Celebrating Birthdays: René Herse and Gilbert Bulté

Celebrating Birthdays: René Herse and Gilbert Bulté

Last Friday, we met at Lyli Herse’s house outside of Paris for cake and cider to celebrate two birthdays: René Herse was born on this day in 1908, and Gilbert Bulté, one of Herse’s riders, celebrated his 92nd birthday!
“Monsieur Gilbert” (on the right) remains in excellent health, and it was great to see him again. Three other “anciens pilotes” also joined the celebration. (Robert Limouzi is on the left, Jean-Marie Comte in the middle, and Pierre Nédéllec is not in the photo.)
There was another reason for the gathering: I presented the very first René Herse book to Lyli Herse. When posing for the photo above, everybody looked pretty serious, but as soon as they started leafing through the book, they were all smiles.
Again and again, they exclaimed: “Look, that is so-and-so, remember her/him?” and “Do you remember that event? We really did well there!”  The surprise when they discovered themselves in full-page photographs was truly priceless. Lyli was almost in tears – it was nice to see how proud she is of her family’s accomplishments.
Christophe Courbou, who designed the book’s layout, also got his first look at the finished product. I was glad when he declared: “The printer did an excellent job.”
It was a memorable day. One doesn’t write and publish a book like this to make money. It takes years of full-time work, and the cost of photography and printing are very high. Writing this book is all about wanting to share a wonderful story. It’s also a way to reciprocate the generous friendship of the old randonneurs. Bringing such joy to people’s lives makes all the hard work worth while.

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Comments (17)

  • Rod Bruckdorfer

    What a wonderful act of kindness and consideration. I look forward to reading the book. As you stated, one does not make money writing such a book. It is a work of love and passion for these wonderful bikes and great cyclist. Thank you.

    January 9, 2013 at 9:06 am
  • Shu-Siin

    Not only that, but you’ve preserved and resurrected a snapshot of history for their grandchildren and our grandchildren. Bravo!

    January 9, 2013 at 9:51 am
  • Theo Roffe

    Thanks for sharing this, Jan. It is excellent to see these anciens pilotes, looking back on their lives through your book. I look forward to reading it even more, now, with these images in my mind.

    January 9, 2013 at 9:57 am
  • Montagné

    ” One doesn’t write and publish a book like this to make money. Writing this book is all about wanting to share a wonderful story”
    AMEN, god bless America !

    January 9, 2013 at 11:37 am
  • Paul Ahart

    Jan, All I can do is “second and third” the comments above. It’s wonderful seeing the light in the eyes of these great cyclists of yesteryear.
    I can hardly wait for my own copy of the book to arrive. Patience…patience..
    Thanks again for sharing this.

    January 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm
  • John Hawrylak

    Very enjoyable and well written. Thanks

    January 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm
  • David T.

    You have produced some books that will be appreciated by people who enjoy good books, not just people who are interested in bicycles.
    If Bicycle Quarterly had colour pictures it would be one of the best periodicals of any kind.

    January 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm
  • Garth

    Thank you Jan, very informative and inspiring. Especially because today, January 10th, happens to be my own birthday!

    January 9, 2013 at 10:29 pm
  • Matthew J

    Monsieur Gilbert looks very healthy indeed. 92 years well lived with more to come.

    January 10, 2013 at 5:22 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Monsieur Gilbert is indeed what the French call “une force de nature.” He even offered to drive us to Lyli’s house at Chanteloup, but his car was in the shop, so we rented a car instead. That way, I got to drive in Paris traffic for the first time in 25 years. I must say I prefer riding bikes there…

      January 10, 2013 at 5:33 am
  • Leonard

    Thank you (Jan) for researching and preserving this history. I look forward with much anticipation to receiving my pre-ordered copy. Continued best wishes to you in all your pursuits in this new year.

    January 10, 2013 at 9:03 am
  • nishiki83

    I wonder how many other fascinating and illuminating stories are out there, here in the U.S. and around the world. Unfortunately, learning from, honoring, and celebrating the lives of our elders is not très à la mode in today’s gadget-based, throw-away global economy. Thank you for telling this story in such a conscientious, artistic, and meticulous manner.

    January 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm
  • Aaron C

    This is beautiful.

    January 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm
  • RodneyAB

    Opening the first couple pages, seeing the young Lyli Herse dressed in knickers and sweater, on trail manuever, or Rene Herse in knickers and sweater on a single-speed, what style these riders show, what a treat to have a book like this! Thanks much!

    January 11, 2013 at 12:57 am
  • Michael Thompson

    Got my copy yesterday. This morning I got my coffee and headed to the sitting room to read the paper, found my wife was paging through the book. She said, “this is the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen”. Then she asked, “why don’t you have a Herse”? Not sure but I think she just gave me the “OK”! Thanks Jan for all you have done on this project, it was a special time for cyclists.

    January 11, 2013 at 4:23 am
  • peter weigle

    I was fortunate to see the pre-bound proof in Philly a few months ago and it looked fabulous.
    So many great photos with so many details inside.
    Well done Jan! I know this was a lot of work. (understatement)
    P.S., if all the builders get their copy in the next few days, production of US handmade bikes will probably fall off for a few days;~)

    January 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm
  • Rod Bruckdorfer

    Dedicating the book to Lyli Herse is very appropriate. The prose you wrote to dedicate the book is beautiful.

    January 15, 2013 at 12:57 pm

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