ENIGMA ECHELON TESTED
HOME TO NUMEROUS VINEYARDS AND ESTEEMED BIKE BRANDS, WE BROUGHT TOGETHER OUR LOVE OF BIKES AND WINE IN SUSSEX...
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…).
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