Our Bike Industry Friends—and our Appreciation Week
Working in the bike industry is fun, because our world is populated by like-minded enthusiasts. Sure, there are always those who are looking for the latest ideas, so they can swoop in and copy whatever others have developed with love and sweat (and sometimes tears). That’s inevitable in today’s world… The true pioneers—and there are plenty—are riders first, who started their companies because they wanted to make something that didn’t exist yet. We all share a passion for cycling.
Take Paul Price of Paul Components, for example (above). Many, many years ago, long before I got involved in making components, I wrote a series of articles about French bikes for the Rivendell Reader. (Grant from Riv is another old friend.) One article was about centerpull brakes, and why they had certain advantages. Paul read it and called me up. I was just out of college, and here was the guy who had reinvented canti brakes! And he was excited: “This makes so much sense!” We talked for a while, and then I sent him an ancient set of Mafac Racer brakes, which I considered the best centerpulls back then. Paul came up with his own take on the idea, which he called the ‘Paul Racers.’
We’ve been friends ever since. That didn’t change when we introduced our Rene Herse centerpull and canti brakes that are optimized for bikes with fenders and racks. Paul’s brakes and ours complement each other; each are intended for different purposes. A few years ago, Paul invited Natsuko and me to his Paul Camp, where we rode beautiful custom bikes in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and visited his factory. We wrote a story about this trip and published it in Bicycle Quarterly 61.
We’re close friends with many framebuilders. Peter Weigle has joined us on trips to Japan (above in Tokyo) and France. There we entered a superlight bike he built in the Concours de Machines together. What an adventure that was!
Mark Nobilette builds the wonderful frames for my Rene Herse bikes (and our Limited Edition bikes that are based on my Paris-Brest-Paris bike). It’s great to be able to call these masters of their craft, and others like Jeff Lyon or the guys at TOEI in Tokyo, whenever I have a question or idea, and get their advice and feedback.
We’ve also known Gerard Vroomen and Andy Kessler from Open since way back, when they introduced their dropped-chainstay U.P., arguably the first modern gravel bike. Sensing that this was the bike I’d been dreaming of—a modern race bike that could run ultra-wide tires—I got in touch with them as soon as the U.P. was announced. They organized a test bike for us in Japan. We took it on an unforgettable adventure across Odarumi Pass. Since then, we’ve become friends.
When we decided to collab on a frame, Andy and Gerard did something that surprised even us: The Rene Herse × OPEN U.P.P.E.R. is the only OPEN ever to have somebody else’s name on the down tube: the classic René Herse script. Gerard was also involved in our book The All-Road Bike Revolution and wrote a quote for the back cover.
Our friendship with François Marie (above) from FMB in France taught me much about handmade tires. After knowing each other for years, we decided to import his wonderful FMB tubulars to North America.
Wilfried and Andreas from SON in Germany made the Wide-Body generator hubs specifically for us—until so many others wanted them that they became a regular part of the program. They’ve also turned our ideas for the contact-less SL system into reality. Now we’re working together on exciting new projects.
We’ve also known some of the people at Rapha since the earliest days of the company. And we’re good friends with Velocio, who make our superlight Rene Herse jerseys as another collab. The engineers from SRAM and ZIPP have been friends since way back. They helped us when we were working on our first Rene Herse cranks, more than a decade ago. And when they worked on their XPLR gravel groups, they sent me prototypes for feedback and testing—parts that I’m still running on my Firefly. These are just a few examples of the wonderful relationships we have within the bike industry.
The simple reality is that those making the best parts aren’t in it for the money. We share a passion for riding, a passion for wonderful bikes, and that’s what keeps us going. And so we help each other out whenever we can. That extends to everyone else who is working in the bike industry.
We are celebrating these relationships with our Industry Appreciation Week. If you work in the bike industry, you can order our tires, many components, Bicycle Quarterly subscriptions and books at a significant discount. We are a small company, so rather than have a continuous program—and keep track of who is working in the industry and who has changed jobs—we’re limiting this program to one week only, from February 8 to 15, 2024. That allows us to offer a bigger discount than we could do otherwise.
And since we know that times are hard in the industry right now, if you’ve recently been laid off from your bike industry job, you qualify just as well. Because we’re all in this together. Just fill out our application, and we’ll take it from there. It’s our way to say ‘Thanks’ to the many amazing people in the bike world.
For everybody, these great friendships improve our components and bring you many wonderful collaborations. What we do wouldn’t be possible in a vacuum, and the inspiration, advice and help we get from others is invaluable. It’s more fun this way, and it leads to better products that we all can enjoy.