Builder-on-Builder (BoB) interviews are designed for builders to question other builders on the topics they find most relevant and interesting.
Richard Sachs really needs no introduction. You probably not only know him by name but you’re also likely to have an established opinion about the polarizing builder. In his work, he challenges the cycling industry at large as well as the small builder community by eschewing new trends in style, product, and process. He builds a very specific product using a process that he has honed and mastered (though, he would never claim that) over decades. It’s this obsessive focus and relentless nature that puts him on the highest pedestal for his superfans and allows more experimental and conceptual builders and their fans to dismiss him.
But Richard is a force on many fronts. While many builders (or makers, as he would call them) stick to building, Richard has been active in efforts to grow and improve the community through helping to develop shows like NAHBS, professional entities such as The Framebuilders’ Collective, and forums such as Velocipede Salon. Aside from building frames, Richard is probably most known through his writing. While many have found his opinion pieces difficult to swallow (especially new builders), they come from a constructive, if sometimes brutally honest, place. Few people have put in as much time, thought, and effort into developing and fortifying the craft and community of frame building.
Questions by Erik Noren of Peacock Groove, Introduction by Anna Schwinn
ERIK: So, what does e-RICHIE stand for, mean?
RICHARD: In 2000 after I had been online for nearly a year, I adapted the screen name, e-RICHIE. I had noticed how some commercial brands used the e thing. Charles Schwab Corporation had e-Schwab, as an example. And then there was E-TRADE, and others like this. Mine was a descendant of these ideas.
ERIK: Looking back on your career, is there anything that you did that you wish you could just go back and tell yourself DON’T DO THAT? If so, what?
RICHARD: I have no regrets and wouldn’t unring any of the bells along the way. I would do one thing, and only one thing differently – and I say this with the benefit of an imaginary rear view mirror. I’d only take one order at a time. When it was complete, the next person to commit would receive the next bicycle. The list thing, the queue thing, being the steward for deposits and the saver of information until that fateful day that the commission rises to the top of the pile – I believe it’s a flawed system for people who do this type of work. Too many changes in the interim. Too many emails that have to be culled and archived. People’s lives have their own ebbs and flows that force them to rethink their earlier commitments. All of this, plus life itself, has delivered me to a point that I think that we’re better off living near the edge, and believing that the orders will come assuming we do good work. Reserving seats at the table months and years forward can be a recipe for peril. Mind you, it took me 40+ years to come to this realization, and I share it with every frame maker I mentor. Regardless, many see the waiting period as some badge of honor, a way to keep score if you will. I don’t. And I’m relentless in letting others know this.
ERIK: If someone asked you to put disc mounts on a road bike of yours, would you?
ERIK: Have you ever had to “fire” a customer, or have you ever had a nightmare customer?
RICHARD: No, I have never “fired” a customer. Over the decades, several have hit the wall (lost a job, or needed money for a tuition payment, and one even got lost in the email forest we inhabit and never acknowledged my requests for details so I could begin the assembly) – at times like these the only solution is to cut bait and send back the deposit and paperwork.
ERIK: I read somewhere not long ago that you were considering going back to written, typed, correspondence? Are you serious or just dreaming?
RICHARD: That’s a work in progress. All orders HAVE to be generated with email, as do any edits that a client sends. It’s my default method for checks and balances. The thank you notes, and related correspondence – these are longhand. No typing here though.
ERIK: Have you ever finished a frame, and just decided it just wasn’t good enough to get out there in the real world, and not let it out?
RICHARD: Of course. If I think back to when I began, the number is in the hundreds, that is the false starts and subsequent hack-sawed units that never became frames for sale.
ERIK: What are the new trends that really bother you? Or do you not let them bother you?
RICHARD: My corner of the industry was once the lab, the creative mind, the design collective for all to follow. Specifically, I’m referring to the niche being the highest level of the nutritional food pyramid that feeds or informs all bicycles sold at all prices. I’m of the mind that the sport is the proving ground for everything else related to bicycles, even what works well in general use, touring and commuting included. That ship sailed a LONG time ago. I’ve seen a wholesale switch away from this to what we have now. It’s a system in which the mass-makers, the bigger brands (Trek, Cannonade, Giant, and that ilk) create the tune and then independent (and especially newer and under experienced) frame makers dance to it.
For the record, it’s an observation, not a criticism. The future happens. And what we have is the result. None of it bothers me. I have mine. I hope those in the fray now get theirs.
ERIK: If you were forced to build either a full suspension mtb or a fatbike, which would you choose? And why?
RICHARD: No. And I don’t believe in being forced.
ERIK: What do you enjoy away from the bench, away from the bike?
RICHARD: I do my best to appreciate the life I have, my past experiences, and those around me who give me love and friendship.
ERIK: Name that ride, that ride on your first built frame and fork, that you built, that you knew that you nailed it. Do you remember that ride, that bike, that moment? What was that like?
RICHARD: When I nail it. it’ll be the last one. Because after that, there’s no reason for me to repeat it.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment of the Bikerumor.com BoB Interview series where Richard Sachs questions Burnsey from Oddity.