Re: [CR] Last photos of THE most famous Rene Herse bike

(Example: Framebuilders:Richard Moon)

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Date: Wed, 16 Dec 2009 10:03:47 -0800
To: <>, <>
From: "Jan Heine" <>
Subject: Re: [CR] Last photos of THE most famous Rene Herse bike

>My friend had lost his original copied photo image files from
>the auction, and my own had also vanished when my old PC
>had died. So, what I have posted here are regrettably rather
>poor quality (scanned off of his grainy plain paper copies, made
>from a low quality old color printer). But, the details of this
>famous bike are of course timeless and well worth preserving
>and sharing, nonetheless. I included his scan of the auction
>description which tells of the later modifications made to the
>frameset by the original owner. I assume the changes were also
>completed by Herse prior to the last re-paint of the frameset.

I remember that auction well - I bid on the bike, and I wished I could have bought it. It's Jean Dejeans' bike. He came third in PBP 1948 on it. I know his tandem partner well - Paulette Callet/Porthault, who was interviewed in VBQ Vol. 3, No. 1. Lots of photos of Dejeans in that issue... Dejeans was a strong rider. Especially as a team with Callet on the tandem, they were hard to beat. (Until Lyli Herse/Prestat came along.)

There are a few other, at least equally famous, Rene Herse bikes. If you count the number of full-page Daniel Rebour spreads, I think it would have to be one of two:

1. The tandem that came first in the Poly de Chanteloup 1957, as well as Paris-Brest-Paris 1956, the 24 Hours of Levallois and numerous other competitions. That bike is shown in our book "The Competition Bicycle" and was included in the exhibit at Il Vecchio Bicycles in Seattle last fall. Unfortunately, it, too, had been modified, and had to be restored to original condition. There are at least two Rebour drawings of that bike, one in PBP guise, one with the Poly de Chanteloup setup (minus flash lights, extra bottle cages, etc.)

2. Maurice Macaudière's bike, on which he came first in PBP 1966. That bike once was shown as "an example of a modern randonneur bike," and again, I believe, after the PBP win. That bike is featured in "The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles."

Another contender is Genevieve Gambillon's bike, on which she won two world championships. I believe that is the only Herse-labeled bike on which World Championships were won. (Herse also built frames for some professionals like Louison Bobet in the 1950s, so it's possible there were other world championship wins on Herse-built bikes.) That bike has survived in rough, but original condition, and is shown in "The Competition Bicycle."

No matter which is THE most famous, the Dejeans bike is one of the nicest Herse bikes ever - or at least was before it was repainted and modified. It is from a classic era - the late 1940s Herse bikes are among the nicest of them all. It was owned by a famous, and universally well-liked, rider. And there is the two-page Rebour drawing from Le Cycle, later reproduced in much smaller format in Rebour's book.

The same image published in Bicycle Quarterly was taken from Le Cycle - see it here...

Since we started out with a much bigger image, we didn't need to do much touching up...

If that bike had been in original condition with its original components, it would have been phenomenal. However, since it was ridden a lot, Dejeans modified it as things wore out. He had his own ideas, and even got TA to make special chainrings for his Rene Herse cranks. Note also the thin dropouts Herse used until about 1950, when he went to thicker ones, perhaps because some dropouts had broken.

It's an amazing machine. I wish I had $ 3500 in 2005 when it was for sale.

Also, please note that the frame geometry notations in the Rebour drawing are incorrect. He measured off his photographs, and the measurements aren't internally consistent, especially his trail measurement. (If you plug 72.5 degree head angle and 67 mm fork offset with a 666 mm wheel diameter into the trail formula, you get 35 mm trail, not 45 mm.)

I have measured other Herse bikes from the era, and they usually have 73 degree head angles, 70-73 mm fork offset and a little under 30 mm trail...

Jan Heine
Bicycle Quarterly
2116 Western Ave.
Seattle WA 98121