Italian Fixed Champion on Rene HerseJan Heine
It’s been exciting to see the first stages of the Tour de France. A little too exciting, in fact, when spectators aren’t aware that the privilege seeing racers zipping so close comes with responsibilities. Here’s a little secret: Every bike racer, deep down, just a little bit, dreams of riding along the Champs Elysées in the yellow jersey. And every bike and component maker dreams of the yellow jersey riding on their frame/parts/wheels/tires. How about a team equipped with superlight steel frames made from Kaisei tubing, running 32 mm Stampede Pass tires, Rene Herse 12-speed cranks, and superlight centerpull brakes? We’d even make a shorter-reach brake for them…
Of course, that’s not going to happen: We’re too small to sponsor a pro team. In fact, we don’t have a marketing budget at all. We prefer to spend our resources on R&D, on sourcing the best materials, and on working with the best suppliers for our components. When pro teams use Rene Herse products, it’s because they believe that our parts will give them the edge they need to win. Not because they are paid to ride them.
You can imagine how excited we were when, just a few days ago, Francesca Selva won the Italian Professional Fixed Championships on Rene Herse tires. These pro races are a big deal, and this year, they were held on an indoor kart track.
Imagine racing on a track that is just 6-7 m (20-25 ft) wide, with short straights of 100 m (300 ft), and curves with a radius less than 10 m (30 ft) – on fixed-gear bikes! The ultra-tight corners place a huge emphasis on grip and handling (and rider skill). Most racers run 28 mm-wide tires.
The T°Red team raised a few eyebrows when they showed up on much wider rubber. The team ran 38 mm and 44 mm Rene Herse tires!
They also had some of the best racers, especially Francesca Selva (above), who’s one of Italy’s strongest women. She’s known for her power as well as her handling and tactical skills. And ‘Fra’ didn’t disappoint, taking the title by a big margin.
A lot of R&D went into the winning bikes. Designed by Romolo Stanco of T°RED, the frames are made from steel tubing in carefully chosen diameters. Stanco explained: “We’ve moved away from ultra-stiff frames in favor of a softer and more mellow frame. We’ve looked at racing go-karts, where stiffness is often not synonymous with performance. The benefits [of the more flexible frame] are increased cornering stability, greater traction when accelerating, and better control when pedaling hard.”
The frames have a very high bottom bracket, with a BB drop of just 25 mm. The goal is not just cornering clearance, but also to enhance agility. Stanco: “In motocross, you use a high center of gravity for better agility. Looking at motorcycles was fundamental for determining the technical and geometric solutions [of our bikes], yet it was also important to understand that motorcycles benefit from shock absorbers, which the bike obviously lacks.”
Romolo Stanco continued: “Another feature of our ‘SpeedWay Kartodrome’ model is the differentiated section between the rear (44 mm) and front (38 mm) tires. This is the result of tests and collaboration with Rene Herse, who supplied tires with an identical compound and design, but different sections.”
Francesca Selva told me about her winning ride: “It was a feeling like Moto GP in the corners!” Seeing the photos of those lean angles is amazing – and then you realize she’s pedaling through the corners!
Romolo Stanco explained: “The advantages were very evident in the first four corners of the track, where Francesca Selva could maintain very high speeds with a lean angle of 10° more than a fixed-gear bike with 28 mm tires, in absolute safety and while putting out full power. In the first part of the track, Francesca Selva gained almost a second on her competitors.”
She pulled ahead with each 800 m lap, until she crossed the finish line far ahead of the other racers after 8 laps. And then she repeated the feat in the second heat, to win the championships decisively. (The rider with the most points from both races wins.)
The men’s race was marred by an early crash that held up many of the favorites. T°Red rider Allesandro Mariani took second place. Angelo Bonzanini (above) came 8th. Their bikes were similar to Francesca Selva’s, but with many detail differences, since they are all prototypes.
Congratulations to such an excellent performance! It’s a well-deserved success for a team that has been pushing the envelope on road and track, in criteriums and even triathlon.
If, like me, you now dream of your own SpeedWay Kartodrome bike, T°Red will make them, complete with the special fork that’s designed for the wider tires. There’ll also be a version with disc mounts on the fork for urban riding.
For us at Rene Herse, this is so much more than ‘just’ a great race result. We love working with riders and teams who push the envelope and contribute to our understanding of how bikes and tires work. There’s much to learn about bike geometry, handling and performance. We look forward to seeing where T°Red Factory Racing takes it from here. Their track bikes have spawned some very successful road bikes, in models for stage racing, climbing and criteriums. Romolo Stanco hinted at “some dirt innovations in the pipeline.” This is going to be exciting!
• Article about the championships on bikelive.it (Italian language)
Photo credits: Omar de Lazzari