An open letter to Jim Walker at Enigma Bikes

Thanks for my dream bike. The dream lasted about 10 years. You know how it ended: by me hanging up on you mid-sentence. I’ll leave it to whoever else reads this to decide whether or not they’d have done the same thing.

It was in 2011 that I fell for the Enigma Esprit. I was influenced by stellar reviews, and the lifetime warranty. My trip to Westham and subsequent test ride clinched it.

Mark Reilly [RIP] took my order, measuring me up and essentially interviewing me to ensure it would be a perfect match. By the end of our talk I was nervous, but reasonably confident he would deliver.

He did. Four months later I picked up my custom build. We shared many happy miles. Because I opted for no decals, I would often get asked by other cyclists “What’s that?” Of course I’d tell them, pleased that there was a local company I could recommend.

Fast forward to 2016 and A Crack in the Dream, detailing the first of my warranty issues.

I know you’re aware of the article because you brought it up in our phone call the other day, sounding somewhat aggrieved. My guess is you’re used to glowing press reviews rather than an honest account of a problem. That was no bashing, Jim. Wishing to be fair as possible, as well as maintain a cordial relationship, I actually watered down my impression that your first impulse was to search for a way to escape your obligations.

As it was, you repaired rather than replaced the frame, which rightly concerned me at the time as it would later prove to be the bike’s undoing.

On to late 2020. The rear right dropout breaks: another month without my favourite bike while it’s repaired. Little did I know this would be the last straw for you.

On May 11th it gave up for good, catastrophically failing at the bottom bracket and nearly throwing me onto the tarmac.

Smile for the camera
That’s quite a wide smile
It just goes on and on and on…

When I dropped it off that afternoon I took note of the lack of an apology or even a modicum of sympathy, which struck me as cold. I guess not everybody is so great at customer service when they’ve long since pocketed the cash.

At first I wasn’t too worried, because of the lifetime warranty — the original one given by Enigma, before the change in your company’s terms and conditions. I hadn’t just bought a bike: I thought I’d also bought peace of mind.

That peace was as cracked as my frame when I was informed that I’d be offered “a good price” on a replacement. This isn’t my understanding of such a warranty. I was about to get an education, Enigma-style.

You asked me to pay £600 “for materials”, and called it “a very generous offer” only open for 7 days — a questionable pressurising sales technique. That must sound like a bargain to you. But anybody sensible, looking at my sorry list of disasters, would question the wisdom of giving Enigma yet more money.

I was also, rather oddly, emailed a list of things that can fatigue a frame, as if it were a litany of my possible abuse of my bike. This was to culminate in your anecdote of a rider hitting a large pothole and totalling his. If you’ve actually read my road.cc piece you’ll have seen I rather studiously avoid potholes (though not as a subject, as I’ve written about them). However, I don’t suppose that can be proved.

Speaking of which, I honestly don’t know the mileage on this. Although it was certainly my preferred ride, I have two other road bikes which get used most often in poor weather (the Enigma having been my ‘Sunday best’, fortunately not confined to Sundays).

“We should all get a turn”

I’m not on Strava; there is no computer on the handlebars. My average spin is a modest 20 miles, 4 or 5 days a week. I originally gave a guesstimate of 100 miles a week, to cover the occasional longer ride. I don’t want to go on about this because frankly it’s a bit boring, but at one point you said that it was interesting how I seemed to be downplaying the mileage, as if trying to catch me out, a gotcha! calculated to cast further blame my way.

Jim, whatever. I haven’t eaten so many hard miles as to destroy a well made machine. I’m not Superman. There are much less ‘premium’ bikes out there that have been going for half a century or more…

Which brings me back to the so-called “lifetime” warranty which served as a lure to your brand. You have explained that this doesn’t actually mean what it says. Yes, the cynic in me understands it’s to some extent a marketing gimmick, but you must appreciate that words mean things.

At the very least, by writing it off after only ten years and outright telling me that’s an acceptable lifespan (not to mention track record) for a premium priced bike, you’re showing a surprising lack of faith in your own product. Van Nicholas, for example, sets their lifetime bar at 25 years; one doesn’t have to be a mathematician to appreciate their confidence in their customer’s longevity.

If you’d done the right thing and replaced it after the initial crack, we likely wouldn’t be here: you leaving a customer with bike-shaped scrap metal, me now quite the opposite of a cheerleader, online and on the road on my non-custom but adequate Litespeed. By the way, that one is also ‘stealth’, so when people ask “What’s that?” I will make sure to mention what it’s not, and why. Always glad to spread the word.

And so to that final phone call. Again no apology, which perhaps I should see as a refreshing lack of pretence, as it’s apparent you feel your company can do no wrong. As someone put it on one of the places where I’ve started talking about this:

those repeated frame cracks and failures should be a clear message to any company that’s concerned about its QC that they have a real problem with their manufacturing processes.

Not honoring a lifetime warranty? Doesn’t sound like Enigma is too concerned about its reputation.

Your end of the conversation was a list of excuses or get-out clauses to justify not honouring your initial commitment.

Needless to say I didn’t take the news well, as it quickly became obvious that you weren’t going to budge and that this particular dream was officially dead; that I was in effect talking to a brick wall. Therefore it seemed logical to end our little chat as quickly as possible. Niceties, what are those?

The only thing I have left to say to you that I didn’t, Jim, is goodbye.

Definitely sounds like a lemon, and would have expected better from Enigma to sort it since there is clearly something wrong to have failed in so many places. It is so comedically wrong that they should have just held their hands up.

under construction

under construction