This post is a personal one for as the product being shown is, for lack of a better term, custom for me (I did not say bespoke!). Having ridden bicycles up and down the East Coast for decades, I felt it time to get my own custom frame built; a frame which was measured and sized proper for my specs as well as my tastes. More importantly, I wanted it to be built locally in Massachusetts.
Frame building is all about the craftsmanship and the process involved. Not all builders use the same techniques. This was important in how I selected my builder, Ian Sutton of Icarus Frames, located in Somerville, MA inside the Fringe Movement building. He uses techniques not commonly used by many builders.
I first set eyes on an Icarus during a gallery show at OPEN around the block. The bike – Miguels No.7 – blew me away with simple finish details that I had not seen before. In my mind, I had no other choice but to go with an Icarus.
Above is the finished product – the No. 11 (the 11th frame built under the Icarus name). At the time of this writing, Ian has begun work on No. 15.
I asked Ian to describe the process and details in the No. 11 (with a parts list included at the end of the post) . Read it after the click.
(all photography by Keena)
My process begins with measuring my client. After gathering all of the body measurements and their current bike measurements (if available), I move over to my drafting table where I analyze the measurements and translate them into a full scale drawing of the final frame design.
Once the scale drawing is completed, I begin by cutting tubes to length and cope them to fit together at the correct angles. It is all done with hand tools to get the perfect fit-up. Other features like the seat tube sleeve (as seen on Jeff’s frame) are cut and carved by hand from of steel tubing.
Once everything is ready to go, I put the frame into a jig to hold the tubes in place for tacking.
Once tacking is complete we move onto the more complicated portion of the process: brazing. Brazing is different from welding in that the steel tubing itself is not being melted; only the filler material (brass in this case) is being melted. I then use an oxy-acetylene torch setup to make my brass fillets.
Fillet brazing is a classic joining technique thats been in use well before TIG wielding existed. It gives you the freedom to join any tube shape at any angle with a more refined looked than a standard welded frame.
At each joint I pull brass inside the tubing to make an internal fillet before building up the external one. Fillet brazed joints take substantially more time to complete than welded joints.
At the end of brazing, the frame is only halfway done. Crucial steps such as alignment and final machining ensure that the frame will accept components and ride perfectly.
Its the finishing of the brass fillets that gives each Icarus the look of a truly custom, hand built piece.
- Ian Sutton
Parts list with country of origin:
Icarus #11 Frame and Fork Bicycle
Phil Wood Front and Back Track Hubs 32h
Chris King Grip Nut Headset
Thomson Elite Seatpost
3RRR 49t Chainring
Euro Asia 18t Cog
Sugino 75 Cranks
Nitto Pearl Stem 90mm
Continental Grand Prix Tires
Mavic CXP-33 Rims NOS