80th Anniversary Rene Herse Ordering

80th Anniversary Rene Herse Ordering

There’s been a great response to our 80th Anniversary Rene Herse bikes and framesets. There’s a lot of excitement. Even people who don’t want to order one are glad that they’ll exist. Just like I’ll probably never own a great sportscar, but when I see one, I smile.

Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding is that these bikes are somehow ‘retro’ statements or collector’s pieces. Some people seem to expect the bikes to come with framed ‘Certificates of Authenticity’ or custom-made display stands. We have no plans for that.

One of the great things of testing bikes for Bicycle Quarterly is that we get to ride many different bikes – more than 100 to date. And not just take them for a spin around the block, but ride them for weeks, and ride them hard. We’re also lucky that we have two testers who are almost identical clones of each other – Mark (left) and me – so that we can compare bikes side-by-side and back-to-back. Over the years, this has allowed us to refine our Rene Herse bikes by benchmarking them against the very best you can find – like the OPEN MIN.D.

We don’t have to get into the physics of why a few extra pounds of weight (less than 1% of the total bike-and-rider weight) don’t matter as much for performance as how the frame gets in sync with the rider’s pedal stroke. And in that respect, the OPEN (left) and the Herse (right) feel very similar. And, at least for Mark and me, their performance was indistinguishable.

These bikes also build on the experience of René Herse, whose mid-century bikes were pretty incredible machines. When I first read that riders completed the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris in the 1960s in the same amount of time as today’s riders, I was surprised. When I got to try a 1952 René Herse (above), I began to understand

These bikes are designed for spirited rides and adventures like the Raid Pyrénéen that goes from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean over 17 mountain passes.

But that isn’t to say that if you don’t plan to ride 39 hours non-stop, you shouldn’t dream of a bike like this. A great bike is fun on a leisurely Sunday ride or on the commute to work. Especially on the commute, in fact, since it offers a brief escape from our daily routines. (And the generous fenders and mudflap keep your feet drier if it rains, as an added bonus.)

There is no right or wrong way to enjoy bikes, and the idea that you need to be a super rider to ‘deserve’ a super bike doesn’t make sense. The goal of all our riding is to have fun, and fun isn’t measured in Watts or miles-per-hour.

That brings up the ‘application process’ for the 80th Anniversary bikes and frames. Faced with the prospect that these bikes might sell out in minutes, we tried to come up with a better way of allocating them. We are not trying to weed out the ‘undeserving,’ but we want to make sure those who buy a bike like this understand what they are getting. A low-trail randonneur bike is quite different from what many people ride these days, and it requires a certain technique. Sort of like if you’re used to driving a Buick and suddenly buy a sports car. The steering might feel a bit ‘twitchy’ until you relax your inputs and start getting in tune with your car rather than just drive it. It’s the same for these bikes – they work best with a bent-elbows riding position and light touch on the handlebars.

And the Rene Herse rod-operated front derailleur is like a car with manual transmission – great fun if you are willing to learn how to use it. But I’m sure some Porsche customers complain: “I paid $160k for my 911 GT3, and every time I start from a traffic light, the engine dies.” I don’t know how Porsche deals with this, but we don’t want somebody to spend all this money – and us to do all this work to create these bikes – and then have everybody be disappointed.

So we’re not asking for beautifully crafted resumes – there isn’t room for that in the ‘Comments’ on the order page anyhow – but just a few words about what you expect, what bike(s) you ride and like, and why you want a bike like this.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk a bit about the choice of derailleurs – why we offer these bikes with either a Nivex rear/Rene Herse front derailleur or SRAM eTap. (If you prefer a different drivetrain, you can buy a frameset and build it up with the parts of your choice.)

And then, on Sunday, August 15, the product pages will go live… This is an exciting project!

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