Hi CR folks,
Hopefully I can add some insight into Herse and Singer. At some point I'll try to really go into detail, but for now just some random thoughts. Both Singer and Herse are indeed quite similar, and in the 1940's they were perhaps as close to one another as they would ever be. At that time, both makers used a number of proprietary components of exceptional quality. A difference, though, was that Herse made a wonderful alloy crank and I don't believe Singer ever made one.
(As a sidebar, there were other makers producing similar bikes as well. For example, I doubt that many folks could differentiate a top-tier Goeland frame from an Herse upon a quick glance!)
Both Herse and Singer - and also Routan (my spelling may not be right and my reference literature is not in front of me), were very successfull in PBP as well as the French Trials events.
As time went on, Herse continued using the proprietary components, while Singer seemed to use less and less. Herse, therefore, gained the reputation as being more unique. Bicycles such as the demontable, combined with an Herse crank, modified stem, racks, and other fittings, made well into the 1970's, continued this reputation.
Regarding workmanship, both Herse and Singer suffer from some variability. As Brian points out, though, some Herse frames are really exceptional. Herse's from the 40's and 50's - perhaps into the 60's, have lug filing and brazing that can really compete with some of the best of frames from any period and maker. I've never seen a Singer with the magic of the best Herse frames, but I've seen Singer frames that are much nicer than a poor example of an Herse.
Singer frames are really underappreciated. I've never known of a bad riding example - the ones I've sampled have been wonderfull. Herse bikes also have a wonderful reputation, although the race bikes of the 60's don't seem to have the magic of the road sport and touring machines.
It is nice to know that folks in the US are starting to appreciate these machines. When I entered the business I knew nothing of these bikes - the mantra of Nuovo and Super record was all I knew. Grant Handley got me thinking in the right direction. Now myself and others are fortunatly on a quest to learn as much about these wonderful bikes as we can. If anyone wants an Herse, I recommend contacting Grant Handley as he is an excellent resource. Of course, if I can be of any help answering Herse or Singer questions I'll give it a try.
At 10:04 PM 3/7/01 -0800, Troy Warnick wrote:
>I thought, with all of the recent stir around the Herse on eBay, that it
>might be a good time to ask the "experts" a question regarding these two
>extremely highly regarded builders. I have always heard Singer and Herse
>referred to as being very similar. In practically every way possible
>(craftmanship, artistic vision, ingenuity, Frenchness, etc). I have never
>heard any information contrasting them. Unfortunately, I can count the
>number of these bikes that I have seen on one hand. So, I would like to
>hear what you have to say comparing the differences of the two. Thanks very
>Troy Warnick in SUNNY and SHAKEN UP Olympia, WA.