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]