In the March issue, Squid Bikes dropped a few names for their inspirations, which inspired us to seek out those makers for ourselves. We jumped at the chance to catch up with Richard Sachs—his longevity in the business makes for a lot of stories and opinions.
Because Technology Alone Is A Poor Substitute For Experience. These words appear in a 1992 brochure for Richard Sachs Cycles, and his mantra defines the bikes he builds in his one-man shop in Franklin County, Massachusetts. His products blend custom Columbus tubing, steel lugs, and four decades of experience for a ride unlike any other. Though the frames have the elegance and allure associated with the revered builder, the bikes do not abandon function for aesthetics – just ask Dan Timmerman, who finished fifth at the 2015 Cyclocross Nationals aboard his orange, steel Richard Sachs.
1: When and how did the company start?
I started Richard Sachs Cycles in mid-1975 after spending three years working at Witcomb Lightweight Cycles in London and Witcomb USA in Connecticut.
2: What is your background?
I was a normal adolescent and did all the things a teenager did in the late 1960s Vietnam/Woodstock era. Upon graduating from The Peddie School in 1971, my path was aimed at attending Goddard College to pursue an interest in creative writing. That plan went sideways when fate interceded, and I found myself in Deptford at the front door of the Witcomb family business later that year. I stayed. I extended my stay. And then stayed some more. I didn’t want to be a bicycle maker, I became a bicycle maker.
3: What sets Richard Sachs Cycles apart from other companies?
There’s only one thing that sets it apart—it’s me. I work here. Every lesson, mile raced, saw cut and file stroke, and design choice made, as well as all of my output, the bad, the beneath bad, and of course the good too, and the attitude, the listening, the ignoring, the decisions, the opining, and the relentlessness—the aforementioned all contribute to what makes that very next bicycle what it will be. And I’d wager most who queue up here do want that next bicycle rather than the one made before it.
That said, the same answer should hold for all of my peers; at the end of the day, we’re as much a part of the larger picture as are the frame materials, the component group, or the luscious paint finishes. People may be commissioning a bicycle, but they’re also getting a relationship atmo (Editor’s note: this is Mr. Sachs’ signature acronym, which stands for, “according to my opinion.”). Each of us fills that role in a way that no one else possibly can.
4: What are your goals for the company?
There are no goals, nor have there ever been any. And related, there’s very little ambition here. I like what I do, am fortunate to have been able to do it for 44 years, have always worked alone, and really never wanted more than to be left to hear my own voice.
5: Where does the brand find its inspiration?
I am a perennial daydreamer, imaginer, and fantasizer. String enough delusions together and, sooner or later, you’re creating at the bench what you thought about days, months, and years before. But if I have to nail anything to the wall, it’s that I probably spend more time than I should staring at the pages of W Magazine. Bring back the elegance, huh.
6: What do you think is the biggest misconception about bicycles?
Clearly it’s this: change a few things, or replace some others, or just throw money at it like there’s no tomorrow (and call it innovation…), and the bicycles will pedal themselves. Folks obsess and fetish, but the only component that matters, or affects change, is the nut on top of the bicycle. If you’re sedentary, or don’t have a training plan, or think next year’s new drive system is going to make you faster or a better rider, well – you’re the nut I’m talking about.
7: What’s the best road/’cross ride from your shop?
I live in Franklin County Massachusetts. All roads are good. Some are even paved.
8: What is the best place to stop for a coffee during a ride?
There are no cafés or similar on 119% of the rides I do. My own town has a population density of 22 people per square mile. Isolation situation.
9: Where is the best place to hit for a post ride meal and beer?
My home. Period.
10: What’s the best bike shop in town?
I wouldn’t even know where to find a bicycle shop around here. I’d imagine the nearest one is a good 30 miles away.
This interview appeared in the April 2015 issue of Road – The Journal of Road Cycling and Culture.