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Thread: Richard Sachs Cycles

  1. #1301
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    Default Re: Richard Sachs Cycles

    -- a fellow that worked for me on the formula one circuit.., jon bisignano, wore braggard danish clogs..
    quite a good driver himself and had a brother, jim bisignano, a very sought after motorsports artist..
    their father owned a great italinan restaurant.., "babe's.."

    when i brought jon in to corporate for briefing, all-hell was raised up my ass for his non-corporate / non-clone dress attire..

    but, jon nailed all the corporate secy's and admin asst's..
    he got more tail with those clogs than Sinatra..

    my feet would never fit in..,

    ronnie
     

  2. #1302
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    I had a very good relationship with the Witcomb family. Five weeks after arriving in London and living at a hostel in, of all places, High Street Kensington, Barry invited me to stay with him and Janet in Dartford. For the rest of my time in England, Iíd make the morning cycle to Tannerís Hill in Deptford where the shop was. It was right next door to W.H. Wellbeloved Butchers. The Wellbeloveds started their business in 1829 and itís still there. Witcomb Lightweight Cycles isnít.

    When this first adventure ended, I returned to Bayonne, thought about starting at Goddard College (finally), but found a path to another adventure working at Witcomb USA, the company created to import and market Witcomb branded bicycles and products in North America. The people there worked hard to imprint the Witcomb name into the psyche of the American bicycle consumer. Ultimately, fate as well as some bad subcontracting abroad saw the wheels grind to a halt. I donít remember the original plan working well much past the concept stage. A year in, it wasnít working at all.

    The principals, who began with hope, positive attitudes, and great ideas, started to take sides against one another. It wasnít a cool situation for an innocent teenager to be in. I lacked the maturity to know who to align with, the folks I worked for, or the lovely family in England that looked after me a year earlier.

    During the implosion, and with the agenda at Witcomb USA having become a moving target, I wrote to the Witcombs about coming back to Deptford. I wanted to have fun again. The opportunity was there. I soon realized that I could never recreate what I once had, and was resigned to rolling with whatever came next in Connecticut.



  3. #1303
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    I think of myself as a home schooled framebuilder. Despite the time spent at Witcomb Cycles in London, I wasn’t there to ready myself for a trade. And when I worked at Witcomb USA, the business model had nothing to do with making frames in East Haddam. Well, eventually it had something to do with it. Ed Allen, the owner, was at wit’s end and unhitched himself from the British family whose name he took for his eponymous (I love that word – eponymous) North American agency.

    Once Ed cut the ties, he mandated that Peter and I turn the basement into a shop. Neither of us had held a torch or done much metal work since we left Deptford. We did our best to channel the experiences and processes we remembered from more than a year before. And Ed threw all sorts of money at the project to help us figure it out and start producing.

    We had inspiration and technical help from several toolmakers, boat builders, and craftspeople in town. Peter and I also did a very good job spending that blank check Ed was giving us. We soon figured it out. The Witcomb USA frame was born. Life was good. Until it wasn’t. Almost two years and several hundred frames later, it became a chore for me. The love for the unknown and unplanned went missing. It became a routine. I had to leave.

    When I started my business, I was enthusiastic but unprepared. Making a frame was easy. Making frames wasn’t. I persevered, and never knew I could fail – maybe that’s why I didn’t. I had a built in following from the local racing community. More importantly, I had the support of a network of dealers I sold through. These were my guardian angels.




  4. #1304
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    I learned some about business in the 1980s, running mine that is. I had already stood around for nearly a decade, watching the landscape change, seeing my heroes get old, or embrace the MTB thing, or simply vaporize in place. While it was happening, I sensed a decline in interest in the type of work I was finally comfortable making. I was in that no man’s land of having no Plan B, having not planned at all.

    By 1982 that I added a second model to my menu, and called it the – caution, some supreme Varsity Team level nomenclature coming – the Richard Sachs Standard Frame and Fork. In essence, it was a dumbed down, all-holds-barred, no frills, generic version of my Signature Frame. Made by me, but using some second rate braze-ons, Guinticiclo frame parts, and a minimal of handwork, this unit was everything my best work was as long as you had your eyes closed.

    The Standard was an option for anyone interested in my work, but who might have had, er – issues with price. I’m too far past it all to remember what the Signature sold for, but at $450 the Richard Sachs Standard Frame and Fork was a steal. And as my little world started its first ever spiral downturn through the pipes and into the Connecticut River, the only answer I could come up with was to put the fucker on sale for $430. I mean, the things ya’ do, huh.

    For the RS cognoscenti (that’s Latin for stalkers) out there, the Standard was reissued in the late 1980s and called the Strada Immaculata, still the badass-est bicycle name ever according to a poll conducted by www.coolbicyclenames.com .



  5. #1305
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    Good to see that the braze on were not additional $
     

  6. #1306
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    Long before email, texting, messages via Facebook, and DMs on Twitter there was Ė um, there was this thing called mail. Here are three images that show what mail looked like. Notice 1) the paper and then, 2) the penmanship and maybe finally, 3) the length to which personal thoughts are conveyed. No acronyms to be found anywhere. No LOL. No ROFL. And definitely no ATMO.

    These letters were typical of exchanges Iíd have with every interested consumer who wanted to know more about what I did. They were all written, sent, and answered in less than two weekís time during the summer of 1981.

    For the record, Dawn decided against a commission, but through the years weíve become friends. Sheís an advocate for all the right things, especially in our sport, a life saver, and the best ukulele player ever to come out of the peloton, and I mean from either gender. Dawn refers to herself as HBIC. I may have to look that one up.

    I miss some things about the past. I donít always miss letter writing, but when I find some treasures like these in my bin, I miss it terribly.







  7. #1307
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    There are times I look back and wonder WTF. Let me tell you Ė the transition from being at Witcomb USA to working alone had highs and lows. I find a letter carbon like this (below) and am reminded of how absolutely impulsive my decisions were once I made the commitment to leave.

    There was a brief period when everything in East Haddam was going swimmingly well. Our dealers were hustling orders for us, the frames had a good following, and Peter and I, along with Gary Sinkus, had a prodigious output especially considering that we were learning as we went.

    My memory is cloudy on the details but I wonít let it stop me. At some point we met with the suits from Reynolds and spec-ed out a tube set that would be as close to propriety as weíd get in those days. I suppose we had some grand plans; I just donít recall what they were.

    As you can see from the note to Mr. Thompson, a larger parcel of pipes was ordered but we only accepted 20% what was committed to. My guess, in hindsight, is that Ed (Allen, our boss) wanted more of a just-in-time inventory and didnít want to sit on yearsí worth of goods.

    In 1975, I spent the spring and all summer getting ready to launch my brand. These were different times. If you wanted material, you had to plan ahead, go to the mill and write a contract to buy, and then wait for delivery. My intention was to parachute in, purchase some of the tubing that my soon to be former employer left Reynolds holding, and get busy by autumn.

    Again, all of this is me arranging pieces of a 40+ year old puzzle.



  8. #1308
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    Pete Pearman was a rider on Len Preheimís Toga team in the late 1970s. I supplied the bicycles. Pete sent this letter in 1978. Itís been lost, recovered, stashed between other letters, only to resurface dozens of times. I never forgot this one. Finding it again was a joy. Read the last sentence, ďÖor did you have a feeling and went by it?Ē

    It ends with a question thatís telling because thereís a lot of analysis in framebuilding. Itís common for a learning maker to over-ask or over-examine, or to fret, or even fret about fretting. When you take a pile of stuff and transform it, thereís always an intangible; thereís that other dimension separate from the one youíre working within. In 2011 I wrote these words:

    The organic nature of frame building has always confounded me. Iím more comfortable with it now than I was when I started. It often made me squirm as I tried to figure out the dance. No two are alike. Some parts of one can be so very right, while the rest of it is just good enough. Getting it nailed from end to end isnít possible. I surrendered to that notion years ago. No matter what you bring to the table and no matter how hard you try, no two are alike. Duplication and repeatability are just dreams. Is it okay to articulate these differences and even celebrate them? Since I canít seem to get to that elusive other side, I reckon it is.

    When I made Peteís frame I held everything under a microscope. I was rigid and so were my methods. They were mechanical. In 1978 I had many thoughts but no feelings. Many years later, that changed when I finally let go.



  9. #1309
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    Several weeks ago (July 2nd to be exact) I wrote about my relationship with Adam and his role in shaping the landscape of racing as we know it. Hereís another look behind the curtain. Adam sent this letter in 1997, my second season as his Ďcross bicycle maker. It lays out some of the changes to the prior yearís design.

    I was all ears at that point, not having any firm ideas about how a rider should sit on a bicycle for a one hour event. Adamís input regarding his own needs, as well as texts heís written on the subject, and conversations with him about the differences between road and Ďcross Ė these are key ingredients in the choices Iíve made since.

    Most of the racers Iíve known ride up the hills and then down, make left hand turns at Somerville, go from one team to whatever team will have them next, and then retire. Then there are those who give back, radiate with enthusiasm, and nurture. They pay it forward. Thatís old school. Without folks who give back, we vaporize.

    Adam may consider himself edgy, or an outlier, in the margins, or any descriptor that relates to being at the window peering in at the masses and at convention. Or, he may not. As far as cycling and the sport go, heís as old school as they come, according to my opinion that is.

    The good ones cast a shadow so long that it shields others from paths to nowhere. Whether at the dinner table, in parking lots at the race venues, or in letters they send, these folks make a real difference with the wisdom they share.




  10. #1310
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    When I finally reconciled that I’d start a business and make bicycles, it was to fill my own needs. It was to hear my voice. And to see finished work as I imagined it. It wasn’t to make someone’s fantasy amalgam (that word, amalgam – that’s gold Jerry, gold) of fashionable frame angles, seat stay attachment possibilities, or endless lug curlicues. I won’t even mention colorways or stainless gewgaw adornments that double as bottle openers. In contrast to what some may have been doing, or others expected from an independent craftsman whose model basically was that the commission precedes its execution – in contrast to this, I was here to serve me. There was one way. Mine.

    Over the years, conversations about custom versus bespoke versus made-to-order versus su misura versus PrÍt-ŗ-Porter have gone more circular than Domino’s Pizza menus left in mailboxes when they open a new store. I get the need/want thing. And that there are those who catch low hanging fruit by offering dozens of options in order to make a sale. Good for them. Really. I didn’t get that gene.

    I had a picture in my mind from the day I first envisioned my name on a down tube. I’ve used a range of art supplies and tools trying to capture it. Sometimes it’s been a moving target, other times the result is a derivation of what I saw. But it’s always my picture.



  11. #1311
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    Did you imagine the archive when you began saving the pieces?

  12. #1312
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    This is a letter from Neville Smith. It was sandwiched between so many other sheets of paper from the 1970s and I rarely gave it a second glance. When leafing through the folders, the hand drawn images and numbers always looked back at me while I searched for more interesting pieces of my puzzle. And then tonight I did something I rarely do Ė I focused. After seeing this yellowed page for the hundredth time, I realized itís one of the first orders I received after leaving Witcomb USA to begin anew.

    August 1975 was a pivotal time in Chester. I was busy making benches, having decals made, sourcing material, buying fluorescent lights, and opening accounts with various tool suppliers. I donít even think I had torches then. The goal was to be ready for the International Cycle Show in New York that February. I went to the Coliseum at Columbus Circle with a load of bicycles and some frames, and never looked back.

    Neville Smith was a bit of a fixture. Heíd show up regularly at the East Haddam shop and regale Peter and I with stories from his life as a racer during the Six Day era. Even then, Neville was quite a bit ahead of us, age wise!

    This was the eleventh RS made and the first track frame to bear my name. Itís number 115 in my log book. I know some people collect facts like this. A local cat named Sonny Braun painted it a nice blue color using automotive enamel. The frame ended up in Oz and was the subject of a photo spread on the FYXO site. Click here to have a look.




  13. #1313
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    Here is an image from a collection taken for a brochure printed in the middle 1980s. It shows me and my Bike Machinery Braze-on-Mobile. They didn’t call it that, I did. For a brief moment in time, the only thing I wanted more than the ability it took to be a better framebuilder was to have function-specific fixtures around that appeared in all shots taken in my studio, regardless of where the photographer was perched.

    I had been to Italy three times between 1979 and 1985, and visited/toured/been escorted through and around every framebuilding shop that mattered to me. All of it was eons away from my simple beginnings in Southeast London where neither a power cord nor a precision measuring device would be in anyone’s line of sight.

    To bolster my self-esteem, I spent money. Lots of money. I set as my goal to have a workspace completely outfitted with all the Italian machinery necessary to make one frame (or sometimes two, or maybe three…) at a time supremely well and without compromise. I envisioned an environment that suggested “Radiology” rather than “Abortion Clinic” to anyone with a lens. My head was in such a place that the only way to make this happen was to buy my way out of those earlier years and ready myself for what would come next.

    My aforementioned ability eventually improved. But I can’t hang that hat on any tool folly. The skill and intuitive sense I yearned for would only come by standing at the bench and making a bicycle frame, and then coming back the next day and doing it again.




  14. #1314
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    The first hands-on task I was entrusted with at Witcomb Lightweight Cycles (coffee making and errand running notwithstanding) involved files. Filing, for a framebuilder, is a way to transform a part. Itís a way to make it fit better and look more elegant. And in those times, it was also necessary because on all counts, the materials needed to be reworked before a frame could even accept them as part of the birthing process. Before one brazes or even holds a torch, developing a routine with a file Ė a set of files, actually Ė was a way for a young person to one day, in the far future, have value at the bench.

    The job of a framebuilder encompasses many skills; he has to be a joiner, a metalsmith, he has to understand bicycle design, he needs to understand the working relationship between his frame and fork and the range of components a client might hang on it, and most importantly atmo, he needs to be a mediator. Taking eight pipes and all the little pieces that accompany them, the fixtures that hold them (or donít), and the dance that occurs when metal, heat, and human nature collide Ė this is the acid test for each of us.

    Back in 1972, the folks in London showed me how to use a file. I had already watched them use theirs for months. Thereís a huge gap between the watching, the showing, and the learning. Nothing is rushed. Filing is a deliberate action using sharp tools, experience and muscle memory, and a vision of what you want when the task is complete, and then showing the whole lot whoís boss.



  15. #1315
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    One piece of my puzzle, my first Hurlow frame, cost me a whopping £60.60 GBP. After it arrived, Iíd order two more before Iíd ride a bicycle with my own name on it. Bill Hurlow had a profound influence on me. The manís work was, of course, beyond elegant. But the act of the commission, and those dozen or so letters we exchanged to make it happened, are what put the needle in my arm. Ultimately, I wanted to channel that experience and roll it into my routine.

    It was a classmate of mine from Yeshiva, Henry Krol, whoíd be the link between me and the framebuilder from Herne Bay. Henry knew I loved my Frejus Tour de France and encouraged me to contact Mr. Hurlow. The Frejus was the bicycle I bought at Tommy Aveniaís to replace my first ten speed bicycle, an Atala Gran Prix. All of this took place prior to my flight for London to spend a year with the Witcomb family.

    There were many serendipitous paths taken before I landed in the trade. It was the stew of them that delivered me to a workbench years later. And even then, I was simultaneously ready for the task as well as bewildered, wondering how this all happened and where it would all go. Sometimes, playing pretend can make things real. I never had a business model. But I had a role model, and got very good at channeling. Itís a skill Iíve used many times since.



  16. #1316
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    I see you had to pay for the chrome!

    Aside from trivia, why Bill Hurlow had such a great influence on you? I guess, mainly due to the better/more precise manufacturing?
    Andrea "Gattonero" Cattolico, head mechanic @Condor Cycles London


    "Caron, non ti crucciare:
    vuolsi cosž colŗ dove si puote
    ciÚ che si vuole, e piý non dimandare"

  17. #1317
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gattonero View Post
    I see you had to pay for the chrome!

    Aside from trivia, why Bill Hurlow had such a great influence on you? I guess, mainly due to the better/more precise manufacturing?
    It was due to the personal contact, the content of his letters, and his ability to make me feel like the only client in his queue. The bicycles were beyond special, that much is obvious. But I was 17 years old and knew fuck-all about frames - so it didn't matter.

  18. #1318
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    I think having a role model is more important than having a business model, provided one does not confuse having a role model with copying someone ('transmission'). Business models tend to become obsolete sooner or later whilst role models can be timeless.
    Chikashi Miyamoto

  19. #1319
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    Iím calling time out. Iíve been opening up drawers, scanning artifacts, and writing about pieces of my puzzle every day for the last several months. If you missed any or want to see them again, theyíre stored on my site. Click here to read about the world according to me.

    The reflective words and sepia-tone photographs will come again someday. For now, Iím clawing my way back to the present. Iíll still add content. I may even shift focus and post images of Buddy the Maltese Milkball, or what I had for lunch. Or do a montage (thatís French for Age Mountain) showing folks wearing RS socks. Look out Bill Cunningham. Maybe Iíll keep you informed as I reach race weight over the next few weeks. My Withings scale reads 144 today and I have a pair of 30Ē Tellason Denim jeans begging for another intimate moment with me.

    The cyclocross season begins soon. Once it does, Iíll be shameless in letting people know every detail of every RSCX Team rider each day every weekend until the Natz are over in January. Deal with it. For now, consider my typewriter ribbon dry and in need of replacement, or that my supreme level of self-absorption has left the building. Iím sure it will return soon. In the meanwhile, Iíll deal with it.

    This image shows a sill near the bench of a studio I rented for most of the 1980s. For the last several months Iíve stood at my own window daily and looked in. Iím going back to looking out again. I hope to see you.

    Thanks for reading atmo.




  20. #1320
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