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.
[From Slowtwitch forum]
Joe wanted a bike for around town and road riding, good for Seattle’s hills and climate. He came down for a fitting with his current bike, and with a few tweaks we got the fit straight, then put together a design with disc brakes, the internally geared Alfine 11spd hub, a Gates belt drive, tubeless tires, full fenders and an Ergon seatpost for comfort. The icing on the cake is the Prismatic ‘Glowbee’ topcoat which makes the frame and fenders glow in the dark!
The frame uses a modified Niner eccentric bottom bracket to tension the belt, with a custom machined socket at the rear dropout for a split to install the belt. The seatstays are one piece with a bend to match the fender shape, and asymmetric to clear the chainstay mounted disc brake. Total weight complete with pedals is just a little over 23lbs.
“It’s been seven days and I’ve been able to get six rides in on my new bike. I thought I’d send my thoughts on to you as I really love the bike. I’ve ridden on flats, hills, short and long rides. The first thing I noticed was how smooth the ride is. Next was how responsive the bike felt both climbing and descending. Descending on it is actually pretty incredible. It’s so balanced and steady. The cockpit and components are a wonderful match to the beautiful frame. Each looks and works perfectly well. I do love the electric shifting. The wheels are amazing. They roll so well and must be contributing to the great descending characteristics of the bike. I do notice they are a tiny but more sluggish off the line than my lighter wheels but that should be expected and the aesthetics are more than worth it. Speaking of how it looks…I’ve gotten comments on almost every ride. Lots of people have asked what type of bike it is due to the stealth read of the logo. A few have said, “I should have known” or “oh right… I recognize those stays”. But most just pretend to be in the know and likely look up your website later. I’ve had people take pictures and bring friends over to see it….and it’s just been one week! The fit is perfect. I feel better on it than my old bike even climbing 90 miles on Saturday felt good. I assume the material helps on the long rides. So this is a big thanks from a very happy client” – Giles
Edd wanted a TT frame along the lines of my Mark 2. However, the front end on my bike was very difficult to build, and not very easy for user-serviceability – not a problem for a bike that is staying at EC HQ, but I needed to come up with something that would resolve both those issues, but maintain the narrow front end and clean lines from stem to toptube.
The result features a custom narrow upper headset bearing that fits directly into the machined headtube, with a standard 1″ external cup lower bearing. The steerer is actually 25mm here, integrated into the stem/bar and being clamped at the fork crown (a ‘bottom cap’ is used for headset preload). There is then a section of airfoil tubing behind the headtube to join to the toptube.
The rear of the bike has a more familiar layout, with an ovalised integrated seatmast with custom cap, dropped seatstays and s-bend chainstays.
Brakes front and rear are TriRig Omega. For the rear brake there is a custom guide on the BB shell for direct internal cable routing. The front brake cable is feed directly from an internal guide brazed into the stem/bar.
I used the old Klein term of ‘fuselage’ instead of frameset as Edd asked me to build him a custom cockpit too. He wanted the basebar to be at the level of the toptube, with a central spacer up to the aerobar – this allows for a slightly higher bar position when required for longer events (12 hour time trials are a standard event in the UK) by changing the spacer. The central spacer is made from airfoil section tubing, as is the basebar and the bridge between the extension clamps. Edd supplied the carbon extensions and arm rests – there is allowance for adjusting reach and width.
This was a fun build! Augusto started out requesting an aero road build, but with disc brakes since he lives in the mountains. Then with a bit more pondering, he decided he wanted a more unique look, so asked if I could add twin toptubes/seatstays to the design. This worked out nicely as also giving a clean way to route the rear hydraulic hose and Di2 wires to the back of the bike.
The frame has a custom butted, ovalised integrated seatmast, a Columbus aero downtube, and Deda s-bend chainstays. The custom fork has airfoil section blades, with a post-mount for the disc caliper and internal routing through the steerer. The matching custom stem includes a boss for the Di2 control box.
The FRC (folding road concept) is my travel bike system that enables a full size bike to pack into an airline checkable case. The weight penalty is just 150g and no special tools are required. When the bike is assembled and the bolts are tightened, there is absolutely no performance difference from a fixed frame.
Jeffrey’s build, with Dura-ace Di2 and a few carbon parts, comes in at 14lbs (with alloy clincher wheels). And more importantly, the custom geometry is designed to fit and ride just how he wants it.
Zach asked me to build him a modern race bike with disc brakes. He chose to have an ovalised, integrated seatmast, aero downtube and internal cable routing. With the oversize headtube for the tapered fork, I was able to run the cables in through the headtube to keep everything clean.
…..Been logging the miles on the bike and have never ridden a more responsive yet comfortable bike. I’m truly loving this thing. – Zach
The V3 design is the latest iteration of my superlight road frame, featuring a carbon integrated seatmast and carbon headtube insert. With the 3.1 I added carbon seatstays to the mix.
This one really came out nice, with the Tron-style matte/gloss paint applied by Colorworks, complemented by the matte carbon THM cranks and Dura-ace 9070 groupset.
As shown with Enve SES 3.4 carbon tubular wheels, the weight is right at 13lbs. The fork is a THM Scapula, painted to match, whilst the stem is a custom English steel (122g) with a mounting boss built in for the Di2 control box. The tubing is mostly True Temper, with Enve supplying the carbon.
For ease of use and low maintenance this bike features a Rohloff 14spd hub paired with a Gates belt drive, along with disc brakes and a generator front hub.
The seatstays curve so that they can act as the front part of the pannier support, with the custom rack matching the shape. There is a Supernova rear light mounted on the back, to match the front light that is mounted on the custom front rack. Both racks feature carbon top-plates made by the composite guys at Ruckus. The SON-SL front generator hub is paired to special dropouts that mean there are no connections for the power – just clamp the wheel in and the dropouts provide the connection. The power is sent internally to the front lamp and to a USB charging port on the top of the steerer.
At the rear there is a custom split dropout on the right for installing the belt, and a extra long dropout on the left for the torque arm of the Rohloff hub, which is controlled by a Co-motion dropbar Rohloff shifter. An eccentric bottom bracket takes care of tensioning the belt.
Blake wanted a travel bike that was raceable, but leaning towards ‘Roubaix’ style geometry a little. He also wanted to allow for future changes in position (likely to be shorter/higher), so we started out with a 130mm stem so a shorter one can be added later as required. The frame has the ‘FRC’ folding rear triangle design, allowing the stays to fold flat underneath the frame so it can all fit in an airline-checkable case.
Got a chance to get out on the bike today. Not a big ride, but a couple laps up the local climb, about 25 minutes from bottom to top. The bike felt very solid underfoot, at least as solid as the Specialized. I didn’t notice any “waggle” in the BB as I do with my late 90’s steel Carrera Andromeda. The bike felt light and well balanced going up, both in and out of the saddle.
The descent is very fast with lots of tight turns. Very technical, and I know it well. I couldn’t go all out, due to gravel and some wet spots, but I took it fairly fast. The bike is the best balanced and most stable and predictable I have ridden. It felt neither sluggish, nor skittish. I really like it in this regard. Super fun going downhill. I was worried that the “Roubaix” style geometry would slow it down and make it feel like an old mans bike, but so far that does not seem to be the case. The roads are pretty smooth, so I didn’t get a chance to test out the ride quality in terms of soaking up rough road, but I will get a chance to do that this weekend.
The rest of the componentry is very good. The Dura-Ace is flat out amazing. Shifting and braking are superb, and I love the reach adjustment. Makes it very easy to brake and shift from the drops. Seatpost and saddle are better than I had hoped for as well. Very excited to put it through the paces over the next few weeks, and really get a feel for it and see what it can do. So far, so good.
One more thing, the FRC is absolutely ingenious. Just an incredibly simple, elegant solution. Well done. I’m really looking forward to riding this bike for a long time.Thanks so much!
This was a concept I worked on for a long time before finally getting it built for NAHBS three years ago. I applied my own approach to the project, and where off-the-shelf components weren’t available to suit what I wanted to do, I designed and built them myself – which ended up being frame, fork, headset, handlebars, shifters, front brake, front hub, BB and crankset.
I was delighted when it was awarded ‘Best in show’ that year, and went on to prove it on the road with a win in the Oregon Time Trial championships that summer.
Mike has been riding his 26″ wheeled full suspension bike for some time. But in contemplating a new build, he wanted to go with 29″ wheels and big tires on a hardtail. He sent me some photos of his current position; I then made some suggestions which he was able to experiment with using different stems, to make sure I would be designing to the correct fit.
Mike liked the lines of my twin-toptubed bike; I suggested we could achieve a similar look with an ovalised and curved toptube transitioning to curved, tapered seatstays. Having the seatstays flow into the toptube around the seattube not only stiffens and strengthens that area, but also allows for the derailleur cable and brake hose to have direct internal routing from front to back.
The wheels have custom painted Enve logos to match the orange anodised Industry 9 hubs, whilst the drivetrain is SRAM XX1 with Shimano XTR brakes. A Syntace Hi-Flex seatpost adds a little additional saddle comfort, along with the 2.4″ tires. The carbon cockpit is from Loaded Precision.
Additionally I was able to deliver this bike in person – and even better I was able to join Mike for his first ride (he got it muddy!), which was great.
I’ve done a few builds in collaboration with Fairwheel Bikes in Tucson, including one that had custom paintwork by Geoff Mcfetridge, which was quite the head-turner! So I was excited when Jason from FWB suggested another partnership for his customer Andrzej, which would again involve Geoff for some artwork. Andrzej recently moved from Tucson to Portland, leading to some different bicycle requirements – the spec called for belt drive, Alfine Di2, hydraulic discs, and the ability to run ‘cross tires or road tires with fenders.
Jason suggested having an elevated chainstay, partially for the aesthetic, and partially as it removed the requirement for a split in the frame for installing the belt. With this as a starting point, we decided on a very curvy frame with fairly large tubes to give Geoff a decent canvas to work with. The only straight tubes on the frame are the headtube and bottom bracket shell. The curved seattube extends into the seatmast with a modified Thomson seatpost (it has an internal wedge for height adjustment) at the top. The toptube is curved and ovalised, it is pierced by the seattube before smoothly transitioning into the seatstays.
At the front there is a one-piece stem/steerer, which is secured into the fork crown with twin pinch bolts. This gives a very clean stem, and allows for running the front hydraulic hose fully internally from the stem to the caliper. With the 11spd Alfine hub being controlled by both shifters, an extra junction box is required – this is housed inside the stem with a port on the bottom for the wires to exit. The rear hose also runs internally, as do the other Di2 wires, with the battery inside the seatmast. The front dropouts are from Paragon Machine Works, allowing for a 15mm thru axle to be used for the front wheel. Belt tensioning is handled by the Niner eccentric BB. The complete bike with fenders weighs 24lbs.
Full internal hose routing combined with the internal Di2 wiring makes for a very clean build. Tom is a tall chap so this is also one of the largest road frames I have done. The wheels feature Chris King R45 disc hubs – which match up with the Enve 3.4 disc clincher rims, shod with 28C tires. A custom stem matches the toptube angle and includes a mount for the Di2 control box. Weight as shown is 18lbs. Fabulous paint in EC team colors (including the rims) by Eric at Colorworks, captured by ace photographer Tina Buescher.
The conversation went something like this…..
Steve: So, I was wondering if we might be able to do the twin toptube/seatstays that you’ve done on the mountain bikes, but on a road bike?
Rob: Sure thing.
Steve: And I’d like the V3 style carbon ISP and headtube.
Steve: I like to ride a flat bar on my road bikes – perhaps we could do a one-piece bar stem, and make it kind of curvy to match the frame?
Rob: I’m sure we can come up with something like that.
Steve: The rear brake will need to be under the chainstays and it’ll be Di2 with K-Edge flat bar shifters.
Rob: No problems there.
Steve: Then about the paint…..
Ray liked my Folding Road Concept design and asked for something similar, but with a custom rack to match and some special artwork as part of the paint scheme. I’m pleased with how the rack turned out – it mounts using the existing FRC pivot points, and folds up with the rear triangle for packing. Eric at Colorworks co-ordinated with a local airbrush artist for the snake motif on the seattube and toptube.
The build features Alfine 11spd Di2, driven with a Gates beltdrive, and slowed with TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes. The wheels have NoTubes Grail rims with Schwalbe One tubeless tires.
The bike packs down into a 12″x26″x26″ case for airline travel – technically 2″ oversize, but with the long axle of the Alfine hub, much easier to fit everything in than the 10″ case.
Robbie, from the Pedalers Fork outside of LA, saw my 29er at NAHBS in Denver two years ago, and asked me to build one for him. He requested a carbon Lefty fork, and I suggested an alternative layout to the twin toptubes – here the toptube is ovalised and curved, then the seatstays flow out from the toptube at the seattube junction, arcing in two planes: to match the curve of the toptube from the side, and also curving out to provide tire clearance.
The seattube is also curved and ovalised to allow for short (434mm (17″)) chainstays – these have an s-bend for chainring and heel clearance. This is my first frame to feature a rear thru-axle, with the Syntace X-12 system being used, which includes a direct mount derailleur hanger.
The build features a full XTR Di2 1×11 setup, with the battery hidden inside the fork steerer. The wheels have Chris King hubs with Enve 60-40 rims, with the logos painted to match the sour apple anodizing. Final weight as shown is 22.8lbs.
The build features the new Enve gravel fork, flatmount disc brakes and SRAM eTap for the shifting, along with Chris King parts and Enve rims.