Friday, October 12, 2007

An Interview with Richard Sachs, Part I

Richard Sachs' name is synonymous with the handbuilt frame. It is unlikely that anyone else better represents the enigmatic image of the one-man frame shop whose body of work is more than just a bunch of beatiful bicycles, it stands for something. Recently BKW rang Richard up at his shop in Chester, Connecticut, to talk about that line in the sand.

BKW: You’ve been at building for 35 years; what keeps you going?

RS: All of a sudden 35 years passes. I kind of feel every time I start a frame it decides what it’s going to be, it’s like the first time, even though it’s not. It’s more like something I want to do instead of something I have to do. I love making things with my hands. We all need something to do and I’m blessed that I have something to do that I love.

BKW: How many frames will you build this year?

RS: I’m on a schedule to produce about 5-6 month; I can’t think about the whole year. I look at the month ahead.

BKW: What is your wait up to?

RS: I have enough committed orders that put the delivery at 6 years.

BKW: Many cyclists see your frames as the epitome of the hand built bicycle. What do you think is at the root of the lust for a Sachs?

RS: I don’t promote myself, but I do make myself available. I’m on the framebuilder’s list, several message boards, and I answer my phone. I do exactly what I want to do and I don’t look around at what other people do. I look straight ahead. I’m not a marketing person. I think people like me and have a respect for what I do. Maybe one before the other, maybe one more than the other. They are buying me, not the bike. I’ve tried to perfect the details, the alignment, and the fit … I think people want to buy that for themselves. They want to have a little bit of me. The title of the book I’ll never write is, “It’s Not About the Bike, It’s About the Bike Maker.”

BKW: Including the Rivendells, how many different lug sets have you created over the years?

RS: I did a set for Takahashi, in ‘81 or ’82; I lightheartedly refer them as the Sachsahashis. I did a set for Rivendell plus four for myself: Richie-issimo, Newvex, Nuovo Richie, Rene Singer. I’ve also done two fork crowns, (one for Richie-issimo and one for Newvex), one bottom bracket shell, the front derailleur braze on, and I’ve had dropouts for ages.

BKW: What tubing are you using with your lugs?

RS: It’s a version of Columbus’ Spirit called Spirit For Lugs. We call it PegoRichie. The oversized tubes I’d been using were less than friendly for brazing. I’d been using Dedacciai Zero tubing. Then I had a JRA [Just Riding Along] on a two-year-old frame. The seat tube broke nowhere near the heat affected zone; it cracked in half at the transition of a butt. Then I found out that Dario Pegoretti wasn’t using it for similar quality control reasons. We decided to team up with Columbus to make tubing for lugs. I feel much more secure than using any of that short butt stuff. The tubing is Niobium alloy. The goal was to make tubing that was 21st Century strong, oversized, light, resilient, and would enable a brazer to build a frame that was 3-3.5 lbs. I would probably have never switched brands, but I had a JRA and it happened to ME. The light went on when it happened to me, and Dario and I decided we needed to get away from the “tubing for industry” stuff.

BKW: Did you see a noticeable drop in frame weights when you moved to this tubing?

RS: I saw a drop in weight and an increase in strength. Before, I knew I was using tubes with short butts but I thought the steel was well made so that nothing would happen to a frame I made. Among other things, the PegoRichie set gives me a comfort level about the heat-affected zone. I know that my JRA will never freakin’ happen again. And I didn’t to have to make a heavy bike to do that.

Click here for Part II

Photos Courtesy: Richard Sachs


blue squirrel said...

wow, another great read w/ my morning quattro espresso. i can attest to RS's personal touch, much respect to him. [the pressure is mounting BKW, you are batting 1000 so far]

Diablo Scott said...

I scanned in some old Richard Sachs ads from the back of Winning magazine, see here:

Sorry, can't figure out how to make a link in this comment window.

Anonymous said...

...u.s. cyclo-cross nationals @ domain chandon winery in rained all day...jonathon page on his red & white trimmed richard sachs cross rig w/ yellow tufos takes the win... & machine were like the embodiment of cyclo-cross...a beautiful effort, a beautiful machine...together a bright sun shining through the overcast...

...i understand the monetary needs & constraints of sponsorship deals but i have to believe that mr. page had to have been damn proud at that time, to race & win for mr. sachs...

sma said...

his car behind him is about as impressive as his frames.

J. Mendez said...

One buys Richard Sacks the maker because the frame is simply the result of his talent, passion, keen intelligence, and intellectual honesty. Besides, the guy has a sense of humor. No one buys a Picasso because he painted hot chicks.

sma said...

oh, and a 6 year waiting list?? business is goooooood

gewilli said...

And i thought the wait for a 'Nilla was long.

But. I am a fortunate one. eRichie hangs and races in New Belgium. We get to see him regularly.

He's got an undeniable charisma. And don't forget the remarkable and amazing team he has put together!

Cross is cool... esp when the frame builders are out in force RACING the bikes they make...