My First Bike: Ian Sutton

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Icarus Bicycle’s Ian Sutton. Photo via athensfixedgear.gr.

My First Bike explores the origins of professional frame builders by going back to the start and looking at the first bike they built. Today’s My First Bike features Ian Sutton of Austin, Texas’ Icarus Bicycles.

Give me the short rundown of your first frame: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc

This is the first frame that I built under the Icarus name. At this point I had studied with Yamaguchi and taken a job at Seven Cycles and was renting some garage shop space with Marty of Geekhouse bikes and Bryan of Royal H Cycles. I built it for a guy named Jody (guy in photo below). He was also working at Seven and had previously been a mountain bike tour guide and bike messenger. For the princely sum of $150 he agreed to be my first guinea pig and allow me to design and build a frame for him. It was made of True Temper VHT tubing with the old curvy seat tube that Yamaguchi developed with them. I brazed on a copper feather that I had carved and beat up to look ragged, I had decided on the Icarus name but hadn’t gotten all the details worked out yet and this frame shows the earliest generation.

Jody went on and started to get into alleycats and eventually much more seriously into track racing. He moved to NYC and raced at Kissena in Queens and TTown in Allendale. Since this original frame was built before he had any aspirations for track racing, it was built with a 1″ quill setup and some pretty small diameter tubing. That did not make it ideal for Cat 3 track racing so it eventually became his training bike and around town setup. After mashing on it for the last six years and being ridden into the banking at Kissena, the frame is still in one piece.

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Horace and the Roughstuff Fellowship

In 1933, Horace Dall became the first man to cross Iceland by bicycle. Twenty years later, another group of Englishmen called the Rough Stuff Fellowship became the first group to cross Iceland by bicycle fully self supported. This short film combines footage from a modern day bikepacking expedition across Iceland and an interview with Dick Phillips, one of the members of the 1958 ride. The voiceover narration is pretty bad–it has the tone of a promo video (it was made by an Icelandic bike tour company, afterall) and lots of non sequitur superlatives about epic adventures. But, the interview with Phillips and the amazing footage of riding on Iceland’s admittedly-epic landscape, make it well worth a watch.

The Soigneur Diaries: Race Days in Bretagne

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Photo by Sara Clawson.

Soigneurs may very well have the most thankless job in professional cycling. They take care of the grunt-work details necessary to keep a pro team running smoothly while remaining mostly anonymous. Sara Clawson is a sports massage therapist in Greensboro, North Carolina who’s making inroads to a soigneur career. This spring, she spent two months working as a soigneur with the US elite junior team at USA Cycling’s training center in Sittard, Netherlands. Over the next month, Sara’s writing (originally posted on her blog) will shed some light on the “swanny life” as she recounts her experience traveling around Europe working with the next generation of American professional road cyclists. In part three, Sara explains the nitty-gritty of a race weekend in France as the juniors and U23s do their best to perform at pro-tour level.

Working a major race as elite cycling team staff is not for the faint of heart, and I am coming to understand why the turnover in the industry is comparatively low: people who aren’t up to the rigors of the work for whatever reason burn out quickly, and the few who make the cut tend to become career team staff. I’m not sure who works harder: mechanics or soigneurs — both jobs require long hours of exhausting work.

The Tour de Bretagne was a UCI 2.2 stage race, which means a limited number of national teams were invited (in this case, two: the USA team, and the Australian national team) along with European continental teams, pro development teams, and pro tour teams. It’s a very high-level race in which stage winners and riders high in the overall finish ranks have historically continued on to successful professional careers. The race consisted of seven stages between 145 and 200 kilometers over challenging terrain in the rural northern coastal country of France. The six USA national team riders selected for the race were charged with two major tasks: return some good results and, perhaps more importantly, to learn the skills needed to race at the level professional teams look for in prospective riders. To paraphrase their director, former pro rider Michael Sayers, racing at events like these presents a goal that isn’t necessarily meant to be attained, but for learning to occur in the process of striving toward that goal. Bringing away a couple good results and a wealth of experience constitutes success, and in that respect the Under-23 riders of the USA national team were very successful.

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Ed Ewing: Race, Equity, and Empowerment by Bike

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto Courtesy of Cascade Bicycle Club. 

Cycling has a reputation for being a white man’s sport, hobby, and transportation. It’s an image rooted in truth—white people accounted for about 80 percent of the cycling population in the US as of 2009—but it’s far from a complete picture. From 2001-2009, the rates of cycling among African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians grew far more than among whites. Ed Ewing is working hard to keep that trend going. He is Cascade Bicycle Club’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion and co-founder of the Major Taylor Project, a program that uses cycling to empower underserved youths in the Seattle-area.

I sat down with Ed at his office to talk about his work with the Major Taylor Project, how it got started, his history in racing, racism he’s experienced as an African American cyclist, the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity in cycling and bike advocacy, and much more. Through the course of our conversation, Ed dove deep. He discusses the systemic issues of race and discrimination, policies like neighborhood redlining, and poverty that shape the lives of the students he works with and explains how cycling is connected to all of it. As he says in the interview, it’s always about more than just getting kids on bikes.

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Rob English – Made For You

Made For You from Stoller on Vimeo.

Rob English is one of the more innovative contemporary custom frame builders. He produces everything from thoroughbred race machines to wildly imaginative concept bikes. I love hear frame builders talk about their process and philosophies and seeing their work with a torch.