ANT Bike’s Mike Flanigan with a Boston Roadster. Photo via ANT Bike flickr.
New England is a stronghold of American custom frame builders. Portland, OR may have more of them, but New Englanders have been at it longer. The U.S. custom frame building business traces its roots to the 1970s when Richard Sachs, Peter Weigle, and Ben Serotta learned the craft at Whitcomb Cycles in London. Of course, companies such as Schwinn and Huffy had been manufacturing bicycles in the U.S. for decades, but Sachs, Weigle and Serotta were among the first to bring the tailor-made style of bicycle building to the States. When they returned to New England in 1972, Weigle and Sachs started the short-lived Whitcomb USA. Serotta started Serotta Cycles. The three laid the foundation for many generations of builders to come in the region.
Flash forward to the late 80s, Fat City Cycles was in full swing and a young Mike Flanigan rolled into Boston from Texas and talked his way into a job in the paint department. Over his five years there he became a master painter and found the time to teach himself TIG welding. When Fat City was sold in the mid-90s, Flanigan and a few other Fat City refugees started Independent Fabrication. In the early 2000s, dissatisfied with the direction of his company, he left and launched his one-man, city and cargo bike-focused shop, Alternative Needs Transportation (ANT). Between Fat City, Independent Fabrication, and ANT, Flanigan has played an important role in shaping the modern frame building landscape. He also played a part in bringing city bikes to the American mainstream. I spoke to Flanigan about his deep history in the frame building world, Fat City’s major influence, the value and significant of custom bikes, and his recent closure of ANT bikes.
Posted in Bike Industry, Frame Builders, History, Interviews
Tagged alternative needs transportation, ant bikes, ben serotta, boston frame builders, chris chance, custom frame builders, fat city cycles, geekhouse bikes, iglehart, independent fabrication, mike flanigan, new england frame builders, peter weigle, richard sachs, seven cycles, whitcomb cycles
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.