In this edition of Bikes of the Bunch, Adam Kennedy tells us about his road disc bike built by Rob English. The bike embraces the new braking system and features more of Rob’s trademark cable routing strategies to keep the front end clean, both aesthetically and aerodynamically.
I had just joined the English Cycles racing squad when my previous carbon bike had broken on a training ride. I received the warranty replacement but never even took it out of the box. My next bike was going to be an English.
More than anything, I wanted a race bike built by an Oregon frame builder. I’m a west coast native and have spent most of my adult life in Oregon. I was in the process of relocating to Eugene and knew Rob had a frame shop nearby.
What I like most about Rob’s frames and build concepts is that he knows how to build a gorgeous and light steel bike with a lot of detail directed toward performance. This is what I wanted. A bike that I would enjoy to race and ride. It needed to be a light yet rugged disc brake road bike, handle 28mm tires on wide rims, adapt well to gravel roads, and handle like you’d expect a race bike to handle.
The ordering process was brilliant. We met at a local cafe, Rob ordered hot chocolate, and he asked me what I had in mind. I told him—he said that would be a billion dollars—so I told him what I actually wanted. We decided on a steel frame disc brake road bike with integrated carbon seat tube. To try to minimize the aero penalty of the disc brake kit, I asked him to make the front of the bike as clean as possible with mostly internally routed wires and tubing.
The build process was unique to me. I received emails with photos attached of raw metal tubes, the fresh fillets on the head tube—pretty standard coming from a bike builder, I guess. A little over ninety days after the initial consultation, the bike was on display at the Oregon Outdoor Adventure Summit in Eugene, Oregon. A day after that, the bike was shredding gnar on pristine gravel roads.
I chose the Ultegra Di2 6870 mainly for its affordability and went with the latest version of Shimano R785 hydraulic disc brake. To shake weight off the bike, I added an FSA K-Light crankset and Ax Lightness saddle and 40mm tubular wheels, bringing the final weight to ~7.0 kg. The rest of the build details are as follows:
—Frame: English Cycles custom frame, carbon ISP with adjustable cap, tapered head tube, internal wiring for Di2, disc brake mount on chain stay, internal rear brake hose.
—Fork: Enve road disc with custom internal routing through steer tube
—Headset: Chris King
—Stem: English custom stem with mount for Di2 control box
—Wedge: Extralight UltraStar 2
—Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2 6870
—Shifters: Shimano BR-RS785
—Rims: NoTubes Grail
—Hubs: White Industry CLD 24/28
—Spokes: Sapin cx-ray
—Rotors: Shimano IceTech 140mm
—Tires: Schwable One 700×28, tubeless
I wouldn’t change a thing on this build though I’m still on the fence with the Shimano road disc brake kit. They definitely have some improvement to do—I find the shifters to be a bit rattley and swapping wheels is takes patience to minimize rotor rub on the pads. I’d still go with disc, but I might choose mechanical until the hydraulic version is a bit more polished.
The bike is amazing. It’s taken me across car-less mountain summits, fast, twisty and dusty gravel roads, head first into Oregon rain, and through one of the hottest and driest summers the west coast has ever seen. It’s the first bike I pull off the wall when it’s time to ride. It accelerates effortlessly uphill and carves into high speed descents. When the temperatures plummet, the hydraulic discs brake with ease on long mountain descents despite frozen hands.