Photography: Mirko Meerwaldt
The Crafting of Timeless Beauty
Building a frame at Enigma
You never truly realize how much craft and effort goes into creating certain objects, in this case: titanium bicycle frames, until you experience it first hand. It is not until you smell the heated steel, the oil, and the welding fumes that you can grasp it. Me and Tom of the Mechanieker bike shop in Amersfoort were invited to Enigma Cycleworks in Sussex for a couple of days, to come and see the process for ourselves. And, while we there, to build our own frames.
The quintessentially simple English town of Hailsham hides a frame building company of much renown. Enigma Bicycles have turned an anonymous plate-metal industrial barrack into a formidable home, where they transform steel and titanium tubes into timelessly beautiful bicycle frames.
We’d been familiar with the quality of their handiwork for some time already, and it was a special occasion indeed to step into this workshop and meet the men (and woman) behind the brand. We expected to be in their way slowing things down, and even if we were, we received a warm welcome. Amidst steaming mugs of strong, black tea and ample amounts of mince pies, we were taken through the complete process of building a frame in three days — from the bike CAD-drawings to the final sandblasting before paint.
As titanium is a very difficult metal to work with due to its hardness, we opted to built steel gravel framesets. We both thought we had quite a good notion of what to expect from the proceedings, but, as these things go, we were utterly surprised to find how much else is involved. The amount of work that goes into every frame is staggering. From the obsessive detail — and time — that goes into the perfect mitering of the tubes to the custom made stainless shim, and from the mix of brass and silver brazings to the polishing of the metal.
The guys at Enigma have divided each part of the build between them, so each one can focus on their own specialty for the best possible results. This allows for all of the boys’ craftsmanship and attention to detail to shine through in their work, and thus display the classic, enduring style that their frames exhibit.
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