Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by Peter Flax
October 15, 2016
Before the young bike racer piloted it to a national championship, the bicycle was just another frame in a jig in the master builder’s Connecticut workshop.
Before the racer flew it to Europe to get his butt kicked during his first Superprestige cyclocross events, before the master builder became a legend and royalty of an ascendant hand-built movement, the bike was merely a bunch of Reynolds tubing, finely constructed lugs and lustrous red paint — all waiting to be cut, brazed, filed, applied.
And long before it was sold in hard times and gone forever, and even longer before it became a symbol of regret and then of redemption, the red bike was just an index card with measurements scribbled on it: 799, 6.5, 427, 604, 16.
Richard Sachs built two cyclocross bikes for Adam Myerson in the summer of 1997. It was their second year working together. Myerson rode the bikes to win the collegiate cyclocross nationals, held in Colorado that winter. Over the next 20 years, he would grind out an accomplished career as a domestic pro — especially successful in criteriums and cyclocross.
But after that 1997 season, Myerson thought he was done racing, and the bikes were part of his income. He sold one of them almost immediately. “I needed the money,” said Myerson. “And knew I wasn’t going to be able to ride it.”
He hung the other bike in his basement — “It was nostalgia, I guess.”
He kept the bike for three or four years without riding it once. At some point the gravity of student loans and other debt outweighed his emotional attachment. “I just started thinking I should let someone else ride this bike,” he said. “I thought maybe it’s getting less valuable — you know, bike technology was changing; it had a one-inch steerer and a quill stem. Maybe I’m being too sentimental hanging on to this bike. It’s not practical and I could get good money for it. I could use the money.”
So one day he got rid of the bike — and now, nearly 20 years later, Myerson admits he doesn’t remember who he sold either of the bikes to, or how much he got for them. “Honestly, I can’t even visualize selling them,” he said. “It’s weird.”
One those red Sachs bikes has a life story that can summarized in 50 words: It was sold to guy who rode it for a while and then sold it to another guy who got cancer and died so it went back to the first guy, but then the frame cracked and wound up back with Sachs and that was the end of that bike.
From Myerson’s vantage point, the other bike just disappeared into the ether. Which was no big deal at first. But as the years passed, he lamented the decision. Sometimes he bemoaned the decision over beers with friends. Sometimes he lay awake in bed thinking about the bike he sold half a lifetime ago and how it was gone forever.
But someone tweeted at Myerson in May, and suddenly the bike was back.
The bike, as it appeared in its May 2016 eBay listing.
Myerson recalls the tweet that put this all in motion. “Someone tweeted at me and said, ‘hey dude take a look, it’s your bike,’” he said. “And I clicked on the link and thought, oh cool, it looks just like the one I had. And then I zoomed in on the pictures and I saw my name on the top tube. Right there, it was the one that got away.”
He was surprised with all the emotions that came. “I was choking back tears and freaked out,” said Myerson. “I was overwhelmed — like I cannot believe I’m going to get this opportunity. But I also felt panic, worried that someone with unlimited funds who really just wanted a Richard Sachs bike was going to outbid me.”
Myerson immediately messaged the seller, through eBay. “I said, ‘hey, my name is Adam Myerson. That bike you’re selling was built for me. I would really love it if you’d consider pulling the auction down and selling it directly to me. Really, you can trust me.”
The bike already had a bid but the reserve hadn’t been met yet — “so it was totally legit for him to pull it down,” said Myerson. “And we messaged back and forth, and after a few hours, by the end of the night, he had pulled the auction down. And we got on the phone about it the next day. I was really sensitive to the fact that this guy had a bike that had value and it wasn’t fair of me to be sentimental about it.”
They worked out a deal. “I did have some money squirreled away, but they’re not unlimited funds,” said Myerson. “If he had asked me for $5,000, I’m not sure I could have done that. I’m not going to spend five grand for nostalgia. Luckily, he also wanted me to end up with the bike.”
Myerson said he got to talking with the seller and the story just kept getting better. “The guy said he got it from a wealthy friend, a rich guy from Dubai or something,” he said. “He had thought the bike was a gift but it wasn’t. So some of this money has to go back to the fourth person. You should talk to this guy.”
The bike in November 2014, when it belonged to Ryan Kerry. “I didn’t actually pull the tube with her,” he said, “but it’s funny to imagine this world-class cyclocross bike, put out to pasture.”
That’s why I got in touch with the seller, a guy named Ryan Kerry. He lives in eastern Pennsylvania and he took possession of the bike one winter night in 2013. The doorbell rang and his kids shouted that a delivery person was there with a bike box. “I was eating dinner and I opened my mouth and everything fell out,” Ryan recalls. “I knew what it was right away.”
He knew because he had helped a friend buy the bike four years earlier. Ryan knows bikes. He has a bunch of them; his favorite right now is a Van Dessel. Anyway, back in 2009, he was advising a former coworker named Darius Hatami, who lived in Atlanta and wanted a bike. They had been emailing back and forth about bikes on eBay when Darius sent him a listing for a Sachs ’cross bike. “What did I think?” said Ryan. “I thought it was way overkill. But I also thought it was a cool bike.”
After Darius bought it, he pretty much forgot about the bike until the summer of 2013. That’s when Ryan said Darius got in touch and asked him if he wanted the Sachs. Sure, he said.
The doorbell rang six months later. Ryan said a wheel and numerous components were missing, so he did his best to fix it up. He threw some Paul brakes on the bike and installed a new Chris King headset. He rode the bike for about two and a half years. He recalls one ride on which he was cruising near French Creek State Park and a very fast rider did a double take as he flew by and then rolled back to talk. “The guy was smiling,” Ryan said. “He said it was the first time he’d ever passed Adam Myerson.”
Maybe a year and a half after he got the bike, Ryan ran into Darius at a New York City bar on Saint Patrick’s Day. After a few minutes of small talk, Ryan said Darius brought up the bike. “He asked me when I was going to give him some money for the bike,” Ryan said with a laugh. “Darius doesn’t need the money. The man drives a Maserati.”
That’s when Ryan decided he needed to eBay the Sachs — to pay back Darius for a bike that he had thought was a gift. Ryan took his time listing the bike. “I took at least ten different ‘last Sachs’ rides,” Ryan said. “I kept thinking, oh boy I’m going to cry when this is gone.”
Ryan finally listed the Sachs and had a serious offer before Myerson got in touch. He had to have an uncomfortable conversation with that bidder before he took down the auction and made arrangement to sell the bike to its original owner. He said he and Myerson came to terms quickly; the $2,500 price is certainly lower than what the bike would fetch in an open auction.
In the end, Ryan didn’t feel so sad shipping the bike to Myerson. He understands the emotional value of a bike with a past. “I have a bike like that,” Ryan said. “I have a Trek 1400 that I bought in 1987 to go cross-country. My wife thinks I’m crazy but I would never part with it. The history I have with that bike means something, even if I’m not sure what it is.”
The May 2016 eBay listing.
Richard Sachs remembers meeting Myerson for the first time “like it was yesterday.”
Back then, Myerson was an up-and-coming junior and Sachs was still racing elite events in New England. “It was a small fishbowl and he had a Mohawk and multiple piercings,” Sachs said. “I mean he had more holes than a whiffle ball. I used to call him Jeff Pierced behind his back.”
Sachs began building bicycle frames around 1972. He has always worked alone. Sachs began his trade as an apprentice in England, and moved back to Connecticut in 1975, a time in which cyclocross and hand-built bicycles were far from the cultural phenomena they are today.
“Adam came up to me in 1995 — we were down at the Tour of Somerville — and asked if I was interested in a one-on-one relationship,” said Sachs. “It was something I couldn’t say no to. I knew it would pay dividends, because he’s such a good guy, but I didn’t know how big it would be for either of us.”
The first year of collaboration was a success for both the rider and the builder. “I wrote him a letter thanking him for being the absolute best example of a sponsored rider that I ever met,” said Sachs. “Yeah, people first paid attention to him because of how he looked, but he always was available to speak to people about the brand, to give interviews, and he got results. He was always in the money or in the news story.”
Sachs said his process for building road bikes was “refined” at this point, but building cyclocross bikes was a different story. “That era was still kind of the wild west of ’cross-bike assembly because there were no dedicated ’cross parts and no real blueprint for design,” he said, recalling how he integrated frame-building parts from Rivendale and Waterford into his cyclocross bikes back then. “When you are making these things, you don’t want to obsess too much about the fine details, the ornamentation or the elegance, you just want to get the thing so the rider can sit on it and steer it.”
The wait list for a custom Sachs frame is presently seven or eight years.
Framebuilder Richard Sachs, blending style with substance.
The eBay bidder who lost out on the bike is a guy named Patrick Bolan who lives near Cincinnati. He has a memorable handle on eBay that references one his favorite old bikes, a LeMond Poprad he had in the early 2000s. “I was kind of a Lance [Armstrong] apologizer for a long time,” said Ryan. “But it was a great steel everyman bike.”
Patrick already has a Sachs — he bought it from one of the bike builder’s old neighbors. “It’s a long story,” said Patrick. “My mother in law lives up that way.” The bike is red with cream panels, full Campy Record gruppo.
A self-proclaimed “noncompetitive” ’cross racer, Patrick would like to get another Sachs. So he checks eBay pretty often. How often, Patrick is asked. There’s an awkward pause on the line. “I guess it’s fair to say I check every day,” he said. “I mean I only see two or three Sachs bikes a year.”
When he saw Ryan’s listing he got pretty excited. The first thing he did was pull up Myerson’s Wikipedia page — Patrick wanted to know how tall the racer was. “When I saw that he’s 5-foot-10, I thought the size would work.”
Patrick was not happy when the auction was pulled. He said he reached out to Ryan and tried to “appeal to his wallet and tell him how much he’d ride it.” But it was not to be.
“I was kind of ticked that I didn’t get it, but if someone should get it obviously it was the right guy. I was a little heartbroken, but nothing major.”
Patrick is still looking for another Sachs on eBay.
More from the May 2016 eBay listing.
Sachs was already a well-respected master builder in 1997, but the universe was smaller back then. “It wasn’t like it is now,” said Myerson. “Around that time Richard was putting out his 25th anniversary bike and I remember he built 25 of them and he sold them for $2,500 apiece. And that was huge at the time. People were amazed he could get $2,500 for a frameset.”
Myerson raced Sachs’ bike in Europe. “At that time, Switzerland was where all the action was — not Belgium,” he said. “I did some Superprestiges — and I got my head kicked in.”
In 1997, he focused on domestic racing. “I was finishing my last semester of school, I was graduating, and at the time I looked at it as my last year as an amateur really trying to go for it, to go pro. And that fall I won collegiate nationals and basically quit bike racing.”
There was no question at the time about selling the bikes. “The bike is part of how you get paid sometimes,” said Myerson. “It’s like a bonus. You get the bike and there isn’t necessarily something sentimental about it. That bike is in lieu of cash. So selling that bike at the end of the season is part of how you make your living. And there’s nothing shady about that.”
Sachs concurs. “There was no element of shock that when the season ended he somehow sold them,” said the builder, noting that eBay hadn’t even gone public at that point. “We agreed up front that he would get to keep or sell the frames.”
But still, Myerson wound up feeling like the sale was a big mistake.
“That’s just one of those youthful decisions that you make that you wish you could go back and fix,” Myerson said. “What can I say? I needed the money, I was in a jam, I was at the point in which it was hard to see through to the future where the bike would be worth more to me than the money was at that moment. But of course, as anyone my age or older will be able to say, you have lots of those moments and you look back on them — maybe understandably, but regretfully.”
Ryan put me in touch with Darius, who didn’t exactly seem eager to talk. We traded emails for about a month, but I wasn’t able to pin him down for a short phone interview. I did some background searching and saw that the technology entrepreneur touts specialties in “collective intelligence” and “truth modeling” on his LinkedIn page.
Finally, he agreed to answer my questions via email. His answers were brief — ostensibly friendly, but I perceived a hint of edge. Darius recalls how he bought the bike online in 2009. “I knew it was a Richard Sachs CX bike which made it special enough,” he said. “Since I’m blessed with a larger upper body than legs I needed something that could withstand punishment and wouldn’t flex much under duress.”
Darius has happy memories of tooling around New York City’s Lower East Side and Atlanta neighborhoods — splitting his time between his Sachs ’cross bike and a single-speed he built up. “Don’t condemn me,” he writes. “It was my hipster years.”
I asked Darius if he did, in fact, drive a Maserati, but didn’t get a straight answer. “B’gosh, and here I try to be a man of the people,” he answers. “Drive is a strong term, I average less than 1K miles a year for as long as I remember.”
Still, he referenced a different Italian sports car manufacturer when I asked why he shipped the bike to Ryan. “It was like having a classic Ferrari kept in a garage by a codger,” Darius said. “A bike like that deserves to be ridden hard by someone who always appreciates it.”
Possibly I was imagining that he was not enjoying my questions? I asked him to tell me a bit about his work. “I am a digital entrepreneur of sorts,” he replied. “My new endeavor involves rating the truth and accuracy of online content and persons… including journalists.”
My final question was simple: Where did you get the bike? Darius said he’d done some research and he forwarded me a link. It was a profile page on a web site called ridewithgps.com for a guy named John Zung. His profile archived a grand total of three rides, all of them long loops in northern New Jersey near the Delaware Water Gap.
That’s what I had to go on: A first name, a last name, and three rides in Jersey.
Sachs is at once bemused and touched by the story of this bike coming back to its intended user.
“I used to be a clinger but I’ve finally reconciled the idea that my memory is enough – I don’t need to keep everything,” said the builder. “And I’ve never had anything that meant something to me that I got a second time, so I don’t know exactly what [Myerson] is going through. But I do understand the attachment he feels.
He continued. “This is perhaps what happens to you when you leave the sport and have a body of work behind you, perhaps you are a true amateur — he’s a father now, he’s a homeowner. So now maybe that emotional baggage that he feels with this bike is part of a bigger lifestyle change that he’s gone through.”
Sachs paused. “At the end of the day the bike itself is not any better or worse because it was Adam’s or because I made it for him,” he said. “But I think whole story of the bike coming home puts a bit of a humanity on the whole thing.”
Does he imagine Myerson riding the bike? “No, I don’t think he’s going to start using this with any regularity,” said Sachs. “It’s more of an emotional thing. But an emotional thing can be a pretty big thing.”
John Zung’s fascination with Richard Sachs originated about five years earlier when he read a primer on crown forks that the builder had written in the 1993 Bridgestone Bicycle Catalogue.
Finding John was not easy. After some Google sleuthing I found an executive with the same name who worked in New York City. I had a feeling it was the right guy. He worked for a multinational insurance company that grabbed a bunch of headlines during the 2008 financial crisis. I figured I’d shoot this John an email and confirm he was the owner of the Sachs. When I went back to Google to figure out his exact work email address, one of the first pages I pulled up was a WikiLeaks document that had one in a huge list of executives at that company. I shot him an email — I did not mention Julian Assange — with the subject line “Richard Sachs bicycle.”
John wrote back the following day. He indeed was the guy who sold the Sachs to Darius. And he mentioned that he had bought the bike from Myerson himself. And that he owned another Sachs. He was friendly and clearly a passionate bike guy and we agreed to talk. That was June 9.
I interviewed John on September 30. There was no single reason for the delay. We played phone tag and sometimes we both were slow returning emails. Summer came and I had my hands full with other work and a death in the family. Sachs sent me some curious, slightly impatient but friendly emails to see how the story was coming. Myerson and I stopped talking about the bike, and I suspected he thought this piece would never come. I felt certain that talking to John would close the loop on the story, but it just didn’t happen. Working on this story began to take on a strange cast of regret.
My talk with John lasted 15 minutes. That’s all it took to close the loop.
John believes he hooked up with Myerson to buy the bike on a forum that Serotta used to host called The Paceline. “Adam said he had two bikes and was selling one of them to raise funds to go to Europe,” recalls John, a longtime fan of cyclocross who knew who Myerson was at the time. “I just bought the frame and fork. I can’t remember exactly — it was either $400 or $450.”
“I remember that Adam was a little bit reluctant to sell it at the time,” John said. “So I told him I’d sell it back to him if he changed his mind.”
He built the bike with Campagnolo components and rode it on trails around his home in New Jersey. He recalls that since the race bike didn’t have water-bottle bosses he used an old Blackburn over-the-handlebar bottle cage.
John already had a Sachs, a road bike he bought directly from the builder in 1998. “Back then, the wait for a Sachs was seven months,” he laughs. “I went up to Chester and got fitted. Richard showed me the shop and we had lunch together.”
This was one year after Sachs had executed a run of special custom bikes to celebrate his 25th anniversary as a builder. John asked Sachs if his bike could incorporate the same lugs. “These weren’t cast lugs — they were hand-filed lugs,” said John. “It probably took Richard three days to file these lugs. They are beautiful to look at and think about.”
John’s fascination with Sachs originated about five years earlier when he read a primer on crown forks that the builder had written in the 1993 Bridgestone Bicycle Catalogue. The wonderfully illustrated column was entitled “Send in the Crowns.” Beautiful digital versions of these catalogs, which illuminate just how far cycling has simultaneously advanced and regressed over the past 25 years, are archived on Sheldon Brown’s web site.
“It’s hard for me to express why I like bikes so much,” John said. “But I really like bikes.”
John’s affections are most clearly understood if you peruse a photo page he has lovingly created to record his collection of very nice bikes. There is a Kish cyclocross bike and an Eriksen, both titanium, and a carbon Parlee Z5. There are lovely photos of bikes by Seven and Serotta and Spectrum and Lynskey. There is a sweet looking Moots ’cross bike that John said he recently sold.
And, of course, there are pictures of that Sachs with the 25th anniversary lugs, a beautiful red and white frame with a Chris King headset, a Chorus rear derailleur, and Record brakes.
He rode the Sachs ’cross bike for “four or five years” before he sold it to Darius. “It a fun bike to ride and it was a cool conversation piece,” John said. “I had originally thought about repainting it. but it had this patina of racing. I’m glad I didn’t touch it. It would have been a shame to paint over that racing heritage.”
John has only a few choice words to react to the news that Myerson has reunited with his old bike. “I guess I’m glad Adam got it back,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like he wanted to get rid of it in the first place.”
Adam Myerson won the 1997 national collegiate cyclocross championship aboard a Richard Sachs steel frame; he was reunited with it 19 years later.
Myerson doesn’t yet know how he’s going to set up the bike. “The only original component that I can see on it is the Deore XT top-pull front derailleur,” he said. Friends have offered to hook him up with a set of Hogan cantilever brakes, just like the ones he had on the bike back in the day. He might run built it with a 1x setup, or he might not. He’s definitely not touching the paint.
The point, he insists, is not to be period correct. “I mean, the period is 1997,” he said. “I don’t know if we really care. Period correct is, like, purple anodized.”
Myerson keeps talking about the bike and wanders into more serious territory.
“I had no idea that I would actually turn pro and have 13 years [of racing] after [selling the bike],” he said. “I don’t think anyone could have predicted the way custom frame building, particularly steel frame building, was going to explode, and that Richard would be the prime character in that explosion. So for me this bike is full of memories and full of triggers of everything I was trying to do with bikes at that time, the choices that I had, the way the sport has grown, what I was going through at the time and where I wound up, my friendship with Richard — all of those things are wrapped up in that bike.”
The bike is steel and rubber and silver flux. The bike is memory and symbolism and friendship. It is an implement and an idea. It was lost and then found.
Ultimately, Myerson’s voice began to crack. “I feel like I struggled so much in the early part of my life. I’ve always been fighting, and I had to fight for everything,” he said. “And in the past ten years, things have started to come together. This bike feels like payback for the struggle of the first part of my life.”
A letter Adam Myerson sent to Richard Sachs in 1997, their second season working together. The letter lays out some of the changes to the prior year’s design.