From Slowtwitch forum, April 2010:
“Rob English has built for me two custom steel bicycles, a road bike and a folding, packable 29er mountain bike. The road bike is my primary race bike, and built up with SRAM Red and carbon wheels it’s just over 14 lbs. I just received the mountain bike, and I intend to use it for my frequent travel to far away locales for mountain biking and rough stuff touring. It is built up with an Alfine 8 speed internal hub and has braze ons for mounting a rack.
My experience working with Rob has been absolutely incredible. He’s a serious, innovative, and smart Cambridge University trained engineer who has been working in the bike industry for years. He listens carefully to what the customer wants and needs, and nothing is “off the table.” I wanted my bikes to perform a certain way, to look a certain way, and to really represent custom solutions to my needs. In every case, Rob said, “let me think about how to do that,” and then he’d come back with an idea in a week or so. On my road bike, I wanted the monostay on the rear triangle to intersect the front triangle at a certain place to achieve a certain look; yeah, that’s a silly picky thing, but Rob’s attitude was, “no problem.” He thought he could do better in terms of weight and simplicity over S&S couplings for my packable bike, and his clever solution seems to succeed in spades. As another example, I didn’t want a twist shifter or a Shimano trigger for my Alfine hub; he custom built a mount for a Jtek lever.
But all that would be something like the minimum for a top custom builder. The other thing about Rob that, for me, sets him apart is that he rides bikes at about the highest level of any active frame builder (he routinely beats up on the Pro/1/2 field in Oregon, he’s three times the Oregon state time trial champion, he’s won the Cascade Creampuff, etc., etc.). When he’s racing he’s always thinking of ways to make equipment better, in real-world terms. I race bikes hard, and having a builder who tests his stuff as rigorously as I ever could was confidence inspiring.
If you want your bike to be the most ornately aesthetic thing on your block, well then there are certainly great builders for that, and I’d never dream of dissing their work. But if you’re like me and think that a bike is beautiful when it’s impossibly light and fast and functional for racing, then Rob’s creations are in my opinion unrivaled (but, of course, I bought two of them!). Am I a satisfied customer? You bet.”
- Joe Cruz, Massachusetts
I particularly enjoy designing and building for shorter-than-average, light riders – they typically have trouble finding a bike that will fit correctly, and even then, it will generally be very overbuilt, and thus be both heavier than necessary, and likely to give them a harsh ride. Sheri wanted a TT bike – just getting her fit figured out was hard enough, as even XS production bikes weren’t close enough to work from. A full custom fit got me the numbers to design her bike, which is based around 650C wheels. The bike features a custom aero fork and handlebars, and Di2 parts with internal battery and a micro-usb charging port. The frame has the most slender seatstays I have used, to match the build of the rider, and the steerer is 1″ for the same reason, also keeping the bike narrow.
For this Dura-ace Di2 build I wanted to make everything as cleanly integrated as possible – this starts with a custom stem featuring a special pocket to house the Di2 control box. The cables then run inside the stem, the steerer and the frame before exiting right at the derailleurs. The custom battery is inside the seattube.
A custom butted and ovalised integrated seatmast has a cap to allow for 20mm of adjustment, and the tubeset is completed with mainly True Temper S3 tubing.
There is a lot of talk about how ‘aero’ bikes are, especially for time trialling. But the simple truth is that the rider is causing most of the drag. Therefore the most important thing is to get the rider into as aerodynamic position as possible. I have been a student of time trialling for a long time – back in the UK you can (and I did!) race three or four TTs a week all season. It is often not possible to get in the best position on a stock bike – for example I have very long arms and so could never get low enough on a conventional setup. To get around this I built an integrated fork/bar/aerobar, and a frame to match with a 76 degree seatangle. This combination enables me to get my back flat whilst holding a powerful position (in 2008 the bike proved itself by taking me to second in the Oregon State TT champs in a time of 51:51 for 40km; in 2009 I went one better, taking the win with 51:13, since then I have claimed two more titles, with a course record of 51:08 in 2011). Weight is a minor consideration compared to drag for a flat time trial, but with a weight of 16lbs the bike is light too. I custom machined both brakes in order to fit them neatly out of the wind. The aerobar extensions are aluminium and bolt on, allowing some adjustment, along with the height of the armrests.
After five seasons racing on this bike, I have just completed the New! Improved! version, which will be unveiled at the show…..
I have pretty much always taken a bike with me wherever I have travelled, and airline fees have just gotten more and more expensive. Back in 2009 I finally got to go ride in Moab, and so I needed a bike that would travel a bit more easily. So the goal with this project was to have a regular bike that could pack into an airline checkable case – I acquired one of the 26x26x10 S&S cases which just meets the 62 linear inch rule and just takes a 700C wheel – 29er tires have to be completely deflated to fit. Whilst in the design stage I decided on a second goal of having the bike fold – there are often times when it would be nice to have a mountain bike that is easy to throw in a trunk or store in a closet.
The resulting bike accomplishes both these goals in a fairly unobtrusive way, whilst having clearance for 2.4″ tires and maintaining a supershort chainstay length of 425mm (16.7″). Adjustable, modular dropouts allow for any sort of setup – right now I have it as a singlespeed, but there are cable stops for a rear derailleur on the frame. To fold the bike, both wheels are removed, then the two quick releases at the bottom bracket are released to allow the rear end to pivot around the BB once the upper quick release is undone. Pulling the seatpost will make the resulting package smaller.
Packing in the case requires several additional disassembly steps. The rear triangle has a removable chainstay bridge, which allows the rear triangle to be separated from the front half of the frame. The cranks must also be pulled, along with the bar, stem, fork and seatpost. Then the pieces all pack together into the case (with the big tires, this meant removing the front tire for ease of packing).
Weight as shown with the fairly heavy Salsa fork, mechanical disc brakes and the BIG tires is 21lbs.
I raced my gold V2 for three years so for 2012 it was time to roll out the next iteration! The tubeset is essentially the same as before (S3 aero downtube and chainstays, OX platinum toptube, English skinny wishbone seatstays), but with a little added carbon – I had Enve custom make me some tubes for the ISP and headtube insert. This change saved 120g over the previous frame. The custom stem weighs 108g. It is built up with my personal usual ecclectic selection of parts – BTP carbon downtube shifter for the front derailleur, Dash G5 carbon saddle, EE cycleworks brakes, Lightning carbon cranks. All up weight as shown is 10.8lbs with the hillclimb wheels; will still be under 12lbs with deep section wheels. One full season of racing on it so far.
Yes I like building race bikes. But sometimes it is good just to sit up, ride easy and watch the world go by! So why not do that in style and comfort? This is the heaviest English single bike yet at 30lbs, yet thanks to the massive 29″ tires and supple frame it rides so smooth it doesn’t matter. Helping the smoothness (and the weight…) is the NuVinci continuously variable internally geared hub. No more trying to find the ‘right’ gear, just twist the shifter until the pedalling rate feels comfortable. And with the Gates belt drive, the drivetrain is completely silent. Beautiful wooden fenders from Creative Openings in Washington add to the style and function. Internal cables for the rear disc brake and gears run inside the twin toptubes, whilst the front brake cable runs through the stem, steerer and fork. The twin bladed fork was designed to give the wide clearance needed for the fender and tire, but also adds a certain amount of ‘give’, and a nice styling to the front end.
This one is my personal race bike from 2011, where it was used with pretty good success in various Oregon races. As shown with very light climbing wheels it is 11.8lbs.
This is the bike I had long wanted to build, but it was only four years ago that all the components I needed were readily available – namely integrated drop bar shifters for an internal hub gear and an efficient belt drive. These roles are fulfilled by the Sussex Engineering Versa shifters and the Gates Carbon Drive belt/sprockets respectively. To accommodate the belt drive the frame needed a couple of special features to enable installation and tensioning of the belt, for this I created a split rear dropout for the former and used a Niner eccentric bottom bracket (custom machined to take a 68mm width road BB/crank setup) for the latter. To continue the low maintenance theme, the bike has disc brakes front and rear, mounted on custom post mounts for straight forward fitting. Finally, for my personal use (commuting and winter training) I decided to integrate the rear pannier rack as part of the frame, allowing a small set of panniers to be carried mounted low on the bike and as close to the centreline as possible. Otherwise the bike has regular road geometry, with clearance for 25C tires and fenders. MTB (29er) disc rims provide a wide tire profile for grip on winter roads. Lightweight was never a design intent with this bike, but the final 24lb complete weight is reasonable considering the Alfine hub, heavy duty wheels, rack and fenders.
Here’s a great shot of the bike with it’s intended layer of dirt from zero maintenance through the Oregon winter! Four years on and this is my go-to bike all winter for training, commuting and hauling supplies – English Cycles is car-free, so everything from tanks of gas to packed up bike boxes is hauled by bicycle! To this end it got a couple of additions last summer with a rear light integrated into the seatmast, and a brazed on trailer hitch on the chainstay. And a slight change of color to black diamond with the necessary repaint. I just swapped out the belt for the Center Track version, but otherwise nothing much has been done in 7000 miles – one new set of tires and one new gear cable is all I think. I’m still on the first set of brake pads!
John likes to ride long distances, on varied surfaces, and has some neck issues requiring a fairly upright position. He wanted a light bike for all the climbing, but comfortable for all day riding, with larger clinchers on dependable wheels. And an integrated rear light for the really long days!
The resulting build comes in at just under 14lbs with 25C clinchers. The frame features a tall headtube with a carbon insert, an integrated seatmast with a modified Thomson head (adjustable via an internal wedge), and shaped s-bend chainstays to give clearance for up to 28C tires (the biggest that will fit under the standard reach EE brakes). Internal cable routing keeps everything clean, whilst pump pegs under the toptube prevent messing around with a mini-pump on those long days out.
Flat black with black decals gives a nice stealthy look, along with the decal-less NoTubes rims, Alchemy hubs, Calfee BarStem and Super Record parts. The Exposure Lights Flare rear light is secured via an internal bolt, but the rechargable battery can be accessed by unscrewing the lens.
“I’m at almost 2000 miles since I started riding the bike in earnest on March 30. I love it so much that I’m selling my other bikes, aside from the Herse. Thank you!” – John, NY
Shimano’s Di2 opened up some interesting options for integrating the shifting components into the frame. This bike features a custom internal battery (about half the weight of the stock Di2 battery, with 150% of the capacity), with a frame mounted micro-usb charging port. Then I was never too happy with the look of the Di2 control box just hanging off the brake cable, so we have a custom English stem/steerer which houses the control box (which is a snap fit into the stem). The cable then runs down the steerer, exits into the downtube, and only appears externally at the front and rear derailleurs. The tapered aero steel fork has a clamp at the crown to hold the steerer, in the style of a regular aheadset, only upside-down.
A set of the ’90s era Sweet Parts cromoly cranks completes the mostly-steel construction – but yet the complete bike is under 15lbs.
The goal with this one was a very clean look, hence the integrated seatmast (with a Thomson seatpost modified with an internal wedge – seat height is adjustable by removing the saddle), fully internal hydraulic hose routing (the front hose enters under the stem, goes down the steerer tube, into the left fork leg and exits by the caliper. The rear hose enters the downtube behind the headtube, runs underneath the BB inside the frame before passing inside the chainstay to arrive at the brake) and one piece steerer-stem-bar. The curved seattube allows for short chainstays with the 29″ wheels, and careful shaping of the stays gives clearance for the 2.25″ tires and the Gates belt drive ring. A Niner Eccentric bottom bracket enables tensioning of the belt, whilst a custom split dropout allows it to be fitted to the frame. Post mounts front and rear for the disc brakes, with 140mm rotor rear, 160mm front. Assymmetric seatstays to clear the rear brake caliper.
The parts are a balance of durability and weight, with 28h Chris King single speed disc hubs laced to Edge XC rims with Sapim cx-ray spokes, Race Face Zeus SL cranks and SRAM XX brakes. Total weight is 18.5lbs.
This is Ray’s customised version of my Superlight V3 build. Enve carbon seattube and headtube insert, a selection of Columbus and True Temper tubing and a full Campy Record EPS group with custom battery mount and internal wiring.
Time to get low and fast! Fully integrated Di2 on this highly customised time trial bike, finished off with a polish and clearcoat.
For a lightweight travel bike, this is my Folding Road Concept. Discreet hinges at the bottom bracket shell and dropouts allow the rear triangle to fold flat underneath the mainframe, making it straightforward to drop into an airline checkable case. The folding system only adds 120g to the frame, and the bike rides identically to a non-folding version. This bike is my personal ride, that I took back to the UK last year for the National Hillclimb Championships. Built up as shown it weighs 13.5lbs.
The title sums it up pretty well!
“We made it out on a couple of more rides with the tandem while we were in the US. It is sooooo smooooth!!!! Amy is loving the ride! I no longer have to call out every little bump in the road. In fact, I stopped calling out any bumps just to see what would happen. Amy never squawked once. I now only have to call out major bumps. Amy said a bump that would have felt like “it was cutting me in two” on the C’dale with a suspension seatpost now is “somewhat uncomfortable” on the English. Mission accomplished!We did some hard efforts on a couple of hills, and I am happy to report that we didn’t notice any unwanted flex.
We love our English Tandem and are anxious to spend more time riding it! You did a superb job with it! Next time we are in the market for a custom bike(s) you will be at the top of the list. Thanks again for being easy to work with and for an awesome bike!” – Ryan and Amy, New Zealand.
This is an example of the latest evolution of my lightweight race bike. It is built with True Temper S3 downtube, toptube and chainstays. 3/8″ wishbone seatstays, custom externally butted headtube and Enve custom carbon integrated seatmast – with an adjustable cap for fine tuning saddle height. The specification is a nice mix of function and lightweight, from the SRAM Red/Quarq powercrank to the Ciamillo brakeset and Lightweight wheels. Total weight complete as shown is 13.7lbs, with a frame weight of 1234g.
So…. starting at the front, and my favorite part – the ovalised headtube. This took some doing to figure out the tooling to maintain the ends perfectly round and square. It is fitted with a (slightly modified) Chris King builders’ edition Inset headset. Above that we have a Pro Stealth Evo bar/stem that I sent up to Ruckus Components in Portland. Shawn and Graham did a great job of cutting a hole for the Di2 control box and reinforcing the stem to allow for it. The Di2 cable runs back through the stem and into the steerer. It exits the steerer into the downtube and meets the junction box in the seattube. Then there is a hacked Ultegra battery holder from Calfee, before hooking up to their internal battery further up the seattube. And finally a micro-usb port installed in the seatmast cap for charging purposes.
This is my first frame with a PF30 BB shell. It is needed in order to run a 30mm axle with the internal Di2 cables (in a standard threaded shell there isn’t room for both). It also gives a nice size contact area for the oversize Columbus aero downtube. The seattube is custom butted and ovalised, with a cutout for the rear wheel, along with a special braze-on for the Ultegra Di2 front derailleur, which includes a solid point for the ‘push’ screw of the derailleur to anchor on to. True Temper S3 chainstays have a Simkins Design Egg brake tucked underneath. The rear dropouts are angled back approximately 10 degrees to allow for easy wheel removal without the front of the tire hanging up on the brake or wheel cutout. The seatstays are custom bent and ovalised to tuck up behind the seattube.
I wanted the carbon parts (bar/stem and 3T fork) painted to match the frame, and I can’t do that with powder coat, so I sent everything down to Keith Anderson for a custom paint job. He didn’t disappoint!
Completing the build is a set of English Aero hubs with Enve 6.7 rims, with (mostly) white spokes (a few black ones for contrast).
Total weight as shown is 16lbs. Should be a super solo breakaway machine!