[CR]Was gearing, now ride on an "undergeared" Rene Herse

(Example: Events:Cirque du Cyclisme)

In-Reply-To: <CATFOODgJKVApwOLZCH000000ef@catfood.nt.phred.org>
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 06:48:34 -0800
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
From: "Jan Heine" <heine@mindspring.com>
Subject: [CR]Was gearing, now ride on an "undergeared" Rene Herse

Last Saturday was the Seattle International Randonneurs' season opener "100 km Populaire" brevet. I decided to use a rusty, but original 1952 René Herse randonneur with 650B tires. Most of all, I wanted to try the new Mitsuboshi tires I got from Bob Freeman.

The 30 km ride to the start was a good warmup, especially on a gorgeous morning! The "populaire" was popular indeed, with more than 90 riders showing up. Many familiar faces, but also many racers on the most expensive gear. Few noticed my Herse - with its fat tires, rusty chrome and weird parts, to most it looks like an old junk bike.

True to form, the course was quite hilly, with a long hill a mile after the start. Having warmed up properly, the Herse flew up the first hill, only one guy on a 17-lb. Litespeed was able to keep up. (Randonneur rides are not races, but there still is a certain prestige attached to coming first.) As he was huffing and puffing, the racer expressed disbelief that such a heavy-looking bike could go so fast. I was tempted to say that my 23.5 lb bike (with fenders, lights, rack) was lighter than his, but looking at his tricked-out machine, I realized that was not true.

Where the Herse scored were the twisty descents that followed, with off-camber curves, potholes and gravel on the road. On smoother roads, I had to spin hard in the big gear (48-15 with 650B tires) to keep up with the other guy, who had more cogs than I could count.

Navigation was difficult, this being in the suburbs of Seattle, with stop signs, turns and intersections everywhere. For 100 km, we had 42 changes of direction - the route sheet took up a whole page! The racer guy didn't bother with the route sheet, happy to follow where I led him. With a handlebar bag, at least I could see the route sheet at all times...

Finally, we got out of the 'burbs and into the Snoqualmie River valley for some fast riding, then more climbs to Snoqualmie Falls, and more hills on the way back. The Herse worked flawlessly, but the Cyclo rear derailleur took some getting used to. Being used to "modern" equipment (Nivex, Simplex, Huret, Campy NR), first I tried to "finesse" the gears, but often ended up between two cogs. A more brutal approach, just ripping on the lever, resulted in the right gear every time. As we took in the last hills, the racer guy tired, but made a valiant effort to stay on the Herse's wheel. The last miles were on a busy trail, and the fat tires helped, as I could just take to the grass when the narrow strip of pavement was too busy.

We finished the 105 km in 3:30, for an average of 30 km/h. The next riders came in 25 minutes later.

At no times did I feel handicapped by my equipment. The 48-15 gears were big enough, the Cyclo shifted well once I got the hang of it, the lever-operated front derailleur posed no problem. The only minor concern is a slight shimmy when riding no hands - the tubes are very light gauge on this bike. And the tires? They are supple, fast, grippy and comfortable. Best of all, they are 35 mm wide. Not quite the 37-42 mm of the original ones, but close.

Jan Heine, Seattle