A question I’ve often wondered is “How would two bikes compare in their ride characteristics if they were identical in dimension and geometry but made from different materials?” -maybe I should get out more…
Well, I am in the fortunate position to be able to make that comparison, in this case between my steel Ego-St and my new titanium Ego; both share exactly the same measurements.
If you read my review of my Ego-St you will have sensed that I rather liked it. Well, a few months down the line that ‘like’ has become a little more like ‘love’. The Ego-St is an absolutely superb bike. Not only does it handle beautifully, it also challenges you as a rider to ride better. You wind it up to speed; pick a good line and it flies comfortably and effortlessly. You stray off line, and you go away to reconsider the error in your technique. (It also rides well in the mud but that’s another story).
So, a hard act to follow them. But before we go into the not so straightforward matter of comparisons, here is a rundown of the frame and build.
The Ego is constructed from 3AL 2.5V titanium. A great deal of work has gone into the manipulation of the top and down tubes. The top tube is tear-dropped on the underside where it joins the seat tube, aiding rigidity, and is reinforced with a neat laser cut gusset at the head tube end. The down tube is ovalised where it joins the head tube and also has a strengthening gusset. It’s also ovalised where it meets the bottom bracket, again to counter twist. The snaked brake and seat stays are almost organic in appearance, wrapping around the rear wheel, whilst retaining the all important mud clearance.
As you would expect from the Enigma workshop, welds are consistent and perfectly finished. One feature that I particularly appreciate on this (and the Ego-St) is the perfect placement of the cable stops – this allows ideal cable routing and aids clean shifting. It’s a small detail, but getting it right makes a real difference. Speaking of finishing detail; check the Enigma engraving on the disc mount and the tiny Enigma logo on the neat driveside cowled drop-out. Forget fancy graphics, these are the details that whisper, ‘Class bike’.
I am running my usual reliable mix of stop and go and have moved my quality Bertie Maffoons built Stans/Hope wheels onto the Ego. They have remained dead straight and tight after two 24hr races, a ten, a twelve and a load of techy rocky training rides in between. (OK, so they match my forks and my white Sidis but that’s purely by chance you understand…)
There is a small performance difference to be felt in the SID Team forks over the SID Race; the Black Box damping creates slightly better tracking and comfort. Finishing kit was kindly supplied by USE. The carbon seatpost compliments the Ego’s frame qualities perfectly and the flex free bar and stem combination add noticeable steering accuracy to the front of the bike. The USE bottle cages are also top drawer with the slight flaring at the top, allowing a bottle to slide in easily when the going is rough.
So how does it ride?
Very, very nicely is the simple answer. For me, the bike’s standout quality is the incredibly smooth ride. Combined with my high volume tubeless Nobby Nics I’ve found myself sitting down through some rock sections that would have me hovering above the saddle on other hardtails – this is particularly valuable when steaming into and up techy rocky climbs. That’s my kind of riding and I look forward to a few days in the Lake District on the Ti Ego taking on some of my favourite trialsy boulder-fests. Trail chatter over gravely surfaces at speed is also minimised – this is why I think the bike will be ideal for the Kielder 100 in September.
It is said that a good frame builder can build a whole host of characteristics into a frame through the design and manipulation of the tubes, regardless of the material. Well, I think that Enigma have pulled off the trick of matching the tube profiles to the material perfectly and produced an extremely comfortable ride through thoughtful design.
So which is ‘better’, steel or Ti? In the end, I found this to be an unanswerable question! Both bikes have superb ride characteristics and their own individual character. Currently, my steel Ego has a slightly ‘racier’ set up and, despite its flexible character, I’m happy to keep it that way. The Ti Ego however, has slightly more trail orientated kit and I’ve just ridden it hard for five hours around some fantastic ‘ungroomed’ Northumbrian trails in perfect comfort. Rather than trying to push comparisons, swapping kit over and the like, I think I’ll leave things as they are. See how I feel when I wake up tomorrow for my super fun singletrack commute… Ti or steel…
Find out more about Rich at his website www.richyroth.com