Interview with Richard Sachs: :Large Fella on a Bike

Few names if any ring more crystal clear through the legions of frame builders than that of Richard Sachs.

He has carved-literally-more personality, elegance and lustful desire into his frames than nearly anyone else. Like Stradivarius before him, Sachs crafts instruments of ageless beauty that transcend the purposeful essence for which they were born. Sachs is in the elite with very few peers and these are his words…

1. How old are you?

52

2. Where were you born?

Jersey City, NJ

3. What’s your earliest memory of a bicycle or something bicycle related?

Riding my tricycle as a youngster at our Belmar, NJ summer bungalow.

4. What was your first cycle?

As a youngster, red Huffy Convertible. I also had a sweet Schwinn Jaguar MK3

5. How about first “high-end” cycle?

I bought a Frejus TDF from Tommy Avenia’s and that led me to ordering 2-3 frames from W.B. Hurlow.

6. Did (does) your family (parents, siblings, etc) ride also?

No.

7. Did you like to tinker with bikes back then?

No.

8. Did you ever work in a Bike Shop… if so, where/how long?

I worked at The Ski Rack in Burlington, VT

9. Have you ever done any organized racing?

Yes. I raced before I began building. I still race weekly and have a USA Cycling Cat 2 license on road and track.

10. How about cyclo-touring?

I never had an interest in this.

11. What job(s) did you have before frame building and also-do you have any other job currently besides frame building?

Except for the 8 or so months at the bicycle store, framebuilding has been my only career.

12. When did you start building?

I went to Witcomb Lightweight Cycles in 72, returned home to work with Witcomb USA for a few years, and started this business in late 75.

13. Who would you say is your greatest influence in designing & frame building?

In my earlier years, I wanted to be Bill Hurlow. That fantasy morphed into including Mr. Nagasawa into the mix. In the last 15-20 years, I’ve lost interest in this industry and take my cues from crafts-people from other venues.

14. Did you apprentice… if so, with who?

I worked at Witcomb Lightweight Cycles in London, but it was not an apprenticeship.

15. What’s your idea of the “perfect cycle” regardless if you built it or not?

It’s an unachievable entity. It can’t be done.

16. Shooting a guess… how many frames would you say you’ve built?

I used to be very prodigious, and now I am not! I’d guess there are about no more than 4000 frames out there with my name on them.

17. Any cycles out there that you secretly wished, “Darn, I wish I’d built that!”?

No. None.

18. Your idea of the perfect client?

The one that doesn’t exist; I build the frames as though I am the client and it must pass my criteria before it is deemed “finished”.

19. What defines a nightmare client in your experience?

Me.

20. Any words of advice to up & coming frame builders?

It’s not what it seems.

21. What do you find most funny or peculiar (in a kind way-not brutal) about the cycle-buying public… what don’t they get or aren’t they seeing?

Most folks think all high-end bicycles share things in common, be they similar component groups, tube sets, geometry features, and the like. Making a frame by hand, to order, has no peer in the industrial-made, bought-at-the-mall world.

22. What do you think of mass-produced bikes (without naming names)?

They are extremely good and do the job well. Way back when, this was not the case; you simply could not get a bicycle from a retailer and go off racing and/or touring on it. It had to come from a framebuilder or specialty shop. In the late 80s/early 90s, all that began to change.

23. What cycle don’t you have anymore that you wished you did?

I wish I still had my first W.B. Hurlow frameset.

24. What cycle do you currently ride most, even if it wasn’t built by you?

My RS Signature bicycle, fully kitted out with 2005 Campagnolo Record Carbon, Oval Concepts stem and handlebars, SSM Aspide saddle, and Joe Young built wheels with all DT Swiss components.

25. When did you last ride your bike and for how far?

I raced on Sunday (60 miles) and these past 2 days I rode 30mi each day.

26. What’s your idea of the perfect ride?

Racing cyclocross. Period.

27. Could you ever see yourself being Car Free… just using mass-transportation and your bike to get around?

I like my car.

28. Why do you think so many folks have romanticized bicycles & bicycling?

It’s an activity that you learn about as a child, and one that you never forget or leave. Riding is a beautiful aesthetic. Racing, even moreso…

29. Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life?

Except for family, it’s “building and racing…”

30. If you could say one thing to Lance Armstrong what would it be?

I’m not buying it.

31. In a pinch… McDonalds or Burger King?

Neither.

32. What kind of shampoo did you last use?

Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap.

33. Favorite libation: wine, beer or fire water?

Italian reds, and/or Dinkel Acker beer

34. Even though there seems to be a real tradition to it-what do you think of folks who spend more time setting up their cycle with just the right color saddle, bar tape, bags, hoods, etc than actually riding or at least commenting on the ride?

I have no opinion other than to say it’s theirs to do with as they please.

35. Did you go to college… if so, what was your major?

I bypassed entrance to Goddard College in order to leave the states and live in London.

36. Your favorite music while working (if any)?

It varies, but no day is complete without Desolation Row.

37. If you had it to do all over again… would you be building cycles?

Most days, yes. And most days, no. Not getting to finish academic life has always been a regret, and I ponder it routinely.

38. What’s your favorite lunch food during a work day in the shop?

Hummus.

39. When it’s all said & done-what kind of legacy will you hope to have left behind?

I think Sinatra must be given all the credit here: “…I did it my way.”

40. How can folks get in touch with you to order a custom cycle?

richardsachs@juno.com

The preceding article originally appeared on the Large Fella on a Bike blog, and was originally posted on April 22, 2005.