Re: [CR] pink =?iso-8859-1?Q?Ren=E9_Herse_vs=2E_Masi_Pres__tige?=

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Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 08:54:41 -0700
From: "Jan Heine" <>
Subject: Re: [CR] pink =?iso-8859-1?Q?Ren=E9_Herse_vs=2E_Masi_Pres__tige?=
cc: Classic Rendezvous <>

At 10:46 PM +0000 9/17/07, wrote:
>Certainly the fact that the Masi was built by Alberto Masi and the Herse
> was a posthumous production by another hand must had some influence in
>the outcome. It certainly influenced me--not to bid on the Herse.
>George Hollenberg MD
>Westport, CT, USA

I haven't followed this thread, so I don't know whether we know for sure that the Masi was built by Alberto, or whether it could have been farmed out to some contract builder. We do know that the Herse was made by Jean Desbois, because he made all the 1980s bikes. There were too few orders to warrant hiring another builder.

While I cannot comment on the values of the bikes - Bicycle Quarterly does not publish price guides - I have to take issue with the assertion that a Desbois-built Herse somehow isn't a true Herse, while an Alberto-built Masi is a true Masi.

If Jean Desbois had changed his name to "Jean Herse" when he married Lyli, would that have changed things? Desbois was one of the first workers hired by Herse less than a year after he opened shop. He worked under Rene Herse for more than a decade - the years when the best Herse bikes were built. When business turned down in the mid-1950s, he left. He returned around 1970, when Herse needed somebody to take over more and more responsibility as his health was failing. Desbois' pay records show that he was paid more than the others working at the shop in the 1940s. (Desbois tells the story that Narcisse wanted to hire him, and offered to double the pay. That forced Herse to match the offer.) Basically, many of the early Herse bikes, as well as quite a few of the 1970s bikes, have frames built by Desbois.

Then there is Lyli's involvement in the "post-Rene" Herse shop. She was the owner of the shop, not Jean Desbois. Lyli had worked at the shop continuously since the mid-1940s... and she is the daughter of the builder. So truthfully, a 1980s bike would be a "Lyli Herse" built by Jean Desbois, while a 1940s or a 1970s bike could be a "Rene Herse" built by Jean Desbois.

From what I have heard, the connection between Faliero and Alberto Masi is a lot more muddled, with Faliero's California venture and Alberto making bikes in Italy without Faliero's blessing. Or are those just rumors? What if Mario Confente had lived longer, and had taken over Masi, rather than build under his own name? Would the bikes not be considered "true" Masis, or bikes built from a "posthumous" production by another hand?

In fact, how much does it matter who built the bike? A 1960s Herse, which Mike Schmidt would have pegged (probably correctly) at a higher value, would have been built by a builder with much less association to the Herse family - as far as I can tell, none of Herse's 1960s builders stayed more than a decade, but I'll have to do more research to make sure. And who built the quite valuable 1960s Cinellis anyhow?

In the end, for me the quality of the workmanship and design is more important than the mystique and family connections. And the two Desbois-built Herse bikes I have ridden were absolutely top-notch in both respects.

Disclaimer: I know Jean Desbois quite well, so I may be biased in my assessment.

Jan Heine
Bicycle Quarterly
140 Lakeside Ave #C
Seattle WA 98122