AUSTIN, TEXAS — In a corridor just outside the main hall of the bustling 2011 North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) at the Austin Convention Center, Lance Koppa starts counting on both hands: “I’ve got a fixie, a mountain bike, a heavy road bike that I train on, a Serotta, and a carbon fiber Scott that I race. Plus I have three bikes that I want to restore: a Trek, an ’80s Schwinn, and an ’80s Ironman bike.”
Then the tall guy with short reddish-brown hair and braces proclaims: “They all live in a special room outside the house.” Koppa is with his buddy, Craig, sitting on a leather sofa thinking about all the pretty bikes they’ve just seen at NAHBS. They’re taking a few minutes to fill out a People’s Choice ballot for “best bike.” They get a little glossy-eyed as they think about the lime green Gaulzetti for which they’ll vote.
But neither is in the market for a bike, technically speaking. In fact, Koppa is on the wait list for a Richard Sachs bike. Like others who order custom frames and bikes, he’s been in the wait for five years; when a bicycle is crafted by hand in a one-person shop, it just takes time. Koppa’s been on it since 2006, and he’s pretty sure his name is toward the top of the list. He’s expecting a call any day now to get fitted.
The Richard Sachs bike will be his second custom frame. The Serotta was the first, which is part of his collection. He bought the Serotta from a guy who later regretted selling it. It’s a good bike, worth keeping in a “special room,” even if outside the main abode.
“That’s when I got interested in lugged steel. I started doing some research and called Richard Sachs. He listened to me, he was extremely friendly and so I decided to go with him,” Koppa says.
He and his wife opened a special savings account just for the Richard Sachs bike. It’s set up with automatic monthly deductions and currently totals $5,000. “It’ll probably be the last huge frame purchase,” he says, but with barely a pause, notes, “unless I want to get a new mountain bike.”
This late-20-something Dallas firefighter loves cycling and ventures into parts of his home city where Lycra and custom bikes are unheard of, down streets where he’s known only as “the tall white guy.”
All these bikes and all this riding, begs the question: Does his wife ride?
“No,” he says.
But obviously she must be okay with his addiction: He’s got a special room for the bikes and the couple opened a savings for the Richard Sachs.…
“Yes,” he affirms, “she is supportive but she doesn’t need to know the details. She would flip out if she knew I spent two grand on a wheel set.” (Zipp carbon fibers for his Scott.)
Friend Craig laughs with a grunt: “I think she would develop heart problems if she knew.”
In contrast, Craig owns one bike—a “classic” Trek he bought used in the mid-2000s in a little town outside Gunnison, Colo. He’s not on the hunt for a custom bike but “loves looking at all this stuff” at NAHBS.
“Eventually I’ll probably upgrade…. But I think it will be fun to get something hand-crafted that’s made locally,” Craig says. In Dallas, that leaves him at least two choices: DalTex and Southwest Frameworks.
Koppa concurs. “That’s why I’m going to Connecticut when it’s time to get fitted [by Richard Sachs]. I want to spend time up there dialing everything in.”
The duo made the three-and-a-half hour drive from Dallas on Saturday morning and came straight to the bike show. Five hours later, they admitted they were “biked out” and ready for some barbecue or tacos. But they’d had a good time browsing the bikes and meeting “so many nice people.”
“Everybody here is so friendly, everybody,” Lance says, explaining that he’d known of the show but couldn’t go out of state for previous years’ NAHBS. “There are good vibes here, really good vibes.”
Plus, it was a good way to kill another day until he gets his call from Richard Sachs.