[Interview] Rob English – English Cycles
Rob English is the incredibly talented frame builder, owner, and innovator at English Cycles based out of Eugene, Oregon. His frame designs and features are some of the most cutting edge in the industry. I’m very pleased to present you with my interview with Rob to get inside his head a little bit. Below I’ve included some photos of my favorite mountain bikes he has created. I invite you to visit his website which includes many more detail photos of the custom features each frame has to offer.
How long have you been a frame builder?
Rob: I built my first frame 23 years ago, but have been officially building under my own name since 2009.
What training have you been through to build frames?
Rob: I have a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, have been working in the bike industry for most of the last twenty years, and was the engineer and production manager at Bike Friday for six years.
(I enjoy Rob’s modesty here, but please read his extensive background on his site. He’s been around the block a few times when it comes to bikes)
Why did you decide to start your own handmade bicycle company?
Rob: It wasn’t really an intentional direction. I built my first bike for myself because I couldn’t get the fit I wanted on a stock frame. Then a couple of friends asked me to build frames for them, and it grew organically from there. Mind you, I always had the idea of wanting to work for myself, and to do something in the bike industry, so I guess it makes sense.
What inspires your frame designs?
Rob: I always try to start from engineering principles – to me the bicycle is a tool, so I build to resolve problems of fit and function. If it happens to look good after that then great, but function is always the priority.
What are some of your founding principles you live by for creating bikes?
Rob: I live car free, so everything for the shop is transported by bicycle. Every bike should be fit for the customer, fit for purpose and built to last.
What part of the frame building process do you enjoy the most?
Rob: Probably when I can really zen out during brazing. I like to listen to a Radiolab podcast and, on a good day, become one with the brass. Getting to join customers on their first ride is pretty awesome too.
What do you feel is most important for clients to understand going into a custom bike frame build?
Rob: You need to have trust and confidence in your builder. Ask lots of questions and be prepared to answer a lot too. It is important to have good communication so that the builder can fully interpret your needs and desires into a custom design.
What trends in bikes are you seeing right now? Do you agree with them or not?
Rob: More and more ‘standards’…… There often seems a push for more technology as the ‘latest-greatest’ where there aren’t always definite benefits to the rider. I’m all for new tech, but it has to make sense and be somewhat future-proof.
What trail / where do you enjoy riding the most?
Rob: I haven’t been able to get out on the mountain bike much since my crash last year, so I missed my annual McKenzie River Trail ride. Right now I’m having a good time re-habbing my shoulder on the trails in my backyard.
What has been your favorite bike you’ve owned?
Rob: Aside from the ones I’ve built, that would have to be my 1991 Stumpjumper Comp. I put so many miles on that bike, and I still have it!
Favorite bike you’ve ever built?
Rob: Very tough to call. Likely my winter bike – this is a road bike with Alfine hub, belt drive, disc brakes and integrated pannier rack. I wanted a bike like this ever since the Gates belt was released, but it wasn’t until Versa produced a dropbar shifter for the internal hub that I was able to build it. Six years and thousands of miles later, it is still going strong with essentially no maintenance – perfect for riding in Oregon.
Who do you admire as a frame builder / who would you want to build you a frame?
Rob: I was asked this the other day and it is a tough question! There are many great builders out there. Before I started building I had always intended to have Sam at Naked build me a frame, I’ve always appreciated his work.
If you’re a mountain bike frame builder and would be interested in doing an interview, send me an email.