[CR]Re: Classicrendezvous Digest, French Bike Culture-Konski

(Example: Framebuilders:Norman Taylor)

From: <CYCLESTORE@aol.com>
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2005 14:28:28 EST
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org, CYCLESTORE@aol.com
Subject: [CR]Re: Classicrendezvous Digest, French Bike Culture-Konski

In a message dated 1/18/05 11:00:51 AM, classicrendezvous-request@bikelist.org writes:

<< Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2005 06:34:38 -0600 From: "Douglas Morrell" <dmorrell@nomise.com>

I'd like to add an eastern US data point to this French discussion relative to Herse, Singer, et al. I worked summers (77-80) in Syracuse NY at a small LBS owned by (now deceased) Jim Konski. I imagine there are some on this list that knew Jim in some way. From my vantage point, perhaps skewed, Jim invigorated the American interest in brevet and lead the resurgence in American participation in Paris-Brest. Jim held great reverence for the French cyclists and randonneuring. He loved everything to do with France. We sold many a Peugeot in those days. I remember a top line $800 LeJeune we had (full campy) that sat on the rack for the entire 4 summers I was there. And a LeJeune was Jim's daily rider.

He asked me to drive his support vehicle for the 1979 Paris-Brest-Paris, of which he was the US organizer. So what does this French cycling devotee ride in P-B-P? A Teledyne Titan! During the time I knew him I can not recall him ever mentioning Herse or Singer. Not to denigrate the work of these two fine builders, but if anyone would have had one of their models it would be Konski.=20

By the way, do the French pronounce Herse with or without the "H"? And is it "Sing"-"Ey", "Sing"-"air", or like the sewing machines?

Doug Morrell St Louis MO >>

Hello Doug,

Sorry to retread this old e-mail I'm going through but I have something to add. I've known and worked with Jim Konski with the International Randonneurs. I can't say I knew him very well but well enough over 15 years or so to comment about he and his attitudes. He once offered to sell me his bike shop in Syracuse and I might have taken him up if I had the time to check it out.

Jim loved, bikes, riders and cycling. He was a true patron of the sport and not only loved and hosted 24 hour timetrials but also started the current diet of USA randonneur qualifying rides and events. Jim really started the Ultra Marathon game in the USA. I would exist without him; especially with the Internet but Jim started it all I feel.

The RUSA randonneur organization that grew from his original International Randonneur organization is very strong and growing rapidly. Jim gave generous amounts of time and lots of money often hiring full time people to administer the volumes of records, tabulations and results the national organization required.

I agree he loved French things and he certainly was aware of nice French bikes like Herse and Singer as many of his acquaintances owned and road them. Jim however was a racer till the end in mind and spirit if not body. He would not have traded a racing Lejuene for a Routens for any money. After all it had fenders, racks and lights. Totally useless accouterments to a racer except maybe during the PBP itself. In 1983 he rode the PBP with all the required equipment including full fenders but I would not be surprised if in 1979 his influence with the French organizers could have granted him an exception because it would not be odd for him to make a special request but I would be speculating.

I suspect that this French Cycling man rode a Teledyne Titan in 1979 since it represented the best to him and Jim liked to travel first class. I for one will miss him.

Going back a few years. On the East Coast the LAW and AYH hosted events and rallies and Rene Herse type touring bikes were not uncommon. Many riders were often identified as owners of such and such a bike even if they were riding something else at the time. In the early 1970s to mid 1980s these bikes would often be seen at they rally's and events minus the metal mudguards, lights and racks that we find so special so they could conform to the lightweight style that was racing influenced of the day.

It is endearing to see Rivendell, Heron and many others promoting relatively ornate, functional and practical bikes to a wider audience these days. On the tallying of bikes speculated I suspect I have scene at least 50 ornately constructed high end touring bikes from France in a fairly limited area and time period in the USA. Most were Herse or Singer. Also at least as many stripped down high end French racers were on the road and many more may not have been noticed as they don't really stand out. Seeing them today outside an environment like the Cirque will be unlikely as so few 20-50 year old bikes of this type are still in good riding condition or the owners have pedaled their last crank by now.

I suspect the numbers of very nice touring bikes (not many Peugeots or Gitane class in here, no offense) are pretty high in the USA but most owners purchased their bikes as a quest to get the best bike available after moving up from nicer racing bikes of the day and really did not appreciate what we consider salient features today. Also the small but dedicated group of Clifford Graves's "International Bicycle Touring Society;" IBTS were mostly well healed and may have found the nicer Herse's and such quite a bargain with the strong dollar in much on the 1960s. This little group; the IBTS though very small had a profound influence of cycling and builders of the day as their exploits were well documented in Bicycling! almost every month in the 1960's ( Called American Cyclist then I think).

Yours in Cycling,

Gilbert Anderson

North Road Bicycle Company

519 W. North St.

Raleigh, NC 27603


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