1982 Report

Sep 24 2018

Got an email about “Spray by Betsy”. Here’s some of her repaint work we previously scavenged from ebay etc.

Answer is I don’t know how to contact Betsy formerly Weigle–but here’s an article from 1982 where she is mentioned.


CUSTOM building of bicycle frames is the business of two young craftsmen in the Connecticut River Valley. Richard Sachs of Chester and J.P. (Peter) Weigle of East Haddam, who each charge upward of $700 for a frame, have waiting lists of customers – serious racers, long-distance tour enthusiasts and people who just enjoy bicycling.

The two builders, riders and racers themselves, say these customers get frames that perform and look well and fit like made-to-measure clothing.

Mr. Sachs, 29 years old, who sells his frames nationwide, has his customers fill out detailed measurement charts. ”The bike must fit the rider’s anatomy,” he said. ”It’s especially difficult to get the right small frame. Small factory bikes are just scaled-down versions of big ones, but a small person isn’t a scaled-down version of a big person.”

Mr. Weigle, 32, also sells frames across the country, but a high percentage of his customers are New Englanders. Often, he said, ”they stop in, and I measure them.” He gets their ”feelings” before he goes to work.

”Say a person talks about having shoulder and neck discomfort while riding,” he explained. ”I can build a frame with an extended head tube.”

Contributing to the looks, performance and price of the two men’s frames are quality materials, such as imported steel alloy tubing, and skilled workmanship. Tubes are mitered (shaped to fit), lugs are carefully finished and brazing – done with an oxyacetylene torch and, usually, silver – is meticulous.

”I’m in no rush to get stuff out the door,” said Mr. Weigle. ”I’d rather do it right.” ”I try for the kind of quality a European master, not his assistant, would give,” said Mr. Sachs, ”if he had all the time.” A sparkling paint job is part of the product. Mr. Sachs sends his frames to California to a bike-painting specialist. Mr. Weigle entrusts his to his wife, Betsy.

”I minored in art at college,” Mrs. Weigle said, ”but I never expected to do this.” She learned how when, just as she and her husband returned from their honeymoon in December 1980, his regular painter left.

”It was a mad scramble,” she recalled. ”The hardest part was convincing Peter I could learn to paint bicycle frames.” She succeeded; her logo, ”Spray by Betsy,” now goes on each Weigle frame. She also takes part in marketing the frames. The two builders learned their craft together in England. In 1972 Mr. Sachs, just graduated from Bayonne High School, in New Jersey, was working in a bike shop and planning to attend Goddard College in Vermont. Seeing some custom frames caused him to change his mind.

”I wanted – in the worst way – to build frames,” he recalled. He spent his college tuition money on a nine-month apprenticeship at Whitcomb Lightweight Cycles, London.

Meanwhile, Mr. Weigle, a Massachusetts native, was working in a ski shop and racing bicycles when he met an American importer of Whitcomb bicycles. The importer needed someone to go to Whitcomb’s London factory to learn frame building. Unable to find an available bicycle mechanic, he asked Mr. Weigle.

”It wasn’t like I’d dreamed of going,” Mr. Weigle acknowledged, ”but once I got there, I really enjoyed the work and appreciated what went into it.”

Both Mr. Weigle and Mr. Sachs returned to this country to build frames for Whitcomb U.S.A., established in East Haddam simply because the importer owned a building there. Mr. Sachs left in 1975 to build frames on his own. Mr. Weigle stayed on until 1977, when a slowdown in bicycle sales caused Whitcomb U.S.A. to close. Then he, too, struck out alone, working at first in an old Quonset hut with no telephone by the East Haddam airport.

In his shop on Chester’s Main Street, Mr. Sachs builds about 110 frames – racing and touring – each year. Mr. Weigle and his wife work in a shop next to their house just outside East Haddam. Mr. Weigle builds about 70 frames a year, for racing, touring and the newly popular mountain bikes. He also does a good deal of repair work.

”Many builders don’t like to do repair work,” said Mr. Sachs, ”but I enjoy it. And it’s a service that’s badly needed.” Crashes are not unusual at bicycle races, and, Mr. Weigle pointed out, riders can’t send their European frames ”back there.” Two frame builders within six miles of each other is a heavy concentration but, both agree, no problem. Since their days of learning and working together, they say, they’ve developed different styles and tend to attract different customers.

Mr. Sachs talks of renowned European builders. ”I have heroes in this,” he said, ”people like DeRosa and Masi.” He has traveled to Italy to attend bicycle shows and meet Italian builders.

”Richard,” said Mr. Weigle, ”could be Italian. He builds a classic Italian frame. What I do is different.” Mr. Weigle, for instance, does more machine milling of components. ”I love machines,” he said. ”I can miter tubes by hand, but I find machine work more accurate and consistent.” Though the two builders’ styles are different, their business concerns are similar. ”There are basement builders,” explained Mr. Weigle, ”and then there are people like Richard and me.” ”We have to be responsible businessmen as well as craftsmen,” said Mr. Sachs. Both cited the heavy insurance they carry, the guarantees on their frames, and their availability, year after year, to stand by their work. Basement builders, they observed, may not offer these things.

Both builders compete with big-name imports like Gios, Colnago and Rossin, sold relatively cheaply. ”There are no protective tariffs on bicycles,” Mr. Weigle noted. Well-known riders give visibility to their products. The Weigles sponsor Kit Bryan of New London, who won the Connecticut Women’s Road Race. Mr. Sachs cited national cycling team members who ride Sachs bicycles. But, he noted, ”the number of riders on bikes by someone like me is smaller than previously. Cycling now attracts corporate sponsorship. Big companies offer lots of money to name riders who use their bikes.”

Mrs. Weigle is a competitive racer, and the Weigles go to races throughout New England. ”It’s important for us to advertise at women’s events,” said Mrs. Weigle, ”because they’re smaller than the men’s, and people can really see the frames.”

Although the Weigles like working with local customers, they say they need to develop more business throughout the country. Mr. Sachs muses, ”I’ll never stop building frames, but I might also open a business selling quality components.” As it is, he noted wryly, ”my name – the myth! – is perpetuated, but I don’t get any richer.”

With future possibilities in mind, Mr. Sachs and the Weigles will be promoting their products at the International Bicycle Show at the New York Coliseum in February.