Richard Sachs, Bicycle Builder

by | Nov 8, 1990

On one side of the small basement shop on Main Street there lies short pieces of steel tubing.

On the other side, shiney new two-wheeled racing machines. In the middle are a lathe, torch, and other tools of master craftsman Richard Sachs.

Using a technique called brazing—similar to soldering but at higher temperatures—Sachs transforms the steel tubing into state-of-the-art racing bicycle frames that have a worldwide reputation for quality, durability and performance capabilities.

The soft-spoken Sachs, who works alone, promotes himself to a craftsman dedicated to producing the highest quality lightweight racing frames for any and all racing events. His handmade frames are used by many National and Olympic competitors.

When talking with Sachs one realizes quickly his intense devotion and love he has for his work and the demands he puts on himself to build only the best frames.

“My bike is an object of quality that is made to the highest standards,” Sachs says. “They are buying my reputation, not just my product.”

Sachs began building bikes in early 1972, but his interest goes back to when he began racing while in boarding school in New Jersey.

“It was then that the seed was planted and I began to question why some equipment was better than others.”

Sachs’ desire to learn more took him to London in October 1971. For the next 10 months he did anything and everything the owners of a small, family-owned bicycle manufacturing shop asked of him. Most of what I did had little with learning how to build bicycles, Sachs says.

“I swept the floor, made coffee, you name it,” he says. Sachs was not paid for his services—he knew this going over there—and lived on his savings. Although he did not learn a lot about building bikes, he got exposed to the process by sharing a place with the owner’s son for awhile.

Sachs returned to the States in May 1972. After working with a manufacturer’s representative in East Haddam importing bicycles from England, he decided to open his own shop.

“I did not start out as an unknown,” Sachs says. “Being in the racing circuit helped out. But it did take about eight months to get going.”

“I learned intuitively how to sort things out and my understanding of what works best comes from being in racing and around racing bikes rather than from textbooks.”

Sachs works on the principle of “building the bike to fit the rider,” not asking the rider to fit the bike. To accomplish that, he will gather as much information as possible about the client. On the customer order form there is a detailed account of the customer’s physical build including height, weight, inseam. Arm and foot length.

“I will discuss the design for hours with the customer if that’s what it takes to build the correct bike,” Sachs says. “I’m trying to build the bike that will (fit) his physical anatomy like a suit. “There are certain design rules (common to all bikes) but it is made to order.”

In 15 years, his reputation as a builder of quality racing bikes has grown steadily.

Sachs says he now has more orders than he can handle from clients all over the country, and builds about 80-90 frames a year.

It takes about three days to make a frame. About 40 percent of his production he sells as complete bikes, with the rest sold as frames. When finished, the frame is sent to San Diego for painting and returned to Sachs. He purchases and installs all of the other components (brakes, wheels, handlebars, derailleurs, etc.) necessary to finish the bike.

His custom-made bicycles appeal to the pricey market; $1400 for the frame alone and $3000 or more for the complete bike.

The preceding article (including pricing) was originally written by Patrick O’Grady for the New Haven Register, and appeared on November 8, 1990. No, not that Patrick O’Grady.