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Rene Herse

Rene Herse: The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders

Rene Herse: The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders

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By Jan Heine

Foreword by Lyli Herse


This is a fascinating story of a time when cycling was a way of life. The bikes, as beautiful as they are, provide only the backdrop for the adventures and friendships that they made possible. René Herse needs little introduction these days: He created some of the most sought-after bicycles ever made. This 424-page book takes you right into the action, with thousands of historic photos and stories told by riders, racers, randonneurs, employees and René Herse’s daughter Lyli. Follow René Herse and his friends through half a century of adventures, starting with Herse’s early work on prototype aircraft. Join then 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 they 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, Paris-Brest-Paris, and professional races won on René Herse’s frames. Visit the workshop and learn how American customers helped to keep the lights on during the difficult period of the 1960s. Learn how his daughter Lyli and Herse’s best framebuilder joined hands to continue the tradition, crafting amazing bikes that were as out-of-this-world as her father’s. This book tells a story that will inspire you in many ways!


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!


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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