Richards Sachs-RGM Watches rider Dan Timmerman stood out from the field at last month's US cyclo-cross national championship not only because of his mountain man beard but also due to his 'old-school' rig, built around a classically proportioned lugged steel frame and matching fork.
Naysayers would be quick to point out its heft – it's a full kilogram heavier than other elite-level machines at 8.72kg (19.22lb) complete – but Timmerman let his legs do the talking in 2009 with six UCI wins, 10 UCI podium appearances, the VERGE series overall win and an impressive eighth-place finish in the men's elite race at the nationals to cap off for his best season yet.
"To a certain extent, obsessing over weight makes more of a difference in a rider's head than it does on the course," Timmerman says. "Sure, it makes a difference to some degree, particularly rotating weight, but the engineering, experience and wisdom that goes into the frame geometry, tube shapes and the overall ride quality make so much more of a difference that it can easily make a pound or more completely negligible."
Sachs builds the team's bikes with a special lighter-weight version of his usual Columbus PegoRichie tubeset. The "way shorter" butts shave grams but also require more careful tubing selection, and the niobium-enhanced alloy is highly resistant to impact damage – a key attribute in a sport that regularly sees extensive travel.
In place of TIG welding and radical shaping, Sachs instead prefers to use his own brazed short-point lugs and round profiles that he's continuously developed since first building frames in 1972. And to prove that Sachs knows what is required of his racers, he's no slouch on the bike himself, finishing the season ranked fifth nationally overall in the men's master category.
Claimed frame weights are better than most would guess at an estimated 1.5-1.6kg (3.4-3.5lb) for team bikes, putting them roughly on par with most modern aluminium chassis. According to Sachs, the matching steel fork adds another 620g – 100g more than top carbon models but resulting in a balanced performance and feel front to rear.
Timmerman adds that the steel frame's distinct ride quality suits his light-footed riding style. "Back in the day on the mountain bike I was always described as a finesse rider, getting by more with technical skills rather than fitness," he says.
"I gained a lot of fitness since then, but I still enjoy a more technical mountain bike-ish type of course with lots of turns and bike driving. The RS machine carves turns and dampens bumpy lines, and is smooth as butter with a nice balanced geometry. It's been a very predictable, fast machine."
Sachs famously prides the squad on its strict adherence to sponsor-appropriate equipment with deviations from the designated team spec allowed only in very extreme circumstances and after prior discussion.
Not surprisingly then, Timmerman's bike closely follows this directive with a complete SRAM Force group, aluminium cockpit components from Oval Concepts, shallow-profile carbon tubulars from Cole Products, Challenge Grifo tyres, CrankBrothers Candy SL pedals, Cane Creek SCX-5 cantilevers and a Selle San Marco Aspide saddle covered in red Lorica just for Sachs.
Pundits will quickly point out that none of the aforementioned gear is generally considered ultra-elite gear and a few key upgrades would net major weight savings. But Sachs insists the benefits of maintaining high-quality and long-term relationships with his sponsors ultimately yields more benefits to the team and its riders. To his credit, the team boasts nine national championships to date since 1997.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Richard Sachs cyclo-cross, team-only short-butt Columbus PegoRichie tubing
- Fork: Richard Sachs cyclo-cross, team-only short-butt Columbus PegoRichie tubing
- Headset: Cane Creek 100
- Stem: Oval Concepts R700 RBT 26.0, 10cm x -6°
- Handlebars: Oval Concepts R701 Classic 26.0, 42cm
- Tape/grips: Fizik bar:tape
- Front brake: Cane Creek SCX-5 w/ Kool-Stop Thinline red compound pads
- Rear brake: Cane Creek SCX-5 w/ Kool-Stop Thinline red compound pads
- Brake levers: SRAM Force DoubleTap
- Front derailleur: SRAM Force
- Rear derailleur: SRAM Force
- Shift levers: SRAM Force DoubleTap
- Cassette: SRAM PG-1070, 11-26T
- Chain: Wippermann 10s1
- Crankset: SRAM Force compact GXP, 172.5mm, 36/44T
- Bottom bracket: SRAM Force GXP
- Pedals: CrankBrothers Candy SL
- Wheelset: Cole Products T25 Lite Carbon
- Front tyre: Challenge Grifo 32 tubular
- Rear tyre: Challenge Grifo 32 tubular
- Saddle: Selle San Marco Aspide Richard Sachs
- Seatpost: Oval Concepts R700 TBT
- Rider's height: 1.78m (5ft 10in)
- Rider's weight: 63.5kg (140lb)
- Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 722mm
- Saddle setback: 50mm
- Seat tube length, c-t: 545mm
- Seat tube length, c-c: 530mm
- Tip of saddle nose to centre of bars (next to stem): 513mm
- Saddle-to-bar drop (vertical): 60mm
- Head tube length: 135mm
- Top tube length: 550mm
- Total bicycle weight: 8.72kg (19.22lb)