Being a stickler for consistency, most of the bikes featured on Cycle EXIF are profiled on their drive side, except for the prized occasion when it’s one of Rob English’s Project Right frames. This one’s especially valued, with paint inspired by Sir Paul Smith’s own special edition Land Rover Defender.
A photo of the original vehicle will help to put the latest creation by English Cycles into context, but you should really watch the video produced by Sir Paul Smith, conjurer and couturier of colour, to appreciate the culture and respect that lies behind both of these amazing vehicles.
Not only is this Project Right a brilliant exercise in engineering, it is also a tribute to colour and, indeed, cycling tradition; the same passion that runs through Sir Paul’s veins. While the original source honoured Land Rover’s Defender, this English Cycle brings the focus back to the bicycle — an Ouroboros, of sorts.
Although unrelated, the Project presented design challenges of its own: there are a lot more components on a Land Rover Defender than there are on a bicycle. For assistance, Rob English turned to his buddy, Roger Rilling, for help on the layout which, upon closer inspection — particularly on the inside fork leg — becomes even more involved.
Roger explains: “The first challenge was to make all of the colours work together on a much smaller product. Since the Land Rover is a larger design platform it can support more colours and still hold creative balance. For the bike we reduced the overall colours to hold the same balance.”
He continues: “For the highlights I concentrated on the hardware to match the original design, placing yellow in critical mechanical areas while distributing the colour from front to back. Since Paul’s original yellow was a reference to the rescue history and utility of the Defender, I thought it was fun to add yellow to the spokes around the valve.”
Long time readers of Cycle EXIF will know of our appreciation for the Mondrian-inspired La Vie Claire kit: “Lastly,” says Roger, “I created a La Vie Claire inspired pattern on the inside of the fork. This is like being able to see the inside lining of a Paul Smith jacket, and the pattern connects the Land Rover design with cycling.”
Now, from a cyclist’s perspective, what we want to know is how it was made, and how does it ride? Rob breaks it down for us: “Outside of the paint, this bike is very similar to the original Project Right I built back in 2012. A custom one-piece rear hub/axle slides through bearings that are pressed into the barrel on the end of the chainstay.
“The sprocket carrier is splined to the outside. A Niner EBB takes care of belt tension. In the front is a custom-machined steel Lefty axle brazed to the fork leg with a DT Lefty hub. To get the front disc brake to work on the left, I created a mount bolted to the inside of the fork leg, allowing brake and mount removal.
Rob continues: “The front end has a one-piece stem/steerer, which moves the headset adjustment and mounting bolts to the fork crown. This arrangement also makes it straightforward to run the front brake cable through the stem, steerer and fork leg.” His last word? “Yes, it is stiff enough. No, you can’t tell when you are riding it.”
Very special thanks to Tina Buescher for the photography.