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René Herse: The Bikes, The Builder, The Riders


René Herse
The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders

By Jan Heine
Foreword by Lyli Herse

René Herse created some of the most sought-after bicycles ever made. Explore the fascinating and incredibly rich history behind this famous constructeur in this definitive, 424-page book. Follow Rene Herse starting with his early work on prototype aircraft. Join him at the 1938 Technical Trials, where his bike created a sensation: Fully equipped with wide tires, fenders, lights and a rack, it weighed just 7.94 kg (17.5 lb), lighter than any similar bike today. Witness the difficult years during World War II and learn how cyclists used their bikes both to forage the country for food, but also to spend time with friends and to help each other. Watch amazing performances in the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race and Paris-Brest-Paris, as well as famous professional racers who ride on René Herse’s frames to victories in national and world championships. Visit the workshop and learn how American customers helped to keep the lights on during cycling’s downturn in the 1960s.

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Recollections from Herse’s daughter, his employees and especially riders who rode on his team paint a vivid portrait of a gentle, hard-working man who loved cycling and bicycles. More than 400 photos, most taken by professional photographers, bring the story to life. Complementing this history are studio photographs of 20 René Herse bicycles, from one of the first machines made in 1941 to one of the last bikes built in the 1980s: randonneur bikes, tandems, racing and track bikes, as well as touring, camping and city bikes. Each bike is shown in profile and with detail photographs that illustrate why these bikes are so special.

The owners and riders of René Herse’s bikes were a relatively classless group that included the well-off as well as young workers who saved all their money to afford their dream bikes. Many of these riders had one thing in common: Their lives revolved around cycling. They rode hard in competitions, but also explored new landscapes and cultures on their tours. Most of all, they forged lasting friendships along the way and lived their lives fully doing what they liked best: cycling in the company of good friends. This book is as much about these riders as it is about the bikes they rode. May they serve as an inspiration to future generations of cyclists!

Click here for reviews of this book.

Also available in a Limited Edition with slip cover and ready-to-frame art prints of unpublished photos.

Also available in French.

The Author:
Jan Heine is editor of Bicycle Quarterly, the magazine about the history, culture and technology of cycling. He is the author of The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles and The Competition Bicycle.

  • Publisher: Bicycle Quarterly Press
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Pages: 424 pages
  • Dimensions: 9.5″” x 12”

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