UPDATE: Enigma Ethos Custom Build, £3,000

There have been teething problems with the Enigma Ethos

There have been teething problems with the Enigma Ethos

In my original blog (May 12, 2013) I explained how I'd spent £3,000 acquiring the ultimate commuter/light tourer: a hand-made, custom build, Reynolds 853 from Sussex, England-based titanium and steel specialists Enigma.

Four months in and I've had a few teething problems.

The front brake caliper seemed to be slightly uphappy from an early stage, but only when I noticed strings of fine cotton pealing off the outside wall of the Schwalbe Ultremo DD Double Defense 700x25cc front tyre (not a cheap tyre!), did I realise that the nearside brake block had somehow worked its way above the rim and was lightly scoring the tyre every time I braked.

I was worried, because on inspection I realised there was no more vertical allowance in the caliper arm, and it was not a question of playing with the centering screw or anything like that. In truth, I think this demonstrates that you can't happily get a regular caliper over a 'normal' set of mudguards (in this case SKS narrow/road).

In fairness to Enigma, I think they'd tried desperately hard to keep me all-in with the Shimano 105 groupset, including the regular calipers. Plus, Mark Reilly their meister-frame builder offered to 'tweak the crown' if I could get the bike back to them for a couple of days. That's a big shipping bill or £50+ of diesel and hours of driving so I decided instead to order 57mm drop calipers (colloquially called 'long-drop' calipers).This is the obvious solution and should perhaps have been applied at the build stage.

I replaced the front caliper yesterday and have now ordered a matching back one, not wanting to be with an unmatched pair of brakes. Problem solved - except that to stay with Shimano means going down a groupset to Tiagra, where each caliper weighs 20g more and has a less slick barrel adjuster.

Yesterday, I was talking to Condor owner Grant Young (Grey's Inn Road, London), and he explained that every single time they meet with Campagnolo they ask them to make a long drop brake for the many, many riders who want a mudguard to slip underneath and the clearance for up to 700x28mm tyres (the perfect winter commuting tyre I'd suggest). But they don't.

So Condor commissioned its own brakes and they come in polished silver or black at £60, sold only as pairs (called Pioggio, there's also a lesser pair). Grant claims they are the equal of Shimano 105, but I decided to stick with Tiagra having already taken delivery of the front caliper.  

Another solution is to choose different mudguards - not the Crud RoadRacer 2s that every roadie is now fitting here in the UK, but I'm thinking something more durable for this sort of bike, such as Portland Design Works's aluminium guards (called 'Full Metal Fenders @$120 a pair, see: https://www.ridepdw.com/goods/fenders/full-metal-fenders), which come with special hardware to go around calipers. And they look amazing. Watch this space - I might try these as an experiment.

The next issue is replacement of the now-damaged front tyre, and probably the rear at the same time. But I've examined the front and it's OK for commuting duties until October and then I'll put on something wintry.

The final issue concerns sizing. From day one I felt it slightly large. 

I took the bike with me to Sheffield and a Retul bike fit with Chris Last at Planet X (for a TT bike which I subsequently purchased, to be the subject of another blog). He offered to give me a quick check on the Enigma and noted that he'd knock a couple of cms off the stem and bring the saddle back and up, to get the right angles at the knee. Caveat: he was talking road race set-up, whereas this is a utility bike, so we agreed that I should just do what I wanted.

I would emphasise here that Enigma didn't do anything wrong. There are different sizing philosophies and none of them are exactly right. I'd tried to mimic the upright posture of the Focus cross bike, but translating this over into the road-geometry of the Enigma had exaggerated the length of the top tube.  

In the midst of all of this I had surgery for a mild squint which I'd had from birth, which has subtly changed everything and made me more comfortable with a larger saddle-stem vertical drop. 

So I am still sorting these elements out. I've got a big spacer above the stem on a steerer tube that I'll need to trim, and am toying with slamming it even lower. Meanwhile, Grant at Condor generously lent me a 100mm stem (versus the 110mm stem fitted by Enigma), so I can mail Enigma the original, colour-matched grey stem, for them to colour match a 100mm replacement.

Costs so far: Set of Tiagra brake calipers from Fawkes in Oldham (via web): £43.68. New stem will cost c£45 (colour matched to frame).

The Reynolds 853 frame: it is fantastic. You should really try to ride one. As such I am not having 'second thoughts' about the bike, although occasionally I miss the cowboy potential of the cross bike, which I abused mercilessly. The Enigma is too nice for that but it makes me feel older than I feel. No wheelies.