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Thread: Richard Sachs Cycles

  1. #1601
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    The Spree

    Despite having been abroad and with the experiences that come with working in a small production shop for almost a year, I consider myself a maker with no real pedigree. The time in London was beyond enjoyable, and I did learn some. But I didnít leave with many tools or a skill set. What I really had was a once in a lifetime opportunity to stand at the side of others who came up in a family business and who let me watch as they worked. To that end, I am more self taught than not.

    I channeled all of this into my own brand by 1975. Though there were questions along the way, the business grew and I always had work. But there was always this nagging, ďThis picture is not complete and I donít know whyÖĒ thing looming. It came to a head after maybe seven years at the bench.

    I began to think the niche I evolved past the point of my ability to keep pace. It seemed that bicycle making was less the result of a craftsman bleeding for his art and more a process that involved collaboration, more than a single pair of hands, and that a space with lots of big, heavy, expensive tools was de rigueur (French for you gotta have that shit broĎ). That last part was especially true when the film crew arrived.

    By 1981 and completely lost in my own sea of charming little spring clamps, straight edges, and angle iron, I started spending heavily on tonnage from Bike Machinery and Marchetti + Lange, two Italian firms that made function specific devices for my trade.

    Shopping is definitely good for the soul. For a brief moment I thought it just canít get any better than this. That feeling eventually left me.





  2. #1602
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    Play & Work

    A trove of RS archives loaned late 2013 came home. I havenít touched many of the contents in a long while. Those in this picture tell a story, and itís one of shifting focus as well as adding dimension. The gist is that by 1990 I began to look at more than the work I was doing at the bench and threw myself into a redecorating mode. My bicycles had one or two specific looks dating back to early 1975 and it was time to play with colored pencils.

    The cutouts shown are a tiny sample of whatís here. This cross-section speaks to the energy I spent doodling, learning about copy and stat machines, teaching myself how to safely use X-Acto knives, and also about design systems. There were many elements I was interested in but I had to think critically and narrow choices so that theyíd all work together. None of these saw the light of day.

    I did this type of work on and off for at least 15 years, making small edits to my branding. The constant resetting of the table consisted of such small changes at a single time that few, if any, noticed. And when I did replace one version with what would come next, I didnít call attention to it. I just did it.

    Everything fell into place by 2007 after which revisions had to do with ink color rather than logo use, shadows, font sizes, placement on bicycles, or incorporating same into soft-goods. And by 2012 I tossed the lot of it away, knocked on the door at House Industries, and asked for a complete makeover.




  4. #1604
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    Richard Sachs Ink

    Hereís a brochure from 1975. It was a three page folded unit, printed both sides. One of the panels was an order form. These were mailed in nice square-flapped envelopes to folks who answered my advertisements placed in the dayís periodicals.

    The originals were made by Riverside Press, just across the tracks from the Essex Steam Train. The latter remains and is going strong while the former closed years ago. It was a true print house that had all the lead fonts, noisy machinery, and ink smells staining the air inside the shop walls. I recall bringing a hand-made rendering to Rob the proprietor and he in turn would suggest a layout, type sizes, and paper options. Together we chose the decorative wingdings that served as borders between distinct thoughts or elements in the piece.

    Iíd go on to produce many forms of branding collateral. As time passed and my tastes refined, the projects became more elegant and austere. Some contained more technical information than others depending on the era. Others were more about me than the bicycles depending on the era. But all of them, each postcard, self-mailer, tear sheet, and catalog, were as important to me as the work I did at the bench.

    I rarely look at my studio work without considering how to present it. Both tasks please me, almost equally. No matter how much I sweat the details when thereís a tool in my hand or some material on the table, finding a nice box to put it all in is part of the job.



  5. #1605
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    Why I Do This

    The bicycle as a tool for the sport first got me wet and sticky while still a junior at The Peddie School. I read every niche magazine I could touch. I studied position and posture when I should have been working on academic assignments. I looked at where riders placed their gear and brake levers. At the cable paths too. I noticed how high the white socks came up on their ankles. And if their Dettos appeared well polished in the photographs.

    My own racing has been at times forgettable, and every so often memorable. Iíve pinned on numbers since 1972. It took me until I was near thirty before I could actually race, rather than just ride around following wheels.

    My best road years were the middle 1990s when my club merged with Stowe B.C. During our second season, I hit a stride. I turned myself inside out during the week so that whatever was thrown at me on the weekend was easy. Results came. Confidence was ever-present. And I feared nothing.

    Unlike earlier periods in life when Iíd look at signup sheets and worry about whoíd be at my side in a given event, I was now at a place where none of it mattered. It had all come together. My attitude, ďSomeone has to win this, it might as well be me.Ē fueled every start. Itís a lesson that came from nowhere, but when it arrived, I took it into the rest of my life.

    Say what you will about manís need for competition. That he needs a challenge. Or validation. For me, the peloton is equal parts classroom, chess board, and research library. From racing, I learned to read situations, hone instincts, and hear my own voice.



  6. #1606
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    Windows 2.0

    My window sill maybe 1980. The Spring Street studio, my second in Chester. At the corner of Spring and Main. Not much more than 800 square feet with some storage in a loft around the east side of the building. I spent a decade in this space. It was kindaí cool. Spring was a bit elevated as it poured into Main so my perch looking down on the village offered a lovely vista. I was directly across from Robbieís Store, an original old fashioned candy store that sadly was sold off to a string of occupants, all of whom ran a food shop or cafť of some sort. Itís been The River Tavern for a while. They donít offer egg creams, and the kids donít congregate at the fountain after school or during the summer months. But they do serve a date pudding that takes forever to make, so you have to know you want it after your meal, and order it before the menus arrive. Or maybe you order it the month before. I forget. Well it used to be like that when we lived around the corner on North Main.

    The sill Ė remember the sill Ė always had a quirky mix of tools, braze-ons, and figurines. Even though I didnít have a walk-in trade, I wanted the space to look interesting and even inviting from the outside. The right mix of tchotchkes is all it takes to turn a pedestrianís head or to make a car pause while the driver strains to make out what it is heís looking at.




  7. #1607
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    Being Boss

    With the Piccoli Gioielli art files complete in 2009, I prepared myself for whatís next. Having brazed and filed more than 15,000 dropouts it was time to clone my vision and lighten my day to day labor load. The designs were deliberately a wee bit different that what I had been doing for decades. Iíd taken the horizontal shape as far as I could. It would be verticals going forward.

    I did myself a favor and had three distinct angles made because, really broí Ė that should cover the spectrum of frame geometries Iíd be dealing with. And like any maker of craft would assume, thereís enough wiggle room in these mating parts to take care of the odd dimension that doesnít play nicely with others as the intersections on that next bicycle tell you where they are going.

    And then there are the outliers, those orders that require critical thinking, a trait that attests to why some of us are paid the big bucks. What does one do when the only two feet you have wonít stand firmly in the corner mapped out for them? You show all involved whoís boss and start bending some legs. It all works so well when the result looks like itís what you had in mind all along.



  8. #1608
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    Killing My Fantasy

    In 1979 I went to Italy with pal Len Preheim (RIP) for a 20 day trip that centered around the Milan Show. While there we drove to every frame maker of renown. We had either invitations or letters of introduction for each brand. We went nowhere unannounced. It was a dialed itinerary.

    For me, this was Ground Zero. I came up in an era when the Italians drove the bus. Their place in the tradeís pecking order had no equal. I spent almost a decade fantasizing about who these people were, what the men looked like, and how work was done on the shop floor.

    The notion I had, that of a European version of me, but older, more experienced, and with the wisdom that comes from being in a self-sustaining culture was challenged from the first meeting. These were not people who viewed bicycle making as a craft or one of the decorative arts. I met none who could fathom making one frame at a time for one client.

    The travel was enlightening. I returned to Italy often. I was looking for something that didnít exist. And each time came back to my own space resolved to make it work. After that first trip, I brought together a shooter, a graphic designer, and played wordsmith. I spent a small fortune printing my first four color brochure telling anyone who was interested exactly who I was and what I did.

    My many sojourns abroad pushed me to switch gears and look my job less as part of the creative process, less a part of the food chain that offered chichi bespoke luxury goods to the cognoscenti and the rich, and more a maker of things, of tools for the sport, and a supplier of well-designed machines for those seeking them.




  9. #1609
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    Just Keep Walking

    One of the dayís pleasures is taking my dog for a walk. Thatís not walking the dog. The latter is about routine, getting him some exercise, and letting him pee. When we walk together, itís a chance to get away from everything and let the steps lead us. Hardly a plan. No prescribed routes. And stopping to sniff or just sit down to catch a breath is fine. Sometimes encouraged. An hour or so for these indulgences is about normal.

    My daily is filled with me and more me. Waking moments are consumed with whatís at the bench and how to tie a ribbon around it. In these digital times, the box is wider and deeper, and the ribbon much longer. Itís like a room you come into and realize there are no exit signs. Some punch holes through the walls and leave, often with a last declaration so all left inside know full well that theyíre going. But they still peek through the window. Most do. I think they do.

    Walking with Buddy Ė the aptly named Buddy Ė is a way for me to stand on tiptoes and have a look outside. There are other pleasures I take to remind myself to live a fuller life. Not many. But enough.




  10. #1610
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    Could Be Us

    I love this book. There are no words. From end to end itís one page after another of images showing two renowned horologists in their natural environment. I bought my copy from Shellmanís in 2006. I keep it nearby and open it for inspiration. Watchmakers seem to have a deep connection to their trade and its history. Iíd like to see that trait when I look around the room I work in. I donít.

    By nature, Iím a loner. I obsess. Details are important. Iím also a Jersey Boy so thereís a gang streak down my back, probably more from the influences of popular culture than anything real. But self-selected groups have an allure. Being locked in a room with your closest peers can be invigorating. And there doesnít have to be a lock, or even a room.

    Thereís an assemblage of craftsmen who make up the Acadťmie HorlogŤre des Crťateurs Independents. Thatís AHCI for the foreign word challenged. The AHCI formed in the early 1980s under a different name. Two makers with a concept tried to harness their creative and commercial interests and by the end of the decade there were eight members. Some thirty five years later there are still fewer than three dozen watchmakers in the the AHCI.

    Often Iíll look out that window near my workbench and wonder about the decisions and judgments that keep the organizationís numbers low and its growth controlled. Then Iíll turn the pages and it becomes clear to me that these men are different and what theyíve achieved is the exception. And if I spend enough time staring at the pictures, I can almost see the faces of those who share the room with me.




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  11. #1611
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    Finish Work

    The painful part of what I do centers around finishing the task. The beginning is where the hope is. When nothing has gone wrong. Itís where I wanna be and never leave. A feeling this maker lives for. But no one can ride a concept, or a drawing, or would pay me for half a frame. So I have to get to that third day, the one when everything comes to a close. The day a commission is typically serial numbered and logged into the book.

    When Iím near the end of a build, thereís this sense of dread. Iím obsessed with small things that over the 36 hours bothered me about the collaboration Ė meaning me, with the metal and heat. When things go well, I expect it. Itís why I practice. But it never fails that one dimension, one file stroke, one small effort to own the brazing rod Ė it never fails that something zags rather than zigs.

    The end, those last several hours when all I can think about is nailing one shut so I can wake up to start another and bask in that aura of hope.



  12. #1612
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    That Line

    There is always someone ahead of you who’s seen more, done more, and is better at it. Whether all of this is true or not doesn’t matter. You have to believe that the line is at least one step more. Many steps if you’re humble. And self-aware.

    We never really get to that place where it’s all licked. To the moment when we’re completely satisfied that we know it. We have to believe there’s a technique, more to the mix, another way of looking at what we do. And that some out there have reached that place. We all have that someone, or lists of someones. Even if they’re not real, they stand there in their masterful way, curl their index finger and lure you closer to the line.

    And just when you’re almost there, the line moves.




  13. #1613
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    -- & the atmosawa...

    ronnie
     

  14. #1614
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    On Making

    I love this. Itís a board I mocked up in 2007. There was an article these three elements came from. In typical RS reading fashion, I opened to the page and grabbed the important parts of the story. Full disclosure Ė it was a trade show weekend and I got the idea to go to Staples, buy some X-Acto blades, a stainless rule, some foam core, and a can of Spray Mount and make myself a little display for my booth space table. Youíre looking at it now.

    2007 Ė thatís a decade ago. Roughly 35 years at the bench and I was still searching for something else, and not yet but almost ready to finally accept the random nature in bicycle frame making. The idea that I could lure everything into a desired state (my desire, that isÖ) was giving way to Ė well, to just giving up and being satisfied with what came.

    And then there was this text about knitting, and the hand-madeness of it all. And the human touch, quirks, irregularities, peccadilloes, and all were not only accepted, they were often the heralded features of a finished piece. Thatís gold, Jerry! Gold!

    Ten years on and Iím more comfortable, finally comfortable in my own working skin. Each commission comes with a level of anxiety. A level of terror. You just never, ever know what it will be until itís over.



  15. #1615
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    Full confession: I'm a guy, and I've crocheted afghans.

    I taught myself in order to make an afghan for a dear friend. The first one was a "get the feel of it" thing before making the gift. The next one, I jumped off the deep end with a complicated design and me having no clue what the different stitches were.

    Yeah, I can vouch for the "different tension and irregularity", and the mistakes you pray won't be seen. Even at a religious 2hrs/night it took almost 6 months. Those old lady knitters are hardcore, and I respect 'em.

  16. #1616
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    From My Gene Pool

    Galen Preheim (RIP) from Toga Bicycle Company opened a lot of doors for me. Toga, along with Lenny, Howie, and others on the staff, was my first dealer, selling Richard Sachs frames to the public as far back as 1975. There were some seasons that I’d fill forty orders alone for this Manhattan store when they were in Alphabet City. Lenny also helped create the first team and sponsorship program I had, and those were good years all around.

    My alliance with Lenny put me in many conversations I normally wouldn’t know about. One example is a relationship he had with Alitta, a new clothing company in Soho created by Anita Greenberg. Or maybe it was Jacobson. I forget. Someone there had the concept to use the gritty city scene to brand the apparel. Alleyways. Rooftops. The urban landscape as a backdrop, rather than seamless paper, lights, and the typical studio accoutrements.

    I had the good fortune to supply a bicycle to be used as a prop in one of Alitta’s print ads. This is 1985. I’d been in the trade thirteen years. They’d all been about learning, and racing, and selling. It was beyond exciting to tap into something wider than what had been part of my daily routine. This was a campaign that would reach the mainstream. And more eyeballs would land on a Richard Sachs bicycle.




  17. #1617
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    Enhancements

    Another look at what distracts me. These paper cuts were in the trove of RS archives that came home last month, much of which I hadnít seen or touched in many years. Decades, in some cases. During the middle 1990s I got itchy for change and spent as much energy doodling as I did brazing. Kindaí. The RS logo, conceived in 1981 and then attached to the bicycles a bit more than a year later needed something. I was looking for it nights and weekends, and even during some days when I should have been filling orders.

    The stylized marque was varsity team material right out of the gate. Unadulterated, I loved it. When applied to surfaces and over paint colors chosen by the client, the logo had various borders, scales, shadows, and reliefs added to it so that a single version would work with most everything. In 1982 I settled on the black RS trapped in a white triangle with a red and yellow halo around all of it. That version lasted until 1996 or so. Then the doodling began.

    I wanted to deconstruct all of it so that only the logo was applied, and have no artsy devices cluttering it up. These here are some renderings, most variations on the same two or three themes. I couldnít get to where I wanted, but eventually got close by Y2K. Little by little. One element removed at a time.

    Nothing shown here made the light of day. Nor did piles of examples like them. But it was fun being distracted. The further I threw myself into trying to reinvent this aspect of my product, the less productive I became. The interest I took in the look of my bicycles, while there from the start, began to consume me after the first twenty years at the bench had passed. I was making fewer units than I was capable of, yet more satisfied than a maker has a right to be. It took a while, many years in fact, to realize that my life and interests away from the bench can enhance all thatís made when I stand at it.




    .

  18. #1618
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    On The Road

    I did a lot of racing on pavement. My first sanctioned event was in 1972. The Stowe Road Race. Before that, I had a steady diet of time trials in Burlington with GMBC. Every Tuesday weíd do the Cheesefactory Circuit. It was an eight mile loop and the series was my Baptism into riding as fast as I could, while trying to beat others. Doing this in a mass start event was another animal.

    Those were different times. It was harder to figure out what to do in the middle of a bunch of guys each trying to get to the line first. Itís not as simple as training (I donít even remember if we used that word) and then unleashing the fury. Racing is a mind game, made even more so when you consider team tactics. Even in the most local of races, there are folks combining with each other to capitalize on options. Thereís no playbook that spells out how to deal with this, or fine tune your intuition so that your move trumps all others.

    When you reach a level when fitness and savvy are in the toolbox, itís wonderful. A gift. This, assuming you have the competitive gene to begin with. Iíve experienced very little that feels as good as having the race I wanted rather than the one left for me by others.

    My last season on the road was 2001. This image is from the Killington Stage Race and Iím climbing Brandon Gap. I was having a good day. A good day.



  19. #1619
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    On Sunset Boulevard

    A Nervex Ref 32 bottom lug. From arguably the most elegant set of lugs ever made. I brazed up about a thousand of these until the middle 1980s until I finally succumbed to the IC era.

    These parts were made in France up until the end of the Nixon era, and Iíd buy parcels of 200 at a time from my source in Paris. They were manufactured on demand. Could be ordered with or without a window. Could be ordered with or without extensions welded on. Each of the three lugs was offered in four specific angles.

    The 32s took a lot of labor to get from the as-delivered state to one as beautiful as shown here. For me, it was a good hour per side to remove the perimeter metal that didnít fit my vision for the finished piece. Then thinning them down was almost as much time. But it was worth it. Just look at this picture. Study it.

    No other lugs fit as well, were as versatile, or held heat better. They were perfect. And I donít say that often about many things.

    I spent a lot of time with the Nervex Ref 32 lugs and believe they are the Norma Desmond of our supply chain. ďI am big. Itís the pictures that got small.Ē




  20. #1620
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    Default Re: Richard Sachs Cycles

    This thread is my favourite thing on the internet.
     

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