always something new under the sun

by | Oct 9, 2018

my good friend, richard sachs, has been building bicycle frames for around 45 years, probably having built more than he cares to remember. on his website he states “The fascination I (once) had with perfection has lately become an interest in elegance. Defining it. Channeling it. Embracing it. I think about how to bring back the elegance because I don’t feel enough of it around in daily life.”. if you’ve ever taken a good long look at richard’s instagram pages or perhaps his previous flickr pages, you will find more than just a few images detailing his daily process of putting together arguably the finest steel bicycle frames in the world.

it would be easy to class him as a luddite; after all, here’s a man still brazing lugged steel frames in his workshop, when the rest of the world is mightily obsessed with the black stuff. how out of touch can mr sachs possibly be? yet, there’s still the matter of the lengthy waiting list. a lot of people still want handmade craftsmanship in these days of cookie cutter carbon. to once more quote richard “Bicycle frames were once made. Now, like almost everything else, they’re manufactured.”

the in-thing nowadays, though the lustre may have tarnished just a smidgeon, is the ubiquitous bike-fit, a habit that’s perhaps not all it’s cracked up to be. i undertook one of those several years ago from london’s premier practitioners and i’d find it hard to deny the beneficial results. however, a more recent bike fit, undertaken at the behest of a bicycle manufacturer, seemed a lot less useful. having checked my every velocipedinal dimension, the bike subsequently sent for review was setup nowhere near the specifications they had provided.

“To this day, there are those who think you need a fitting, have to spend hours in front of a fitter while you’re sweating on a stationary bicycle in some fit studio, and do it all while listening to Olivia Newton John through the earbuds. I listen to other things.”

granted, my quoting of richard sachs is a tad disingenuous, for were we all to realise the error of our ways, there’s not a chance in connecticut that the man could supply us all with bicycles on which to undertake the sunday morning ride. and despite that much hyped waiting list, mr sachs has hardly been his finest public relations manager, insisting that nowadays, he can see no good reason to order a custom frame unless you’re very tall or very small. the bicycles i currently own fit me just fine thank you very much, yet there’s probably nothing i’d like more in the bike shed, than a richard sachs bicycle.

the upside – or downside, depending on your point of view – is that ordering a bicycle frame from richard entails a few necessitous measurements and payment of the required deposit. the bicycle you’ll eventually receive is the bicycle, based on those 45 years of experience, that richard is prepared to build, as near as dammit, the same as the one that preceded it. there’s no point in asking for a slew of custom features.

after all, who knows best?

of course, bicycles were being built long before richard sachs learned to use a brazing torch, each constructed for the purpose to which it would ultimately be suited. no sense in building race geometry into a bicycle that will eventually have a wicker basket on the front, cossetting a small, short-haired terrier. however, no matter the skills possessed by the experts, the majority of whom will provide features that distinguish their wares from the manufactured majority, the wide variety of machinery currently commercially available seems to have pretty much every base covered. from mountain bikes with their three differing wheel sizes, full-suspension, hardtails and rigid, through cyclocross and so-called gravel bikes, to commuting cycles with flat bars and eventually onto drop bar road bikes with their sporting pretensions. and that’s to say nothing of electric bikes.

so why, therefore, has a cycle company based in southern england, spent two years of research and development accompanied by twelve months of listening to customer feedback in order to produce their latest adventure bike? is the bicycle world really that impenetrable?

richard sachs

monday 29 october 2018