Carrying the Torch

by | Nov 1, 1994

Richard Sachs Cycles is not about business and annual revenues. It’s about fitting a rider to the highest quality bicycle. Working from his Connecticut shop, Richard Sachs has been building frames for over 20 years. After apprenticing with Witcomb Cycles in England, Sachs began making frames under his own name. Working alone, Sachs does every bit (other than paint) of work on the frame himself.

“For me, the excitement comes from doing something well and learning from it so the next one is even better,” Sachs explains. “If someone was making bread for me, I’d want it to be better than the kind that’s wrapped in a Wonder Bread label. There’s a pride in knowing that someone made something perfect for you.”

“There’s a certain art form that’s born out of how well the bike is constructed. Not the brand of tubing, or even the design, but the actual construction. Optimal construction and sound design result in handling characteristics that are worthy of a race bike, but one that’s beautiful too.”

Sachs’ perspective on frame building has been shaped by many elements, one of which is his experience as a racer. After competing in the Senior ranks through the 70’s and into the 80’s, he still does battle in the Masters category nearly every weekend. “As a racer, I know that when I’m out there trying to stay on someone’s wheel, it doesn’t matter what temperature my torch was at when I built the frame,” Sachs notes. “I want to build the best possible frame, but there are two sides to the fence. I don’t give two hoots about my bike when I’m out there racing.”

The first consideration of a Sachs-designed bike centers on fit. “Without fit, it’s worthless, though I don’t mean to sound quick about it,” he says. “Position is the most important thing, and that’s what I look at first. The bike underneath does need to do the right things, too. The bike has to be comfortable and handle well. The bike has got to work-it’s a tool. Bikes are very simple, and really, they haven’t changed much over the years. A bike and a rider are the same as they were some time ago.”

In the 90’s, bike talk often centers around things like titanium, or TIG welding-not about finely constructed lugged steel frames. “When you’re talking about materials for bikes, you’re talking about trends, and I think treands come and go,” Sachs contends. “When you’re talking about what’s the genuinely best thing, regardless of price, I think steel is it. It’s not the lightest, but that’s inconsequential, I think, when you consider that a water bottle weighs a pound. It’s like asking why do they still use wood for really good violins.”

Sachs builds 100 or so road racing frames per year, and has no aspirations to expand his business. “If I was in this for the money, I would build mountain bikes, tandems, women’s bikes, and whatever,” he explains. “I’m a racer and saw something beautiful with the frame and was drawn in. But I also know that the racer is more important than the bike.”

Richard Sachs—no marketing hype here, just some of the best racing bikes anywhere.

The preceding article originally appeared in the November 1994 issue of Winning Bicycling Illustrated, reprinted courtesy of Alan Coté.