drops to aid control in technical situations, and feels secure in the hands with not a hint of flex. The Enigma Ellipse saddle is a fine shape with generous padding, but I did eventually swap it for a Fabric Scoop. That’s just personal preference – our bums are all different.
There is very little to fault with the new Endeavour. Okay, so the price is a little high and you can pick up a Fairlight Secan or Cotic Escapade for less, but neither of those is handmade in the UK. In some ways, the Enigma is closer to a bespoke offering from any one of the custom frame builders now operating in the UK, but there you’re looking at a bigger investment and longer delivery time.
Yes, there are cheaper and better value bikes you could comfortably choose and be very happy with, but if you want something a little special, the Enigma Endeavour really shines.
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