Aluminium and carbon fibre machines may dominate the cyclo-cross racing landscape, but legendary framebuilder Richard Sachs has more than held his own with steel, not only for himself but also his long-running Richard Sachs/Connecticut Yankee Bicycle Club team.
Sachs has a multi-year waiting list for his machines so he doesn’t exactly need the extra exposure that comes from sponsorship. Nevertheless, he has supported teams every year since the early 1980s. ‘Cross entered into the mix by the late 1990s and the team is now exclusively dedicated to this burgeoning segment of cycle sport.
Sachs’ own preferences have something to do with this single-minded purpose. When asked to describe his passion for cyclo-cross, he told us: “Sure, give me the microphone and about five months of your website’s time!”
Sachs personally builds each and every Signature Cyclocross model from start to finish with proprietary PegoRichie tubing. The butted niobium alloy tubeset is based on Columbus’ premium Spirit line and was designed in collaboration with fellow framebuilding legend Dario Pegoretti.
Sachs’ own short-point ‘Richie-issimo’ investment cast lugs are used throughout – including the recently revamped steel fork crown – and the entire package is wrapped in his signature red, white and yellow livery by esteemed painter Joe Bell. Those lucky enough to be on the team get not just one but two of these ferrous masterpieces, fully ‘made to measure’ – and they don’t have to wait years to get them.
According to Sachs, the PegoRichie tubeset “allows a framebuilder who chooses lugged construction to make a bicycle in the 21st century which has the lightest weight, and the strength and emotional characteristics that steel is known for. The ‘cross frames are in the 3.25lb [1.47kg] range and they aren’t one-season-only items. There are no cons.”
To hammer home the point that Sachs doesn’t intend his Signature Cyclocross machines to just hang on a wall or meander around the block, there are no water bottle bosses or fender mounts – though we’d imagine either would be available as an option if so desired.
The bottom bracket lug includes a built-in chainstay bridge integrated right into the casting for a little extra rigidity: the bottom bracket lug includes a built-in chainstay bridge integrated right into the casting for a little extra rigidity
Frame weight is competitive – but ferrous fork adds heft
In spite of the competitive frame weight, the complete race bike that we sampled – which belonged to team member Alie Kenzer – posted a somewhat less impressive 8.95kg (19.73lb) showing at the scale, though we suspect that had much to do with the modest build kit and matching Sachs fork. Although steel frames can compete reasonably well with non-ferrous materials weight-wise, forks are usually a different story and indeed, Sachs admits that his weigh in the neighbourhood of 600g.
Kenzer’s machine is fitted with a nearly complete SRAM Rival group, with the only exceptions being a Wippermann Connex stainless steel chain and a single-ring setup on her Rival OCT crankset, sandwiched between a Salsa Crossing Guard and N-Gear Jump Stop – other team bikes are set up with doubles.
Rolling duties are handled by Challenge Grifo 32 tubulars and aluminium-rimmed Cane Creek Volos wheels, and Cane Creek also supplies the Solos headset and workhorse SCX-5 cantilever brakes. The Oval Concepts logo graces the light-yet-robust aluminium seatpost, stem and traditional-bend handlebar, and the rest of the bike is rounded out by mud-loving Crankbrothers Candy Ti pedals and a Selle San Marco Aspide saddle covered in red Lorica just for Sachs.
The wippermann connex stainless steel chain is held on with a salsa crossing guard and n-gear jump stop: the wippermann connex stainless steel chain is held on with a salsa crossing guard and n-gear jump stop
Sachs’ single-minded dedication to steel could be viewed as anachronistic, but continuing advancements in alloys coupled with long-refined construction techniques have mostly kept it in-the-mix technology-wise and the marginal extra weight (Kenzer’s frameset could have been built up much lighter) doesn’t appear to have held back its users. Sachs-sponsored riders have won nine US national championships since 1997, including an especially notable one by a certain Jonathan Page in 2002. Who said steel was dead?
Frame: Richard Sachs Signature Cyclocross, Columbus PegoRichie steel tubeset
Fork: Richard Sachs Signature Cyclocross, Columbus PegoRichie steel tubeset