Like Yoshiaki Nagasawa in Japan, Richard Sachs builds America’s best frames one at a time in his small workshop in Connecticut. From start to finish, Sachs crafts each frame with the care that is rare in the bike industry. It’s hard to even consider him as part of the bike industry at all, where even such revered names as Colnago and Pinarello are often produced in China. Perhaps Sachs could only find peers in the small community of Japanese keirin frame builders.
The comparisons between Nagasawa and Sachs are no accident. Sachs has been a fan of Nagasawa’s craftsmanship since the late 1970′s after discovering an unlabeled Nagasawa used as a display bike for Suntour components at the New York International Cycle Show (now defunct). After some detective works, Sachs discovered the identity of the mystery framebuilder and began following his work.
Strangely enough, the roots of this fascination lay in a National Geographic television special called “The Living Treasures of Japan.”
“I knew I was looking for something more in framebuilding, and I suspected it didn’t involve “stuff;” without explaining the show in two sentences, suffice it to say that I was inspired by the Japanese reverence for quality handmade articles of any and all types, some important, some mundane, but all constructed with respect to craft, skill, and heritage, and, I suspect, with little or no regard paid to commerce or promotion. My attitude towards framebuilding embraces this attitude. No bicycle could have ever had the impact on my decisions and choices the way the topic of that program did.”
Reading through different articles and interviews on his website, richardsachs.com, it’s clear that Sachs is the closest thing we have in the US to someone like Mr. Nagasawa.
Sachs exudes the confidence of a master at his craft. As I scroll through these paragraphs, I see multiple comparisons between him and Mr. Nagasawa ‚ the lack of tubing decals on the frame and loyalty to a single tubing manufacturer are two that jump out. What is important is the idea of the frame as the product of the combination of the builder’s craftsmanship, time, and passion rather than simply the sum of the materials used. Most frame companies (it’s hard to use the term “framebuilders” these days) focus on the material used, whether it be high end steel or aluminum alloys, carbon rear ends, or even the heat treatments the tubes receive before and after the frame is built. Rather than focusing on adjectives like “light,” “stiff,” or “responsive,” a master builder will focus on what is right for the one rider that the frame is being made for. The quality and performance of the ride will always follow.
It’s no surprise that Sachs has several Nagasawa frames in his own personal collection.. He’s also recently acquired a vintage 1981 track frame. When he ordered his custom Nagasawa road frame, he supplied only two measurements: saddle to pedals and saddle tip to handlebars (“His frame, made to fit me.”). This is similar to an order that Sachs would take from an American customer. The result is a beautiful classic frame made by a master.
The preceding article originally appeared on Keirin Culture.