A truly capable adventure bike - from rough roads to off-road, the Escape handles it.
Sep 6 2017
Attention to detail
Versatile and adaptable
Not much to mention
You want a bike that allows you to ride almost all the things you would normally, unless things start to get seriously off-road.
Enigma has a deservedly good reputation for high-quality titanium frames and the Escape is their do-it-all bike for un-made roads, gravel and off-road. It handled everything I threw at it with composure and adaptability - it's a bike that can take on a serious amount of terrain, and miles, either loaded or light.
The Escape boasts a revised geometry that has lowered the bottom bracket a touch over the outgoing Ecroix and made the angles a little less road orientated and more relaxed for the conditions that its aimed at. It's aimed for exploring - and exploring a wide array of paths, trails, roads and tracks.
I rode the Escape on lots of really mixed terrain rides - some places where a mountain bike would be happiest and others where a road bike would be best. I found the Escape never really lacked at its core - whilst at the boundaries of where you may take it, there would be a degree of ride compromise, for example, more conservative line choices off road and slightly slower feeling accelerating and rolling speed on the road, I was really impressed with its capability and improvement over the older Ecroix model. The sure footed feeling offroad was assisted by the excellent Schwalbe One tubeless tyres - I frequently thought I’d found their limit off-road, but not one puncture despite my best flint and rock finding on the Sussex Downs. The large volume tyres and small knobbly tread was excellent in dry and slightly intermediate conditions, and in anything vaguely muddy or soft, things got a little lively and lacking in grip. On any made surface - gravel and road - the tyres are tough and capable.
I enjoyed the feeling of being very much ‘in’ the frame, as opposed to a more road focussed geometry that can place you feeling more ‘on’ top of the ride. The slacker angles and lower bottom bracket keep the weight centred and better balanced - I was riding a model at the upper limits of what size I’d ride and it still felt planted and responsive. I did drop the stem a good 15mm to help the weight down and forward on the front wheel, this was great for descending on the drops off and on road. Climbing is effective, and the low weight of the bike, with the direct transfer of power helped it skip up climbs. On more technical offroad climbs, hovering over the saddle, the bike felt sure footed and only limited by the rider and tyre grip.
The frame material titanium is often given a some what elevated status with ‘magical’ properties - it is undoubtedly a resilient and excellent material for bike frames, tough and light. But the compliance and ‘feel’ of the frame are mostly from the butting and shaping of the frame tubes - the double butting reduces weight a little and adds stiffness at the ends of the tubing. The seat post is 31.6mm, which coupled with the 44m head tube makes for a tight and exacting ride, without an especially harsh feeling. The large volume tyres obviously help dampen out a lot of low-level trail or road vibrations.
An obvious input into the ride feel is the fork, and the new own brand C-Six CX-DSC is an excellent pairing. The UK designed full carbon fork uses flat mounts and has 12mm through axle. There is a confident and comfort inducing amount of flex in it, with out it being wet noodle like, an unusual touch is the axle clamp being on the disc side, as per a traditional QR. The tyre clearance on both fork and frame is good - it has to be noted this isn’t a pure off-road machine, but you could run some 33mm cross tyres and have a good amount of clearance on the rear. There is a small chain stay bridge, near the chains that will catch mud, but its not something that should be an issue unless you really push the Escape out of its capabilities.
Built from Grade 9 3AL 2.5V double-butted titanium, its beautifully welded, with consistent stacked penny welds. There are some modern features across the frame, with some really aesthetically pleasing and well functioning parts. The test model I rode was full Ultegra Hydraulic groupset, with the exception of the Hunt wheels, which did a sterling job for the test period. The test bike came with a 700c x 40mm set up, and the maximum is 43mm. There is also the option to run 650b (27.5) with up to 50mm tyres - I didn’t get a set to swap out to try this but could see advantages for more off-road adventures.
The rest of the of the bike is fitted out with Enigma own brand finishing kit - saddle, seat post, bars, stem, headset and seat clamp all own branded and of a good finish and quality. The 22-speed Ultegra groupset was another nod to classic or more traditional functions - but a 1x would have moved the bike just as well, with just the slight compromise on gear range. Looks wise, it’d have reduced the cables and refined the look even more, but I don’t feel it had any bearing on the bikes capabilities, as gears are a personal choice. Functionally the brakes and shifting are superb, as you’d expect with this level of Shimano equipment.
The 12mm bolt through drop outs are of a classically cowled shape - which looks excellent and also work by allowing a really good contact area for the weld, also saving the shaping tubing further, which can be a costly addition with titanium. It's simply not as easy to manipulate as steel or aluminium.
External cable routing is used for the reasons of versatility. The positioning of the cable stops on the downtube is really cleanly executed, and this makes home (and shop) maintenance easier. The frame also has mudguard and rack mounts and 3 bottle cage mounts.
Whilst being designed and finished in Great Britain, it is built overseas in Taiwan. There is no issue with an overseas build, as the quality control used is exceptionally high in line with the standards Enigma deliver. The Escape is a highly adaptable and capable bike - and is built and finished to really high standards of detail and attention, and the core of the bike, the frame is the epitome of this attitude. The Escape will handle all that you can throw, and whilst not a mountain bike, its got plenty of clout off road, and this could be improved with some more off road capable treads. Elsewhere, the bike is fast - perhaps not race fast, but it never feels hard work or that it will hold you back.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own :
The bike is for long distance, adventures and back country lanes. It'll ride roads and off-road, and offers easy changes to make it more on or off-road capable with changes to the tyres or wheels.
State the frame material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.:
Welded Grade 9 3AL 2.5V double-butted titanium
Shimano Ultegra Groupset
Hunt wheels, Schawlabe Tyres
Enigma Finishing Kit
Frame & Fork
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.:
The bike offers comfort through the larger volume tyres and the natural damping that Grade 9 3AL 2.5V double-butted titanium offers - coupled with the butting off the tubes and shaping.
How was the bike in terms of sizing and angles? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size and intent?:
I found the 56 I tested near the limit of my size, but not to any detriment of the ride. As it replaces the Ecroix model, I was really impressed with some slight changes that led to better ride feel on rougher terrain.
Overall rating for frame
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?:
The bike felt balanced and power was quickly transferred to forward motion, with no overly flexible or too solid parts that led to anything that changed the ride feel.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame:
The Escape is built and finished to a really high level of detail - with an obvious pride in the work.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame:
The refinements to the geometry offer a more stable and planted feel to the ride, whilst retaining good handling.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame:
Using Grade 9 3AL 2.5V double-butted titanium welded to a beautiful level of workmanship, the classic lightweight and responsive feel of the material is apparent, coupled with sensible shaping and butting on the tubes.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?:
Whilst the tyres add a slight drag on road, off road or on rougher paths the bike always felt fast.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive?:
The steering was balance and neutral to lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?:
I felt the bike offered a good all round ride feel - surprisingly adapted to offroad and happy on the road to spin out the miles. I think its best pointed onto rougher roads, tracks and trails - somewhere between the road and real mountain bike trails.
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Rate the bike for high speed descending
Any comments on high speed descending?:
Surprisingly confidence inspiring
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Any comments on technical descending?:
The limits of the tyres and lack of travel effect the technical abilities.
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Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well to:
The level of shifting was at the point of what you expect from Shimano Ultegra - smooth and consistent.
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Wheels & tyres
Rate the wheels for performance:
Any comments on wheel performance?:
Good to see smaller brands with excellent performance
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Any comments on wheel durability?:
No issues during test
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Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so, wha:
The wheels matched the bike well - capable and ran true despite best efforts to put the bike beyond itself.
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Any comments on tyre performance?:
Excellent multi-terrain tyres
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Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so, what:
The tyres where excellent for the summer conditions - not so happy in the wet or damp.
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Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components?:
Well finished, bench mark level own brand kit.
Did you enjoy riding the bike?:
I had a lot of fun riding the Escape and seeing where its limits would be found.
Would you consider buying the bike?:
If I was looking for a bike to last many years and give my lots of options on terrain, then yes.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike\'s performance? would you recommend any changes?:
The largest change to the bike would be the tyres - tyres with more grip for offroad and slicker tyres for faster on the road. The Schwalbes where a perfect fit for the bike.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend?:
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Use this box to explain your score:
The Escape improves on its older cousin the Ecroix and has been well thought out and purposefully improved. In a very competitive market, you can find cheaper Titanium, but doubtful one so well finished and built.
Aimed at adventure, touring, tracks and a degree of proper off-road the Escape is able to handle all of it. It will take everything from road to smooth single track, ridden with attention easily, and at a push can be made to handle more, but I think the drop bars and rigid frame would limit the fun, and as it enters terrain where a mountain bike would thrive, it pulls back. As its intended for every surface until that point, it absolutely handles it all. A bike for everything, and escaping on.
Product comfort extra:
Comfort is subjective thing - some people will handle riding a rigid 29 wheeled bike on some pretty rough terrain and others less so, but the Escape delivers comfort that allows you to tolerate a degree of off road use, and the limit of that is up to the rider.
Product value extra:
I think that Enigma attention to detail and thoughtful build offers the slight premium on the frame cost - its worth the money, and is a genuine 'quality' frame and build.
The bike handled everything with confidence for all the terrain its aimed at. You can't ask much more from a bike than to be inspiring to ride, light and reliable. The Escape does this.
The classic, no nonsense, attention to detail and the great handling and capabilities of terrain it covers.
I had fun every time I rode the Escape.
In a word, yes.
I've scored the Escape very highly - I feel the level of thought, attention and quality that it delivers makes this. It can handle the road, rough lanes, tracks, forest trails and single track. With a quick tyre change it could take more off road adventures. If you want to move quickly on mixed terrain, I would struggle to find anything better than the Escape. Sure, there may be cheaper options, but its hard to match the level of quality that is to apparent on the Escape.
Lakes based mostly mountain biking type, with the odd foray into gravel, 'cross and even road. Fuelled by coffee and porridge. Driver of Van. Known to race at times. Happy place being out the door and in the hills - local or further afield, all is good with two wheels in the dirt.