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NAHBS 2013: Stunning steel creations from English Cycles

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Even the custom steel crank is built with ovalized tubing

Even the custom steel crank is built with ovalized tubing (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English machined this front hub himself with incredibly narrow spoke flange spacing

Rob English machined this front hub himself with incredibly narrow spoke flange spacing (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English says his new time trial bike is no more than 18mm wide up front

Rob English says his new time trial bike is no more than 18mm wide up front (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Stunning from just about any angle

Stunning from just about any angle (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English had been racing on his previous time trial bike for about five years so he figured it was about time to build himself a new one

Rob English had been racing on his previous time trial bike for about five years so he figured it was about time to build himself a new one (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The logo on the seat post is for charity Cycle It Away

The logo on the seat post is for charity Cycle It Away (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Brazed-on guides keep the derailleur housing from scuffing up the paint

Brazed-on guides keep the derailleur housing from scuffing up the paint (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Two more clamps secure the bottom bracket pivot. The derailleur cables are set in channels in the shell

Two more clamps secure the bottom bracket pivot. The derailleur cables are set in channels in the shell (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The front end is built with an Enve Composites disc 'cross fork

The front end is built with an Enve Composites disc 'cross fork (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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These seat stay pivots normally sit closer to the dropouts but they're raised up slightly here to accommodate the rear disc brake

These seat stay pivots normally sit closer to the dropouts but they're raised up slightly here to accommodate the rear disc brake (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The seat cluster looks frighteningly minimal but Rob English insists it's sturdy

The seat cluster looks frighteningly minimal but Rob English insists it's sturdy (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The seat stay wishbone separates with a single bolt, the stays collapse on to themselves, and then the entire rear end pivots about the bottom bracket to sandwich the front triangle. Brilliant

The seat stay wishbone separates with a single bolt, the stays collapse on to themselves, and then the entire rear end pivots about the bottom bracket to sandwich the front triangle. Brilliant (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English built this travel bike for filmmaker Sean Fine. Oh, you don't see how it comes apart? That's the point.

Rob English built this travel bike for filmmaker Sean Fine. Oh, you don't see how it comes apart? That's the point. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Tiny angular contact bearings are used for the headset. An internal steering lock prevents damage from the front end swinging around in a crash

Tiny angular contact bearings are used for the headset. An internal steering lock prevents damage from the front end swinging around in a crash (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The aero-profile tubing was sourced from an actual aircraft supply company

The aero-profile tubing was sourced from an actual aircraft supply company (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Going, going… gone

Going, going… gone (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This Dash Cycles saddle is ultralight and includes a mount underneath for a bottle cage

This Dash Cycles saddle is ultralight and includes a mount underneath for a bottle cage (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The base bar, aero extensions, stem, and fork are all one complex chromoly steel assembly

The base bar, aero extensions, stem, and fork are all one complex chromoly steel assembly (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Even the front brake was custom made by Rob English. Note the pulley for the cable, too

Even the front brake was custom made by Rob English. Note the pulley for the cable, too (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Custom Di2 buttons are located right on the end of the aero bar extensions. Since there's no front derailleur, only two buttons are needed

Custom Di2 buttons are located right on the end of the aero bar extensions. Since there's no front derailleur, only two buttons are needed (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The rear end is equipped with Dash Cycles' new 770g carbon fiber disc wheel

The rear end is equipped with Dash Cycles' new 770g carbon fiber disc wheel (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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These armrest pads look unrealistically narrow but Rob English insists he has no issues maintaining this position

These armrest pads look unrealistically narrow but Rob English insists he has no issues maintaining this position (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The custom chromoly steel crank is fitted with a single 55T Fibre-Lyte carbon fiber chainring

The custom chromoly steel crank is fitted with a single 55T Fibre-Lyte carbon fiber chainring (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The bottom bracket and crank are also 100 percent custom built. Two cartridge bearings are pressed into the driveside and one on the non-driveside. The crankset spindle bolts together in the middle. Check out the tidy routing for the TriRig rear brake, too

The bottom bracket and crank are also 100 percent custom built. Two cartridge bearings are pressed into the driveside and one on the non-driveside. The crankset spindle bolts together in the middle. Check out the tidy routing for the TriRig rear brake, too (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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…while the non-driveside one is straight for a cleaner look and better aerodynamics - at least in theory

…while the non-driveside one is straight for a cleaner look and better aerodynamics - at least in theory (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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A hooded dropouts is used on the driveside to accommodate the rear derailleur wire…

A hooded dropouts is used on the driveside to accommodate the rear derailleur wire… (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Straight steel blades on this Rob English creation

Straight steel blades on this Rob English creation (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The custom Rob English steel fork features a straight 1 1/8" steerer here

The custom Rob English steel fork features a straight 1 1/8" steerer here (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Neat detail at the top of the seat tube

Neat detail at the top of the seat tube (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The rear brake is elegantly tucked in between the stays

The rear brake is elegantly tucked in between the stays (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The front brake caliper mounts to impossibly minimal posts

The front brake caliper mounts to impossibly minimal posts (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English found these black anodized titanium bolts at Jersey Cycles

Rob English found these black anodized titanium bolts at Jersey Cycles (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The custom machined Delrin chain guide is attached to a dedicated braze-on on the seat tube

The custom machined Delrin chain guide is attached to a dedicated braze-on on the seat tube (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The rear derailleur cable exits just above the dropout

The rear derailleur cable exits just above the dropout (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English's trademark one-piece stem and steerer inserts down through the head tube and then is clamped down at the fork crown

Rob English's trademark one-piece stem and steerer inserts down through the head tube and then is clamped down at the fork crown (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English lined the head tube with carbon fiber - because he says he just had some laying around. The twin top tubes also provide a convenient insertion point for the internally routed lines

Rob English lined the head tube with carbon fiber - because he says he just had some laying around. The twin top tubes also provide a convenient insertion point for the internally routed lines (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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There's no point in linking the top tubes together if you can't add a bit of flair

There's no point in linking the top tubes together if you can't add a bit of flair (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Building around a dedicated single-ring drivetrain allowed for an extra-short rear end. Bending the 1 1/8"-diameter seat tube over a 1 1/4" mandrel automatically produces some ovalization, too

Building around a dedicated single-ring drivetrain allowed for an extra-short rear end. Bending the 1 1/8"-diameter seat tube over a 1 1/4" mandrel automatically produces some ovalization, too (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English says bending these twin top tubes/seat stays was particularly tricky

Rob English says bending these twin top tubes/seat stays was particularly tricky (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Portland area builder Rob English built this steel 29er for himself, saying it was about time he rode a geared mountain bike again

Portland area builder Rob English built this steel 29er for himself, saying it was about time he rode a geared mountain bike again (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Clearances are tight for sure

Clearances are tight for sure (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This aero road bike was the only carryover from Rob English's 2012 NAHBS booth

This aero road bike was the only carryover from Rob English's 2012 NAHBS booth (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English says this customer has some back and neck problems that require a more upright position but wanted something that didn't look like a casual tourer

Rob English says this customer has some back and neck problems that require a more upright position but wanted something that didn't look like a casual tourer (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English's trademark pencil-thin steel seat stays

Rob English's trademark pencil-thin steel seat stays (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The rear end of English's Great Divide machine comes completely apart for easier transport. The removable rear triangle also allows use of the belt drive

The rear end of English's Great Divide machine comes completely apart for easier transport. The removable rear triangle also allows use of the belt drive (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Note how the custom bags (made by Black Rainbow Project) fit perfectly in the frame and also don't use any straps. Braze-ons are built into the main triangle specifically for the bags. Trick.

Note how the custom bags (made by Black Rainbow Project) fit perfectly in the frame and also don't use any straps. Braze-ons are built into the main triangle specifically for the bags. Trick. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Custom aero bars leave more open area in the middle of the bars than typical bolt-on setups

Custom aero bars leave more open area in the middle of the bars than typical bolt-on setups (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The front hub features 135mm spacing and a single Gates Centertrack cog to use as a spare if the Shimano Alfine rear hub goes down

The front hub features 135mm spacing and a single Gates Centertrack cog to use as a spare if the Shimano Alfine rear hub goes down (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The fork legs are laden with bottle cages

The fork legs are laden with bottle cages (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The custom front rack is curved specifically to fit this pack

The custom front rack is curved specifically to fit this pack (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rob English built this beast for custom bag maker Black Rainbow Project, whose owner plans to attempt the Great Divide mountain bike race

Rob English built this beast for custom bag maker Black Rainbow Project, whose owner plans to attempt the Great Divide mountain bike race (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The internal Shimano Di2 battery is charged via the micro-USB port at the top of the seatmast head

The internal Shimano Di2 battery is charged via the micro-USB port at the top of the seatmast head (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The head tube is slightly pinched so as to present a smaller frontal area

The head tube is slightly pinched so as to present a smaller frontal area (Image credit: Jonny Irick)

This article originally published on BikeRadar

Eugene, Oregon builder Rob English is on a mission to prove that steel can still be used in ultra-high-performance bicycles when properly designed and engineered. While some of his creations look almost impossibly minimal, English insists they're structurally sound. Attendees at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show certainly found them visually stunning.

The star of the English Cycles booth was arguable English's new personal time trial machine. After several years on the previous iteration, English decided it was time for a new one and it's a clear showcase for his abilities. Save for some of the components (such as the TriRig rear brake, Dash Cycles rear disc and saddle, Enve front rim and Shimano Di2 bits, for example), everything else is fully custom using aero-profile chromoly tubing sourced from an airplane supplier.

The front end is highly integrated with the fork, steerer, stem, base bar and extensions all welded together into a single assembly. The aluminum front brake was machined by English, too, and the outer pods and brake levers are borrowed from USE. Incredibly tiny angular contact headset bearings keep the maximum width of the front end to under 18mm.

The bespoke theme continues on to the chromoly crankset, which rotates on three cartridge bearings pressed into the shell and features a split spindle that bolts together in the middle. The front hub – also machined by English – uses incredibly narrow spoke flanges, also to minimize frontal area. Mounted to the end of the extensions are custom Di2 buttons.

All in, English says his new TT bike weighs about 7.7kg (17lb).

English also decided it was about time he started riding a geared mountain bike again and built himself a gorgeous steel 29er to suit. Twin top tubes arc seamlessly from the head tube to eventually become the seat stays while the seat tube is also curved to allow for shorter chain stays.

Up front is English's trademark one-piece stem and steerer setup, which extends down through the head tube and is clamped at the rigid fork crown. Gracefully minuscule post mount brake tabs are used front and rear and the chain is secured on to the dedicated single ring by a custom machined Delrin guide that's bolted – not clamped – to the seat tube. As shown, English says it's about 8.6kg (19.0lb).

English's trademark one-piece stem and steerer inserts into the head tube

At the other end of the booth sat a far burlier machine built for the owner of custom bag maker Black Rainbow Project, who plans on tackling the Great Divide mountain bike race. This 29er was laden with a front rack – curved to match the bag, of course – heaps of bottle cages, and a custom front triangle bag secured with braze-ons, not straps. The English-built handlebar setup includes a tidy aero position, too, that English claims leaves more breathing room than traditional bolt-on setups.

Speaking of bolt-on, English also designed this bike with a removable rear triangle. This eases transport, of course, but also allows use of a Gates Centertrack belt drive. Should the Shimano Alfine rear hub go down, the front hub uses 135mm spacing, too, and is fitted with a single Centertrack cog just in case.

We could go on and on, but at this point you're probably tired of reading and just want to see the pictures. Sit back and enjoy the gallery at the above right.

A bike built to tackle the Great Divide mountain bike race