If someone’s got a Rob English frame, you don’t turn down the chance to have a look.
For a lot of people, the appeal of steel is that it’s the ‘traditional’ frame material for bikes. After all, what’s changed about it in the last 50 years? Well, quite a lot, actually. Just like carbon and aluminium frames, steel bikes have undergone a renaissance in the last decade that has brought them back to relevance – and not just for tourers. New tubesets mean that steel frames can be made into road bikes that are lighter and faster, while still maintaining the ride quality that draws people to the material in the first place.
But how far can steel be pushed? It’s one thing to take a good tubeset and make it into a relatively traditional bike, but pushing the boundaries of steel is another experiment entirely. That’s what makes Rob English’s frames stand out. Tube shapes and frame designs that break away from the norm are what we’ve come to expect from English cycles, and the frames rarely disappoint.
Rob English’s former work was what attracted Eric: ‘I saw his TT bike and the two V3 bikes he did and was sold. I really like his incorporation of custom carbon elements such as the seat tube and head tube insert and the super clean fillet brazing.’
Of course, it’s not as simple as picking a frame design from an online store and logging into PayPal. Waiting lists for popular frame builders can stretch into years. Eric placed his order in September 2013, and didn’t have the frame in his hands until Christmas 2015. For the stars of modern frame building, these sort of wait times aren’t extraordinary.
However, once Eric had made the front of the queue in July 2015, the process was much faster. It took just under 6 months to turn the idea into a design, and that design into reality.
Some things were simple enough: ‘I had a 2012 Scott Foil and loved the way it rode, so I asked Rob to make the V3 very stiff with similar geo.’ This also fit in with Eric’s preference for a straighter top tube.
Paint and details took more time, but of course the frame had to be built first: ‘I’ve had a lot of black bikes and wanted something a bit brighter but still classy.’ As you can see, pearl white with frog green was settled on for the frameset and matching components, and I think it makes a refreshing change from the paint finishes seen on lots of factory models.
To me, Rob English frames were the first subversion of the idea of steel frames only being useful for making traditional bikes. They were a big step in the material’s renaissance in cycling after some time at the sidelines, and still represent a much-needed modernist personality in the frame building line-up.