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So far it’s a solo ride.

BOTW: An Exceptional English

Peter Harrington |

Our customer, Rahi, came to us with a 20-year-old titanium road bike she wanted to upgrade with new parts. We talked about new wheels, cockpit, and Campagnolo components, but after spending time together, she decided to forgo upgrades and build a new custom bike. That's the simple story. The more complex version involved making a rim-bike bike with clearance for 32mm tires, engineered for smaller dimensions with a custom tubing composition to match. Read on for all of the details.

The mainstream bike industry, as a rule, doesn't cater to smaller riders, often producing frames with the same geometry and materials as their biggest offerings without considering the engineering needed to accommodate the very different profile of the cyclist up top! A light rider is not best served by a bicycle with a frame composition designed for the established industry average, nor is a larger rider, for that matter. For this reason and because of Rahi's requirements, we decided to work with Oregon-based Rob English (actually English), who has a history of producing lightweight steel works of art, catering to the client's size, riding profile and a lot more besides. It's worth noting, however, that in Rahi's case, Rob was the perfect builder for her needs. We may have gone a different route for another rider with other requirements. Or not. The point is that we're experienced at pairing a rider with a builder to create something that perfectly suits the client's needs and goals. 

After a few more chats with Rahi, we settled on a brief that encompassed a custom-built, rim-brake steel road bike that could accommodate 32mm tires. It would be equipped with Campagnolo Super Record shifters running a 1x and enough gears to climb mountains out back. Overall goals: make it as lightweight as possible!

Here's Rob on how the frame came together. "Designing and fabricating bikes for smaller riders presents some challenges. The goal is to achieve fit and performance while avoiding toe-wheel overlap and other compromises. To that end, including a custom fork for this project helped by giving greater flexibility with the overall geometry. The fork had to be carefully built to be as short as possible whilst accommodating direct mount brakes and clearance for 32mm tires. With the seat tube being very short, there was limited space to fit the brake on the seat stays. To resolve this, I worked on some fastback-style seatstays to position the brake slightly higher to create the required space. I carefully chose the tubing to match Rahi's size and weight so that the stiffness characteristics would give her the best ride experience."

Rob was kind enough to share a few phone snaps of Rahi's frame captured during the construction process.

And here's Rahi on how her new bike shook out: "I am a very small person, so finding a bike to fit me has always been a challenge. In addition to the size, I had some unique requirements regarding the drivetrain and the bike's weight. The team at Above Category was very knowledgeable and kind. They walked me through all my options and really listened to what kind of riding experience I wanted. The final product is amazing and better than I ever could have imagined. I love my new bike and am so grateful to the entire Above Category team!"

We're blushing over here! Joking aside, we love working with clients like Rahi and creating bikes that offer a riding experience that mainstream machines can never achieve. So, if you're still searching for that perfect ride (it does exist) and would like to discuss a custom bike, please feel free to contact us at the studio.

Build Specs

  • Frame: English Cycles custom frameset with a custom steel fork 
  • AC Custom handbuilt wheels, comprising Berd Polylight spokes, Extralite Cyber SL hubs, Duke Baccara 20/24 25mm rims, Schwalbe Aerothan tubes, wrapped in Rene Herse Stampede Pass 700x32mm in the Extralight casing
  • Cockpit: Darimo T1 Loop seatpost, Darimo Ellipse Bar 36cm and a 70mm custom steel stem from English Cycles 
  • Drivetrain: Campagnolo Super Record mechanical shifter brake levers - unnecessary internals removed on the left shifter to reduce weight, Ingrid rear derailleur, crank and cassette (10-48), Ceramicspeed coated bottom bracket 
  • Ephemera: Tioga DAZZ Lite pedals, Bjorn Setka 3D printed saddle, Tune bottle cages, Absolute Black top cap, and black titanium hardware throughout the bike 
  • Final Weight: 14.8 lbs

Spokes on the Water

Rahi's build features AC custom-built wheels, complete with Berd spokes. According to Berd, they are the world's lightest spokes. And they come in white - awful to keep clean, awfully lovely to look at. But Berd spokes aren't one-trick ponies. They're made with Dyneema®, which offers 15 times the strength-to-weight ratio of steel. Plus, they float on water. What is this new devilry, you may ask? We'll be deep-diving into them soon. For now, though, the takeaway is that we love making custom bike wheels tuned to the rider's needs, whether they are highly strung or not. We're talking about the wheels, not the rider. Drop us a line if you'd like to commission a pair for your rig.

Start your Build Since 2006, we've been creating the world's finest dream bikes with our signature approach to custom builds and customer service. Our Custom Program
AC Everywhere You can find us just over Golden Gate Bridge in California's Marin County. Can’t come to us? We can bring the bike to you. We craft custom bikes for clients all across the U.S. and the world. Contact us