A New Steel Enigma for the Cent Cols Challenge

Enigma builds custom steel bike for Rapha's Graeme Raeburn

When Graeme Raeburn takes a break from designing the Rapha kit we all love, he's a damn good rider. He can win on a Brompton, hang with the Continental boys touring the colonies and crank out an impressive 416 miles in a twenty-four hour time trial. On the 14th of September he'll join Ira Ryan, David Arthur from Road Cycling UK and the Rapha contest winner, Nick Amlot to tackle the Cent Cols Challenge. The four-man team will cover 100 cols rising 45,000 metres into the French sky in a concentrated 10 day period.

When I heard Graeme was riding I got to thinking a special bike was in order and who better to build it than the UK's own (and my fav) Enigma Bicycles. A quick email to Graeme followed by phone call to Jim and Mark at Enigma had everyone convinced it was a good idea and soon they were making plans for a beautiful custom bicycle befitting the challenge.

Graeme rode down to the factory where Enigma is writing a new chapter in British fabrication, adding steel to their titanium repertoire, perfecting seamless welds, and steadily repatriating more and more production home. Lanky lad that he is, Graeme was the perfect candidate for a bespoke frameset built from Columbus XCR steel tubing.

In the midst of a supremely busy season, the Enigma Elite XCR frameset is in paint, and Graeme will build it up himself within days (including the wheels). I'd hoped to have pictures documenting the entire fit and fabrication story but time constraints wouldn't allow. I'll make sure Graeme sends images of the finished frameset and completed build. Gloss black, polished steel at the ends of the chain/seat stays and classic bands in Rapha pink.

Here are the highlights of the build to come.

  • Groupset: DA 7900 (with black Zero G brakes)
  • Thomson Elite stem + Thomson Masterpiece seatpost
  • Bars: Pro Vibe ergo-shape carbon
  • Cages: Giant's aptly named "Enigma bottle cages" which are light and black
  • Wheelset: Chris King Road Classic hubs in pink to Mavic Open Pros
  • Tyres: Conti GP4000
  • Computer: Cateye (with altitude, total ascent and gradient to track such things)
  • Gearing: Double + 12-27 Cassette (Graeme will also take a compact crankset, just in case)

There's a nice symmetry at work here. Two of cycling's best brands, two great designers, Rapha's Graeme Raeburn and Enigma's Mark Reilly, coming together to take British steel to the top of those aery cols. Simon Mottram and Jim Walker have every reason to be proud of what their companies have accomplished in such a short time. I can't wait to see what comes next.

Enigma Elite

Here's a shot of a finished red and cream Enigma Elite, visit Enigma Steel to find out more.

12 Responses to A New Steel Enigma for the Cent Cols Challenge

  1. Jon Moss says:

    Now that is a very nice looking frame, a great setup and a top idea!

    I saw that David was doing this, but didn’t realise Graeme was too. What an undertaking.

    I’ve also made a recent trip (10 hour round trip) to see Mark and Jim, and have come away with a beautiful bike (Michael, you have a lot to answer for in regards to new bikes and Rapha kit!). They were perfect hosts, took their time with me, were very kind to explain everything, and measure me up properly. (Bear in mind, I am a relative novice when it comes to bikes and they had to take things very slowly!).

    I saw the steel bike and it looked fabulous, and look forward to the pictures of the Rapha machine. The 100 cols challenge is just a staggering amount of climb, amazing. Is anyone from the team going to be writing it up? It would make a great road trip video.



    • Jon,

      I’m so glad to hear you met with Mark and Jim. Graeme has thoroughly enjoyed his time with them too. I only wish I could have done my bike design with them in person.
      Rapha will have a photographer shooting several days during the Cent Cols Challenge so we should get some terrific imagery. I know Brian at twmp is hoping Graeme will pen some kind of daily journal. I couldn’t imagine doing anything except collapsing at the end of one of those days.


  2. BR says:

    Is there a Rapha flavored steel Enigma for Team Velodramatic on order? That ride sounds like a major undertaking.

  3. BR says:

    Better now…carry on.

  4. lois says:

    ..careful with the enigma cages. a sudden jolt with a full waterbottle can easily break them (especially at the weld where the alu tube connects end-to-end).

  5. chr15 says:

    Should have thought of this last year. I’ve been busy courting US builders about a bespoke steel frame, after the romance of the Continental connection.

    So Graeme will be riding the second steel frame on the challenge (Ira Ryan being the other), it’ll be interesting to see how they fare against the carbon.

  6. Hi Chris,

    Given their leg power, I think Graeme and Ira could ride mountain bikes with road gearing up those hills if necessary. They’ll do steel proud. I’m still amazed that anyone is attempting this ;-)

    Wish I was over there photographing it.


  7. Jono says:

    I saw the bike at the bike show in London this weekend on the Enigma stand. It looked gorgeous and is a great example of British craftsmanship at it’s best.