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More Bespoke Spokes

| Blog, Cycling Plus, Features | 12/06/2012 14:47pm

Editor Rob Spedding heads down to Enigma Bikes in Eastbourne to get himself measured up for our upcoming bespoke bikes feature and proof, if it were needed, that he’s related to apes…

I’ve always been lanky but have always assumed that my spindly limbs were perfectly in proportion with my round shoulders and pigeon chest. After a few minutes of having various bits of me measured in a small industrial unit on the outskirts of Eastbourne, East Sussex, it looks like I might have a couple of bodily anomalies after all. “Your arms are longer than the norm,” says Enigma Bikes’s frame building guru Mark Reilly. As my knuckles don’t drag along the ground I could argue, but Mark’s the expert and his observation is backed up by the huge database on This is the tool that Mark and many other top bike builders use to get the geometry of bespoke bikes spot on.

My, haven't you got long arms?

Mark’s typed my measurements – including shoulder width, torso length and foot size – into Enigma’s software and it’s compared me to thousands of other people of my height. Where I hit the norm the measurements show as green, where I’m different it’s red. So, my arm length is red… “This means that I can tweak the geometry of your bike so that it takes this information into account and you get the perfect fit,” explains Mark. On screen he’s making small adjustments to the outline of an Enigma bike and changing details such as top tube length – it ends up shorter than the 58cm ‘off the peg’ size I tend to favour – top tube angle, stem length and reach from saddles to bar. I’m not going to pretend to understand it but it all makes sense… And once I sit on a ‘jig’ that has all the relevant measurements dialled in I’m happy. (And, more importantly, so is Mark.)

And this is the 'handlebar' right?

Of course, having a bike made isn’t just about getting the angles and lengths right so before my measuring session Mark and I chatted about the kind of riding I want to do on my Enigma. And the bits I want on it. And, most importantly, the material I want it made from. Now, unlike tech. ed. Warren I’m not really a bike geek so I’m not going into this with the dream of colour co-ordinated tubing, cables and spoke nipples. And I’m also not an out-and-out racer like tech writer Robin Wilmott so I’m not in need of a machine that’ll get me to the front end of the field… But I do know that want something that’s comfortable enough for big rides, climbs well but can provide me with plenty of fun in the twisty bits.

"Yeah, throw in some wheels and I'll take it..."

As for the material I was seriously considering going for steel as I’d recently had a lot of fun riding my father-in-law’s old Gios, however think of Enigma and you really do think about titanium. And Mark does a pretty good job of selling Enigma’s expertise in the art of crafting Ti.  I worry that my slightly vague wishlist might not be enough for Mark, but he seems happy. We agree on hand-built wheels – Mavic Open Pros on Chris King R45 hubs, a matching Chris King headset and Campagnolo Athena Carbon shifting. I toyed with Shimano Ultegra Di2 but as much as I like it, I’m not sure I need it. And, it’s a personal thing, I think Campag will just look better on a metal bike.  So, we’ve got the ball rolling – Mark’s going to send me the final confirmation of size and geometry. And then I’ll sit back and relax while Mr Reilly works his magic in the Enigma workshop. I can’t wait!



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