Re: [CR]Herse and parts thread/now-"contructeurs?"

(Example: Component Manufacturers:Cinelli)

From: <>
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2002 09:35:25 EDT
Subject: Re: [CR]Herse and parts thread/now-"contructeurs?"

Hello gang,

Perhaps we can anticipate for the future a Richie Sachs Anniversary Randonnuer Audax Bike with a select few elegant details like a special stem , seatpost, racks etc. that will fetch millions in the next century on E-Bay.

Elegant fender mounting on a Randonnuer bike is like a well tailored suit; looks better than a bike without fenders/mudguards.

And on a side note below; on those brackets for lamps. I've broken everyone ever made at least twice. I think these also contribute to a high percentage of DNF in Randonnee's like the PBP but this is theory. Nineteen years after purchase and 40K miles the 4 lamps and brackets on my Rene Herse seem fine.

All the best,

Gilbert Anderson Raleigh NC USA

In a message dated 6/19/02 7:24:43 PM, writes:

<< "Wow, Richard, didn't mean to step on your toes."


you weren't.

you didn't!

i really <AM> curious about this.

i asked my questions out of genuine interest,

not to raise any skepicism about the issues.

the reply you sent over is GREAT.

i REALLY appreciate this stuff.



chester, ct


jan's post follows...

On Wed, 19 Jun 2002 16:03:02 -0700 Jan Heine <>

> Wow, Richard, didn't mean to step on your toes. Of course, any
> framebuilder can become a constructeur, and many of the parts were
> for "coolness" reasons. But then, lugs aren't necessary eiter. I am
> sure there was a perceived "reason" a Singer fillet-brazed stem was
> better than an aluminum Pivo or Philippe... But mostly, it just was
> part of the bike. Singer is a good example (stem excepted), because
> they pretty much used what was available. They stopped using their
> own brakes once the superior Mafac Racers came along. Same about
> front derailleur - starting more or less in the late 1950s, they
> used
> Huret (so did Herse).
> That said, a frame/fork kit won't make a good randonneur bike.
> Fender attachment needs to be carefully considered, otherwise they
> won't follow the curve of the wheel gracefully. So a randonneur bike
> should come as frame, fork and fenders. Racks, too, because elegant
> racks are custom-made, rather than adjustable. Now brakes - they
> need
> to be chosen carefully so they don't interfere with the racks and
> fenders. You see, we are getting to a complete bike rather quickly.
> Nowadays, Singer, Berthoud and a few others still work as
> "constructeurs." They use mostly existing components - Singer still
> make their stems. So no, you don't need to make your own parts,
> although the golden era for ready-made parts were the 1970s, and a
> lot of stuff is posing problems these days, most notably hubs (no
> more Maxicar that allow spoke replacement on the road), lights (none
> for brazed-on fittings) and brakes (most of them don't have
> clearance, and a fender that moves when the brake is applied won't
> do, sorry.)
> In their time, there were at least 2 dozen constructeurs all over
> France. Most made a few parts, nobody as many as Herse. I'd say the
> few years after WW II until 1955 were the best time, because bikes
> were a status symbol, so there was a large market. With the advent
> of
> cheap cars, bikes became the opposite, a symbol of poverty and
> backwardsness. Only a few diehards continued to ride and buy
> expensive bikes.
> Makers I can think of right now, besides Herse and Singer: Jo
> Routens
> (stem, front derailleur, racks), Goƫland (racks, pedals?), Narcisse,
> Faure, Maury, Daudon, Baras (aluminum frames, aluminum racks). And
> there were many unknowns, like the maker of my Ondet/Lyon.
> In other countries, I can think of Jack Taylor/Britain (who used
> French parts for his touring bikes), Mariposa/Canada. Italy seems to
> have been focused on racing, although I have heard of a few early
> touring bikes. Germany has never produced much of note. Any other
> bikemaking country? I know there were a few people making
> French-style bikes in the U.S. in the 1970s. Anybody got more info?
> Look at a Rivendell, and you realize why it is hard to make a
> "randonneur" bike with ready-made parts. The bike may work great,
> but
> it just doesn't look elegant. Can't look elegant, with clamps,
> zip-ties and other accroutements. So most people ride them without
> fenders and racks, you are back to a racing bike - sort of like a
> Cinelli Supercorsa.
> A randonneur truly is a unit - you don't just take a part off and
> replace it with another. That can be a drag (say the front
> derailleur
> breaks and no replacements are available that fit the special
> braze-on), but the benefit is a bike that works, because each part
> is
> designed to work together. Also, it was common to have a bike
> updated
> once in a while, so you'd take it back to Herse, who would put the
> newest derailleurs on and a new paintjob, too.
> The frames of Herse, etc., were nicely made, but ornate lugwork was
> not their thing. The elegance came from being extremely functional,
> not from a swirl and a curl here and there. Maybe the cheap Nervex
> lugs spoiled that - cheap bikes could look ornate, so the
> "constructeurs" had to come up with something else to distinguish
> their wares. Instead, the tubing was carefully selected to match the
> rider and purpose. Herse went further than most and used a lot of
> oversize tubing. How do you like a 1950 tandem (open frame) with a
> 32
> mm downtube, 30 mm top tubes, and I forget what diameter seat tubes.
> No wonder the thing rides wonderfully despite the lack of bracing,
> unlike other tandems from the era.
> Just as an example, on my beloved Rivendell, today I filed off part
> of the Lumotec front light, because it was very close to the spokes.
> The light is mounted on a home-made stainless bracket on the front
> dropout. It was never intended to be mounted there, but the standard
> location (in front of the brake) is taken up by the handlebar bag.
> Plus, the standard bracket (cheap pressed steel) broke during the
> last PBP (when I didn't use a handlebar bag yet), so a better
> solution had to be found. (I should have asked the maker of the rack
> to include a mount for the light, but I prefer a lower beam that is
> horizontal and illuminates distant road signs, for navigation.) So I
> basically became a "constructeur" when I modified the light to fit
> on
> a home-made bracket. Same with the rear lights - I don't want
> something that is clamped on and starts to slip in the middle of an
> event. (Last year, I rode S2S, our cross-state race, with two guys,
> both of whose rear lights had moved and were shining at the
> pavement.) So I had to make my own brackets, put on braze-ons that I
> specified to the builder. You want to hear more...? You see, I'd
> rather not bother and get a bike that is ready to ride.
> This is not to devalue racing bikes, which are light, beautiful and
> great fun to ride. I have several... They just are not my choice for
> 400 km or more in the rain without stopping. Nor with 50 lbs of
> luggage around the Andes. For the latter two purposes, there are
> specially conceived bikes, and they do the job well.
> Jan Heine, Seattle >>

Gilbert Anderson

The North Road Bicycle Company
your bicycle outfitter
519 W. North St.
Raleigh, NC 27603
ph toll free in USA :800/321-5511
Local ph: 919/828-8999