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VN Chinook and Enigma Esprit owners

JohnKempStarleyJohnKempStarley Posts: 37
edited September 2011 in Road buying advice
I'm currently pondering building up a new road bike. My current bike is a carbon framed 21lb machine built up 11 years ago. I've looked at carbon frames for their low cost but I'm drawn to Ti for its own worthy characteristics. I'd like to make a bike to be proud of but also be lighter than my present one ( not too difficult ) but have similar responsiveness. I've narrowed my frame choice down to the VN Chinook or Enigma Esprit, both really good frames with a classic geometry that matches my current bike. Could any owners of both the VN Chinook and the Enigma Esprit give me some feedback as to the ride quality, responsiveness and their overall opinion of either of these bikes. The cost difference of the Enigma is bit of a negative but i would not discount it totally on that point alone. I think Whereisthurso may be an owner as I read his comments on the C-plus Chinook test. I tend to agree with his comments as the test has not allowed me a straight comparison between the two machines above due to the Chinook spec they chose to test. I wouldn't be looking to enter races with my chosen build but I'd still like a bike thats light, responsive, comfortable, good for hill climbing and something you'd always look forward to going out on.

Many thanks for any responses.


  • I know you say you've narrowed it down to the Esprit or Chinook, both good looking ti bikes that get good reviews, but have you considered the Lynskey Sportive? I bought one 4 months ago or so and find it very responsive, extremely comfortable and a complete joy to ride.
  • pottsstevepottssteve Posts: 4,043

    I own a VN Euros and rode a Chinook for a review, which can be found here: ... ll-ultegra

    The review is a bit whacky but the bike was very nice to ride, extremely well made, comfortable and smooth. The main difference I notice between my Euros and the Chinook is in the carbon wheels - they make a lot of difference to the ease of climbing and acceleration. My Euros has aluminium rims but the Chinook had VN carbon rims - not cheap at about 700 Euro, but worth it if you're pushing the boat out and want a really nice, light bike.
    I hope this helps.

    Head Hands Heart Lungs Legs
  • EarlyGoEarlyGo Posts: 281
    Sorry not a Chinook owner but I have a Euros. Ride quality is brilliant, no road buzz at all. Rides the bumps well too but is still nicely responsive. Build quality is excellent, every weld is perfect.

    Shame they put those wheels on the Chinook in the road test, but in the 2011 Bike of the Year test they described the Chinook ride as 'sublime'.

    Regards, EarlyGo
  • T.C.T.C. Posts: 495
    i own a chinook,got it from Hewitts in 2009. i'm struggling with back pain at the moment.

    really like the bike no problems at all, i specced it with centaur and aksium wheels.
  • davieseedaviesee Posts: 6,386
    I have to admit to having neither but have to say - 21 lbs for a carbon framed bike? Heavy

    My steel framed bike comes in at 18 lbs and I've not even tried to cut the weight.
    None of the above should be taken seriously, and certainly not personally.
  • Hi Everyone

    Thanks so far for the comments and feedback. I have looked at the lynskey frame (Noiseboyfeetman) as it was tested in the current edition of cycling plus. I sort of ruled it out in terms of the wheelbase being a bit longer than my current bike together with other measurements that differed ( the size tested being the closest match for my own ). Other than that reason certainly nothing wrong with the quality/spec of the product.
    I've read the review Steve that you created, I read it twice to pick out the info! Yes it was a bit off the wall I think the comments from readers reflected that. But again it sounds as though the frame can be used to produce a bike with different character according to component selection. The wheels on the C+ test which I think you found good on climbs perhaps weren't a good choice when comparing to the other bikes on test. EarlyGo points that out, I also feel the old way of summing up bike tests in C+ with marks out of 10 for various parameters was a better way to do it. But I'm sure there are many who like the current format. The magazine I feel has a more hectic disorganised format but thats progress. Overall, as much as the Chinook is described by VN as a criterium racer it still sounds as if it can produce a comfortable ride over longer distances as some of you have inferred.
    No Enigma Esprit riders as yet but hopefully there'll be other posts to help in the decision making process possibly including Whereisthurso who I believe also has a chinook.

    Thanks for the comments so far.
  • Oh just in reply on the 21lb's. The weight included the spd540 pedals but the componentry is circa 2000. That is full Veloce groupset, Mavic open pro wheels, 3T quill stem+bars, Charge Spoon saddle ( circa 2010 and seriously good to me anyway ). The frame being an Ambrosio stelvio carbon with fork. Its lugged tube construction. At the time I built it predominantly with 1/2 price parts including the frame and it was the same weight as bikes around the £1200 mark in 2001.

    Anyway thats the history, but she rides beautifully but its the frame showing cracking and flaking around a couple of the joints.
  • pottsstevepottssteve Posts: 4,043

    Yep, we do things different at!!!

    The bottom line is though that the Chinook is a quality frame and I don't think you'd go far wrong. If you want better carbon wheels there's the option of fitting Lightweights, but these will double the cost of the bike!

    Head Hands Heart Lungs Legs
  • Just joined the forum to reply to this post

    I have a VN Chinook and love it!

    It's built with sensible parts as my winter/training bike. Sram Rival groupset, handbuilt wheels. I think that it weighs around 8.5kg with pedals, computer and cages.

    It rides beautifully and I love the look of its classic lines. Beware that the Chinook has a stiffer rear end than the Euros which I also looked at when buying. The rear seatstays are thicker and straight where on the Euros they are slightly thinner and curved. It means the Chinook is a bit less comfortable. It still has that lovely feedback from the Ti frame though. I commute and train on it and also do club runs up to 85 miles without any problems with comfort.

    I also looked at the Enigma range when buying but was swayed by the slighly lower price of the VN range at the time 12 months ago.

    The only thing that I find is that the Chinook has a slightly less stiff front end than my carbon race bike. But that is perhaps to be expected considering my race bike has a tapered headtube.

    Have fun choosing though.
  • These Ti offerings from Planet-X seem unmatchable in terms of value for money - not sure how they ride compared to Enigma and VN though: ... road-frame ... imited-edt ... sram-force
  • EarlyGoEarlyGo Posts: 281
    These Ti offerings from Planet-X seem unmatchable in terms of value for money - not sure how they ride compared to Enigma and VN though:

    On the Planet-X web site they say that Van Nicholas supply the frames to Planet-X.
  • Hi everyone

    It certainly sounds like a good frame( the chinook) Velojay+Steve Potts, it would be great to fly the flag for britain but there's still a significant price difference with the esprit which is a shame. If I was a man of greater means I perhaps wouldn't think twice but sadly thats not the case. The eclipse frame looks very good too but I find the classic geometry easier to match up to my current bike. Speaking of which I was out on it today and she rides beautifully I wonder if I can achieve the same with a chinook? Thats the big question, I think with appropriate choice of compliant tyres perhaps a charge spoon ti saddle and carbon seatpost perhaps I can. Its just getting that balance of comfort and road feedback without creating something that beats you up over 40miles or less. But it sounds as though at 85miles the chinook frame surpasses that, I know VN say its ideal for criteriums and classics of which the latter I thought were quite long distance.
    On the Euros point I had noticed the curvy seatstays for more comfort again its a semi-compact frame as well. The planet-x Ti frames I've had a look yesterday they are produced by VN apparently to planet-x's spec I believe. One looks similar to the euros and the other closer to a mistral than a chinook I think but the geometry spec on the planet-x website is only half complete so hard to judge. They are very competitively priced, if they are based on euros or mistral then they're close to the VN pricing. Although they have laser etched labelling which is again pretty good at the price I do still like the VN finishing detail. It does have a touch of classic style but thats a matter of opinion I think.
  • Thought I'd comment as no Esprit owners have volunteered so far.

    I bought mine last year. I chose the geometry to be as close to my 531 steel Brian Rourke as possible. The top tube is the same. The only downside is that the seat tube extension above the top tube results in less exposure of the seat post which does not look as good as my old bike.

    The ride is much better with lots of road shock absorbed. I assume this is the frame as the angles are 73 degrees parallel I think, compared to 74 degrees for the Rourke. I know the head angle on the latter is steeper as I had to get a longer stem (12 cm vs 11 cm) for the Esprit.

    The wheels are different with Royce SF hubs on 32 spoke Mavic Open Pros compared with Campag Record SF hubs on 36 spoke Mavic MA40s. The latter may be more flexible but I have not tested them so the better ride quality is probably the frame material and geometry.
    The Esprit descends better and is stiffer in turns and bashing on the pedals uphill. I've not ridden carbon so cannot compare.

    In other reviews of VN there's often mention of overlap of the shoe and the front wheel (this used to be called toe clip overlap). There's some with the Esprit but not as much as the VN frames (Google Cycle Touring for the reviews).

    I'm not absolutely sure but I think the off the peg Esprits are welded in China which is a bit disappointing.

    The weight is 18 1/2 pounds with Dura Ace SPDL pedals, Force groupset (Red calipers), heavy Deda Zero 100 alloy stem, alloy handlebars, Arione saddle and 105 skewers.

    All in all I prefer the ride but find the bike boring to look at compared to my Saronni Red Rourke.
  • Thanks Eddie for the Esprit information you must be a rare breed, as you point out in being the first Esprit owner to come forward. One point you mention I personally feel is important and that is the toeclip overlap. I do have it on a cross bike but only as I've fitted mudguards for rainy winter days on the road. Without them its fine. I've drawn up the frame geometry of a chinook on a drawing board ( O-level tech drawing, great fun too! ). Doing this I've been able to do measurement to measurement comparisons with my current road bike, as you've done with your old frame. It works out that mathematically I should have the same clearance as at present but may lose 2.5mm depending on the crank. My current frame is clear by a few mm. I'll check that link out to see the comments and which frames are being referenced. Some people don't mind it but I personally think it should be avoided as it'll one day catch you out and possibly not just an embarrasing tumble. Lets hope the chinook geometry specs are correctly given. Its a pity you don't find the final esprit product as captivating as your old frame given the ride quality being better. I could revert back to looking at carbon frames but I still think if I go this route I could make something that will look the business, lets hope so its an expensive way to make a mistake!
  • Evil LaughEvil Laugh Posts: 1,412
    Is the esprit not tailored geometry?

    Would that not be worth considering?

    Have you spoken to enigma? I'm sure they can build any of their bikes with a level top tube if that's a big concern. I've spoken to them about an xcr and they are happy to do all sorts re geo and finish including a traditional style frame which is what I'd be after. My only slight concern is their apparent fixation with building bikes with 30mm spacer towers.
  • Evil Laugh wrote:
    Is the esprit not tailored geometry?

    Would that not be worth considering?

    Have you spoken to enigma? I'm sure they can build any of their bikes with a level top tube if that's a big concern. I've spoken to them about an xcr and they are happy to do all sorts re geo and finish including a traditional style frame which is what I'd be after. My only slight concern is their apparent fixation with building bikes with 30mm spacer towers.

    Yes we can build a frame to any design but please be assured that we are not fixated with 30mm spacers. If you want a bespoke frame built without spacers, then no problem. We usually allow 30mm of spacers to give the rider some flexibility in their position on the bike, but it is not cast in stone.

    Jim Walker
  • MrIPMrIP Posts: 91
    Dear John,

    As a very satisfied Enigma owner I feel it’s time to chip in !

    I did extensive research last year before buying two Enigma frames, an Esprit and Etape. I did ride some of the other ti bikes including Moda and VN.

    The Esprit is my best bike and is built with a a full s-ram red group, Easton slx fork and uses either American classic 420 aero or Shimano 7800 Dura-ace wheels. It is a super bike to ride very stiff and fast, the bike is approx. 6.8Kg. To my mind and with my kind of riding I would not say it would be the best all-round bike but it is a very fast race bike which you can have a huge amount of pleasure in riding. You really can get it by the scruff of the neck and ride it hard which is extremely satisfying.

    My second Enigma the Etape which I was not intending to get originally the plan was to get an everyday training bike which was going to be an Enigma Eclipse. However wiggle found that the Eclipse frame was damaged so asked me if I would like a deal on the Etape instead. I agreed and built it up with the parts I had intended to build the Eclipse with. This means rather unusually for an Etape it was built with a mix of s-ram red and force and an Easton slx fork using Campag euros wheels. It weighs just less than 7 kg.

    If I had to choose to run only one bike as an all-round bike it would be the Etape and the ride is just sublime and I find myself sometimes talking myself into using the Etape instead of the Esprit!

    I really would not change and do not regret in any way using Enigma. I should add both my frames are standard of the peg so supposedly eastern made. I am not really bothered by this they are after all designed and supplied by an English company. One day I hope to be in the position to have Enigma custom make me a ti frame for even greater pleasure. Obviously this is not the case with VN which I think are also eastern made.

    If you are in a position too I would strongly recommend that you look at the complete Enigma range and not just the Esprit, even better pay them a visit.

    Sorry if this sounds like an Enigma marketing piece but I am really a very satisfied Enigma customer.


  • Hi MrIP

    Thanks for the reply and don't worry I won't take it as enigma marketing. Actually I think I'd be quite proud to market a product you would have full faith in and a british company too. I must say I've been in several bike shops where the passion/enthusiam for this 2 wheeled marvel just does not come over, its just a shop they run. I've been in email contact with both VN and Enigma ( Jim Walker above ) and I couldn't fault either in their responses. I originally looked at the eclipse frame following rave reviews from C+ but then I went through some back editions and found last years esprit review. It again seemed very positive but I know the price difference is a factor. I definitely know that custom geometry is available but I'm pretty well mr average and have always found a bike frame to fit. Sometimes I've had to be circumspect if falling on the edge of sizes but with the esprit and chinook I know there is a size that matched my current frame to within a cm. I'll certainly take a second look at the etape. I think both Enigma and VN seem to get good forum responses for customer service which was another factor in narrowing my choices.
  • Not tried the Chinook, but have had an Esprit for just over four years and surprisingly find it's the bike I choose more often than not. Even in preference to Carbon Bianchi or Viner.

    I was initially looking for a hardwearing Audax style bike with a more aggressive feel. I was thinking that I might need to get a custom frame to find the right mix. But as it turns out the Esprit fits that style very nicely.

    My initial impression was that the ride quality is buttery smooth and rough roads are evened out really well. I found that a little daunting because I found myself going much faster on rough roads than I think I should have.

    There is some flex in the frame, especially in the bottom bracket which does take out the edge when pushing hard up hills. But I don't treat this as "race" bike; it’s more like a fast endurance bike.

    There are only two things I would do differently if I was to get this bike again.

    1/ I would have gone the custom route only to get Look HSC forks fitted. I was lucky enough to do a back-to-back test ride using both Reynolds and Look HSC. The damping effect of Ti makes me think that I want steering that’s more edgy. The Reynolds give a solid feel, but the HSC are/were much more confidence inspiring (YMMV).

    2/ don’t get the standard decals; go for the bead blasted/frost logos. The standard decals will break and dislodge over time. I'm riding an "Eiicma Lsorit" apparently, and I've met a couple of Enigma owners who have the same problem with the decals.
  • Thanks for the comments on the Esprit Antikythera. It again sounds like a good frame, I think one of the points of the Ti frames I like is the "quietness" of the finishing kit. Some may say boring but one of the aspects of some of the carbon frames I've viewed that puts me off are the lurid graphics. I think frames like these and some of the steel ones too just have a classy look to them. Its a pity as many of the carbon frames are at least the equal or better but let down by the shouty detail. To see the carbon weave on a shiny gloss finish frame is to me quite pleasant rather than hide it. I liked comment number 2 about the disintegrating name.
  • EarlyGoEarlyGo Posts: 281
    Agree with the above, Ti frames (IMHO) have an understated and timeless classiness that, for example, Trek carbon frames with the word 'TREK' emblazoned on every available space are sadly missing. Also there are what should be lovely looking bikes out there that are (for me) ruined by their colour scheme. eg: the Kuota Kebel.
  • Hi Earlygo

    Just on your comments I'd looked at the ribble stealth months ago but they've gone the total opposite end of the spectrum in making a reasonable frame in matt black from all images and photo's I viewed. So very dull, even the latest boardmans seem to have gone down the matt finish route from what I saw in halfords. Most of the Ti frames have an aesthetically pleasing look. Also being inert to the elements I'd hope they stay like that but theres always the emery cloth, now that would concern me, try on a small patch first :-).
  • As another proud Enigma Esprit owner, I thought I'd chip in.

    I've had my Esprit for just over 3.5 years and love it. I find it very comfortable, with a similar feel to my Colnago C50. I use it in Sportives as I'm really worried about the possible damage that could occur to a carbon frame if I crash ( which has happened twice over the last 3 years during a sportive (not my fault either time!)

    Kitted out with Renolds Ouzo pro fork, Mavic Ksyrium ES wheels and Sram Force groupset it weighs 7.8kg.

    Love the bike it it always gets nice comments at sportives. I agree with what's been said by a previous poster re the decals and intend to send the frame back to Enigma for the bead blasted decals over the winter.
  • +3 for Enigma (although I have the Echo as I needed the "compact" geometry due to my (apparent) part Orang-outang heritige

    +3 for the Enigma stickers (LOL at the "Eiicma Lsorit")

    +3 for the "send it back to have the bead blasting & mirror finish", but winter is when I ride the most, so can't decide when to go for it!

    + Many for the quality of Enigma service. I managed to break the rear deraillier hanger, and Jim was concerned as to how it happened rather than just getting the replacement in the post (which he did, and it arrived next day at my parents in the UK)

    I bought mine at a distance of 3,000 miles, having ridden one example here for 4 minutes, and having spoken to 4 owners that I ride with (which makes them remarkably popular in percentage terms...)

    I have been absolutely delighted with the bike, and the comfort is absolutely fantastic, including when I had the "pleasure" of riding on the UK's pristine (!) road surfaces...

  • Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. Its been good to read your views on both the bikes plus others mentioned. Its quiet now but else who feels they'd like to add to it you're more than welcome too. Hopefully others out there thinking down the same lines as myself on a new Ti bike build will find it useful.

    Best Regards

  • jvhpjvhp Posts: 2
    Hi there to OP, and sorry to semi-hijack your thread, just tried to PM you but I think as a new member I can't yet.

    Anyway, I was wondering if you'll be selling on your ambrosio frame when its shiny new ti replacement arrives? I ride what I think is the same frame but it's a wee bit too big for me (56 seat tube, 57 top, both c-c), it still rides a beaut though and I've been looking around for another recently, ideally 54 or 55 square. Is yours of a suitable size and would you consider selling? Or is it really a bit too knackered? Totally understand if you're keeping it and letting her go into gentle retirement - I know how easy it is to get attached to old rides.

    Thanks, and feel free to PM me back rather than let me ramble on in this thread.
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