Com­bin­ing our pas­sion for both wine and cy­cling, we have taken Sus­sex-based Enigma’s Echelon on a tour of the county’s nu­mer­ous vine­yards.

Among other things, Sus­sex is known for its nud­ist beach and for elect­ing Bri­tain’s only green MP. It may be slightly less well known as a cen­tre of bike pro­duc­tion and viti­cul­ture. But th­ese days the county is home to more than 50 vine­yards, and wine has prob­a­bly been pro­duced in Sus­sex since the time of the Ro­mans. Some­thing else they did for us…

But the area is some­thing of a hot­bed of cy­cling too. Brighton is the des­ti­na­tion for one of the coun­try’s big­gest bike rides, while sev­eral bike pro­duc­ers and dis­trib­u­tors are based in Sus­sex, in­clud­ing Orro and Ki­ne­sis. Among them are a few smaller-scale com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture bikes in the county. So, com­bin­ing two of our loves – cy­cling and wine – we took an ac­tu­ally-madein-Sus­sex Enigma Echelon for a leisurely wine-ac­com­pa­nied spin in the county of its birth.


There are any num­ber of routes we could have cho­sen, and it would have been easy to spend days or weeks rid­ing at a gen­tle pace vis­it­ing vine­yards hither and yon. Our orig­i­nal route was a 100-mile, three-vine­yard odyssey that would have taken two days to pho­to­graph. Or longer if the wine kicked in…

In the end we start at one of the county’s west­ern­most vine­yards and head east, tak­ing in rural back roads and the pic­turesque town of Arun­del. And while this was a short and soft day in the sad­dle – start­ing un­der clouds that threat­ened but didn’t de­liver rain un­til the drive home – we put the Enigma through a cou­ple of days stren­u­ous test­ing in Som­er­set. This took in some size­able hills, sin­gle­track and tow­paths.

Our start­ing point was the Tin­wood Es­tate near Chich­ester and, as with many English vine­yards bub­bly is its thing, though not be­fore the ride. Tin­wood runs tours of its es­tate and it has some salu­bri­ous-look­ing cab­ins should

you want to stay. The vines were rich with grapes, too, a fit­ting back­drop for the pho­tog­ra­phy.

The ride to Arun­del was a dod­dle for a bike like the Enigma, as it’s de­signed for fast en­durance and sportive-type rid­ing. The bike looks a treat too, with the clas­sic, time­less look that ti­ta­nium does so well. This is be­cause the ma­te­rial is hard to ma­chine, in­clud­ing hav­ing to be welded in in­ert gases or it loses its strength. So, un­like a mod­ern car­bon or even alu­minium bike there are no ex­treme shapes. In­stead it’s all clean lines and round tubes.

Enigma has been go­ing for a decade but sprung out of a com­pany with a 50-year his­tory, and Joe Walker – son of founder Jim Walker – is Enigma’s ti­ta­nium frame builder. Many of Enigma’s nine ti­ta­nium road mod­els are man­u­fac­tured in Sus­sex, though that can re­sult in a lengthy lead time. And while prices match their hand­built sta­tus, you should get a life­time of rid­ing plea­sure from a well-looked-af­ter ti­ta­nium frame. Enigma of­fers cus­tom ge­om­e­try, build and fin­ishes, in­clud­ing paint and an­o­dis­ing.

Back to the fu­ture

It wasn’t that long ago that ti­ta­nium was the ma­te­rial of the fu­ture, with the Speed­well Ti­ta­nium bike em­a­nat­ing from Birm­ing­ham in the 1970s. Flick for­ward a cou­ple of decades and the ma­te­rial ap­pears in the Tour de France. But since 1999 it has been noth­ing but car­bon fi­bre at the top ta­ble, save for ret­ro­spec­tive win­ner Os­car Pereiro on a car­bon-stayed mag­ne­sium Pinarello. Ah yes, mag­ne­sium, an­other el­e­ment sup­pos­edly the ma­te­rial of the fu­ture. Un­like ti­ta­nium,

The ride to Arun­del was a dod­dle for a bike like the Enigma

though, mag­ne­sium re­ally has be­come a cy­cling back­wa­ter. Ti­ta­nium is not only ex­pen­sive and dif­fi­cult to ma­chine, it is ex­tracted from an ore, whereas car­bon and epoxy are both byprod­ucts of the pe­tro­leum in­dus­try and are cheaply and widely avail­able. Car­bon bikes may be­come even less ex­pen­sive but bar­gain base­ment ti­ta­nium is not loom­ing. And nei­ther are bar­gain base­ment English wines (not to be confused with the trav­esty of ‘Bri­tish’ wines. Cheap as chips but nowhere near as nice). The qual­ity can be as good as wine made any­where, but com­pared to the likes of Italy, France and Spain, Bri­tish vine­yards are mi­nus­cule fry – our coun­try’s 500 or so vine­yards ac­count for five mil­lion bot­tles an­nu­ally, Italy’s an­nual wine pro­duc­tion is 4.5 bil­lion litres (Mmm, Italy…).

Test­ing roads

As rec­om­mended by Enigma we avoided cy­cling on the A27, cross­ing over it a few times as we zigzagged our way east. With the right bike and tyres you could tour the area rid­ing along the South Downs Way, which is tra­vers­a­ble by moun­tain bike, gravel bike or ’crosser, and is ad­ja­cent to nu­mer­ous winer­ies.

Frankly, we could prob­a­bly have rid­den our Echelon on it with dif­fer­ent tyres, as it

Tin­wood runs tours of its es­tate and it has some salu­bri­ous­look­ing cab­ins should you want to stay Sus­sex’s more gen­teel roads were mated with tougher test­ing ter­rain in the Mendips

“Ooo, I could crush a grape!” Wine him up and watch him go

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