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William 10-02-2012 02:16 PM

Icarus Frames (Redux)
Winter Bicycles has been at the front of the Paceline for a while now but its time for him to pull off and let Austin, Texas based Ian Sutton of Icarus Frames take a pull. So, this week at the front of the Paceline: Icarus Frames


My name is Ian Sutton and Icarus frames is the culmination of my training and experience in the frame building world. I began building when I left college to attend the Yamaguchi Frame Building School in Rifle, Colorado. The training was 100% one-on-one with one of the greats in frame building, working with Koichi Yamaguchi learning the basics from start to finish, along with the art and nuance too. Later that year I visited builders I admired and wanted to work for to talk about the industry and decide if I should work on my own or gain more experience with a high end custom builder. I was offered a job working for the esteemed Seven Cycles in Watertown, MA. I left everything behind to take that jump into the frame building world and worked first as a finisher and then later advanced to a machinist. I finished and machined hundreds of frames adhering to Sevens’ rigorous quality standards. After hours I started building my own concept frames and I called it Icarus, setting up a studio in the Geekhouse shop in Allston, MA. Later I shared space with Bryan of Royal H Cycles in Somerville, MA. My shop is now located in Austin, TX where I continue to design and fabricate frames one at a time for my customers.

Icarus frames is now my life -- each frame is an opportunity to expand the look and design of Icarus. People aren’t stock so neither are my bikes -- each one crafted for the particular client, in fit, ride characteristics and aesthetics.

I build primarily fillet brazed frames because it gives me the freedom to build with any tube size and shape and at any angle but with a more polished look than welded frames. Today, fillet brazed frames represent something you can only find in the custom world. I work with every customer from fit up and geometry to the paint scheme. I design, machine, braze and finish each frame myself before sending out for a world-class paint job by Bryan Myers at Fresh Frame.

Ian Sutton

Ian was kind enough to answer a list of questions for us that are a mix of standards and member a few off-the-wall thrown into the mix. Our hope was to convey the builders love of their craft, hard details, and offer a few questions that bring out a bit of the human element that that helps them create the works that we love. Ian is also a member of the forum so if you have additional questions you would like to ask him about his craft, please do so.

Note: Since the very first Builder Spotlight was done on Icarus Frames with out Ian's direct input, I wanted to give him a chance to participate in one. So, this is a Spotlight Redux as it were and I'm very happy to have him being a part of this. You can see the original Spotlight as well as more photos of Ian's fine work here:

Q&A with Ian Sutton

How / why did you decide to become a frame builder?
I was in college when I decided that I was tired of working towards a career I wasn't sure about and getting myself into a pile of debt along the way. I was studying mechanical engineering, then architecture but I was quickly realizing that I didn't want to just design things, I wanted to be the fabricator too. It was time to just go do something that I was actually excited about and see what happens. At that time, I was living in Boulder, CO so it made sense to learn from Yamaguchi. I chose to learn fillet brazing because I wanted to be able to join tubes of any shape at any angle and Yamaguchi was a master of the technique.

What influences the artistic side of your designs?
Can't really pinpoint that for sure, its just a feeling about what looks right and what doesn't. I like simple designs so a lot of what I do is to make the joints disappear as much as possible. When I am carving sleeves and bi-laminate pieces, I will sketch on the tubes with sharpie and then once I start carving I rarely follow the lines.

What is your method to determine fit?
Now that most of my orders come from far away, I just try to gather as much data as I can. I ask for a series of body measurements, current bike(s) measurements and then we talk about what they want to use the Icarus for and where their current rigs feel good and bad. Often, people have already been fit by a local shop or for another custom frame and I take in all that information as well. I run the body dimensions through a handful of equations to get theoretical optimal numbers but I usually don't stick to those, and instead just use them as a starting point.

What is it that keeps you passionate and focused?
I just HAVE to get things done, completing projects is what makes me feel good.

How many times have you burned yourself?
There is always a burn somewhere.

What's your favorite beer?

Heard any cool music lately?
Wolves in the Throne Room is great in the shop but I also listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks to break up the endless music days.

How did you meet your spouse or significant other?
I'm dating a pretty cool goofball now, maybe she'll stick around.

What's there to do for fun in your town?
I have just moved to Austin, TX a couple weeks ago, so far the tacos and swimming have been pretty great.

Do you put ketchup on your hotdog?
Is it possible to eat a hotdog without? Is there a deeper question that i'm not getting?

Who would you want to build a bike for you?
I've always liked John Slawta's style at Landshark, and I am a big fan of what Chris Bishop is doing now. It would be tough for me to choose.

What is it about your approach to building/designing bikes makes you unique, or separates you from the other builders out there?
There are a lot of fantastic builders out there who design and build top quality work. I try to make my work as fluid as possible, there are no default tube sets, lengths or angles. When selecting tubes for a customer, each one is picked specifically for what the particular rider needs.

How long is your wait list?
Right now I am queued up just a few months out.

How long have you been building frames.
I built my first frame in February '07, so 5.5 years.

Do you have a favorite part of the building process?
The brazing! Unfortunately that is also the shortest part but its just so peaceful and simple. Very relaxing compared to the violence of material removal in machining and finishing.

What is the most unusual / unique bicycle you've ever built?
Mmmmm the Leviathan was certainly a strange one, but it was inspired by the old Cinelli Lasers and some of Yamaguchi's work so maybe Finkle's Monolith is more unique. It featured a double seat tube that bent backwards so the wheel came between. It also had a wishbone triple triangle so the yolk went between the sea tubes to attach at the bottom of the top tube. Doing the strange designs is fun but mostly I like doing small details that make the frames stand out to a keen observer.

What is your favorite non-cycling obsession?
Oh I don't know if I have enough time to be obsessed about anything outside of cycling but I do like board games, reading and now taking apart Triumphs.

Poe-tay-toe or Pah-tah-toe?

Many thanks to Ian for taking the time to answer our questions! Please feel free to ask Ian any questions that you would like to ask.


PS: In case you missed it, the previous Builder Spotlight can be found here...


William 10-02-2012 02:18 PM

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Ian has recently moved to Austin and hung out his shingle....

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