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The Soul of a Bicycle (Richard Sachs Content)

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The Soul of a Bicycle (Richard Sachs Content)

Old 02-22-24, 10:18 PM
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The Soul of a Bicycle (Richard Sachs Content)

My most recent build was an unexpected, but welcome, foray into how we connect with our vintage bicycles and their previous lives. These are the things that give a bicycle its soul. Not just the machine, but its use. In December, I acquired a Richard Sachs frame from "Doc" Mertes here on the Bike Forums site. The moment I saw the frame in the listing, I had a very strong attachment to it. Doc had coordinated with Richard Sachs on decals and worked with Jack Trumbull at Franklin Frames to do a stunning restoration of the frame in the iconic Richard Sachs colors. A real beauty and just my size!

It arrived carefully packed in late December. Even more beautiful in person. I had some exchanges with Doc who explained that he acquired the frame in Pasadena, California three years earlier. It had been painted blue by CycleArt at some unknown point in the past. Paint and the frame were pretty tatty but had good bones, as the saying goes. Franklin Frames had to do some chiropractic work on the alignment and a second set of matching bottle bosses was added before the paint job was applied. Top shelf work. After the restoration, it was built up with Dura Ace parts and enjoyed for a couple of years until Doc got off the list to have a custom Richard Sachs made for himself. This is what led to the sale of this frame. Doc was unable to add anything more to the history.

I wanted to know more, so I reached out to Richard with the serial number. He was kind enough to send me his ledger notes showing that the bike was part of a larger order of team bikes for the Tempo team (Full team name: the Toga Tempo Thunder-Bolts!) associated with the Toga bike shop in New York City. It was specifically ordered in 1978 for a racer by the name of Eric Van Dusen. Richard also sent me a photo of some of the team members and the shop owner, who I later learned was Gaylen "Lenny" Preheim. The bike was originally painted green and yellow which explained the green overspray on the steerer tube. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY near Prospect Park and have vivid memories of seeing criterium races in the park in the 70s and early 80s. I'm certain I saw this team racing. I went to high school in Manhattan and remember visiting the Toga shop with one of my high school classmates in the early 80s when it was located on the west side of Central Park. (Vividly remember drooling over bikes I couldn't afford.) The history of this bike brought back a flood of memories for me.

After a little internet sleuthing, I found a credit union executive in the Rochester, NY area who listed his bike racing background as part of his personal history. Richard had met with Eric when the bike was built and he confirmed that it was the same person. I reached out to Eric and sent him a note with a picture of the restored bike. Eric very graciously responded and sent me some history of his racing career and how the bike came to be. His response was very eloquent and I share it with his permission:

"Hi Alberto,

Thanks so much for taking the time to find me and share what a wonderful thing you did with my old Richard Sachs! What a beautiful restoration. So well done. Gorgeous!!

The bike was built for me in 1978. I was 18 at the time, a nationally ranked rider and the Junior New York State Cycling Champion. Before building the frame, Richard met with me and we talked about my philosophy of racing. About two weeks later we met again and Richard shared how he translated my philosophy into a geometry. I inspected the frame, and with my acceptance, Richard painted it Toga team colors and shipped the frame to the Toga bike shop on Manhattan. There the bike was fitted with all Campagnolo and Cinelli components.

On the bike you so beautifully restored, I took a bronze medal at the 1978 NYS time trial championships. The bike took the gold in the 1979 NYS time trial championships and a bronze in the NYS championship road race. That year it also took two silver medals at the Empire Games (4 man team time trial and road points race). In 1979 the bike was part of a 4 man team that set an unofficial national record in Orlando FL in the 4 man 24 hour team time trial (went 553.5 miles in 24 hours/old record was 498 miles). The bike also represented New York State at the 1978 and 1979 National Championships.

In addition to these titles, the bike won/podiumed or placed in the top 10 in other single day and multiday stage races.

When I rode for Toga I split my time between Penn Yan, NY, where I was born and raised, and NYC, when I wasn't on the road traveling to races, which was most weekends (throughout the US and Canada). Most of my training time was in Penn Yan, however, because it was in the heart of the Finger Lakes and the very hilly terrain was better training then downstate. That bike knows almost every road in the Finger Lakes region. It absolutely knows every major climb. I trained in those days upwards of 1,000 plus miles a week. I had several training bikes so not all of those were on the Richard Sachs, but many of them were.

Your bike and I suffered together in some brutal campaigns. We raced against different Olympic/national teams and national champions. We were both young with something to prove and believed we could achieve anything only until we found out we couldn't - we never argued for our limitations. Those needed to find us before we would accept them. That bike was only limited by me. It always rose to the occasion and did its part. I learned a lot about life and myself bent over its bars.

I thought about your bike many times over the years. So glad it has found an owner that knows its worth. Would love to know how you came to acquire it.

Thank you again for making the effort to find me and let me tell the story of the special and lettered bike you now own.

Welcome staying in touch.


I shared with Eric my purchase and how Doc came to acquire it. In a later email, Eric confirmed that he rode the bike for three years but returned it to Lenny, the team owner, after he moved on from that team. Eric has no idea what happened to the bike after 1981, so there is a big gap in its story. The part that remains is very important to me and makes the bike more special. Below is a shot of Eric with the bike after the NYS championship.

Since I was in Brooklyn, I was more of an R&A Cycles guy, but I was aware of how big a team Toga was and the impact of that bike shop. Riders like Nelson Vails and later, George Hincapie, spent time on that team. Bike builder Jamie Swan has a great series of scrapbook entries (click on page 4) that reference the Toga Team, Lenny, and Nelson Vails.

There is also a short documentary on Nelson Vails
that touches on his time on the team and has a few shots of Nelson on a Richards Sachs bike. Towards the end, Nelson walks out past a Richard Sachs House jersey. In 2019, Rapha sold an homage to the Toga team kit as a Nelson Vails tribute.

The bike is now mine so I decided to cut my own path on build choices. Though it was built in 1978, the second set of bottle bosses gave it an early 80s vibe so I decided to build it with an early generation Suntour Superbe gruppo. Old school Brooks Professional saddle. Just because my butt likes them. Really like the ride of the Rene Herse Cayuse Pass tires. I am also having a very positive experience with TPU inner tubes. I found a company that makes them with traditional Presta metal valves so that wheel builds look traditional. With the Herse tires, they feel close to the ride of a good tubular. I have ridden the bike on multiple occasions and I am super happy with the overall ride quality.

I shared this story with the Classic Rendezvous group but I bought the frame and many of the build parts here on Bike Forums so I thought I would share it here, too.

The listing that led to this journey.

Richard’s build ledger.

Team photo showing what the bike originally looked like.

Eric after the NYS Championship win on our bike.

Nelson Vails on his Richard Sachs.

Me with the bike on last Saturday’s Camellia City VLCC ride.

My build of the bike.

Last edited by Sactown_Albert; 02-23-24 at 01:30 AM. Reason: Formatting
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Old 02-22-24, 10:42 PM
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Memories! I raced briefly out of Boston, '76-'78 for NEBC. Biggish club around Boston for the day but only a few strong riders. Best TTer was Peter Mooney who was turning his focus to building bikes and starting up Belmont Wheelworks while I was racing. Some of the names you list are familiar but I don't recall seeing any of them race (though they might have been at Fitchburg, a race I watched).

Edit: and yes, we did grovel at the Richard Sachs bikes when they showed up!
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Old 02-23-24, 01:21 AM
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Wonderful read!
Ps. Just caught this same content on the Google CR list, but this format is more intuitive to use.
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Old 02-23-24, 06:04 AM
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That bike looks awesome Alberto!
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Old 02-23-24, 07:07 AM
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Great bike, great stories -- very nice to have that history and to be able to connect with the original owner (and thanks for sharing it here!) -- now you'll have to keep digging to see if you can fill in the gaps!
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Old 02-23-24, 07:15 AM
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Wow, thanks for sharing. A wonderful story and bike.
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Old 02-23-24, 07:42 AM
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Well done, sir! Very nice write-up on an amazing bike.
We don't actually 'own' these moments in time; we are only their temporary caretakers.
I clearly remember meeting with the then-owner around midnight in a hotel lobby, seeing the frameset and thinking "This has got to be rescued".
I hope you continue to cherish and enjoy as much as I did while it was in my possession.
Hard at work in the Secret Underground Laboratory...
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Old 02-23-24, 07:45 AM
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Gorgeous bike, but your gearing is too tall for me.
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Old 02-23-24, 09:10 AM
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Fantastic write up! Thanks for sharing. For me personally it’s a bit of an education as well since I’m newish to C&V bikes.
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Old 02-23-24, 10:18 AM
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I don’t disagree

Originally Posted by John E
Gorgeous bike, but your gearing is too tall for me.
When I’m riding in the flats of the Sacramento area, it’s all I need. I have a first generation Suntour Cyclone RD and a 14-32 freewheel waiting in the wings if I venture into the foothills with it.
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Old 02-23-24, 08:23 PM
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Wow! How rare and amazing is it that you can trace a bike's history to that extent and find out you have a geographic connection to it in your youth! Thanks for posting the story!
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Old 02-23-24, 09:40 PM
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I worked at Toga Bike Shop in those days. Lenny was my boss. Nelson came into the bike shop a lot, after his training rides. I fixed his bike once or twice. He made fun of my haircut. Richard Sachs would call us on the phone, and I would route the call to Lenny, feeling as if I had just spoken to a celebrity.
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Old 02-23-24, 10:49 PM
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Great story and beautiful bike, Albert! Thanks for sharing!
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