Thread: Labonne
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Old 07-28-21, 05:54 AM
Custom Wheel
Join Date: Jul 2021
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I used to sell and repair these bikes back in the mid 1970s at my first job, at Gene's Bicycles on Stenton Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was just old enough to get so-called "working papers" at the age of 14 when I started there, and I also got a job at Hill Cycle Shop in Chestnut Hill, where I built wheels.

The owners of Gene's had a main store (or two) in New York City and opened the remote location, which was only a few blocks from my home. They were Gene Bierhorst (hence the Gene in the store name) and Ned Labonne, his brother-in-law. Ned is now a sculptor. I would include a link to his site and picture, but I can't because I'm a new member. There are also pics of Gene online, the most recent I could find were from a 2008 B&B Reunion (in case anyone wants to search for him). Again, I was not allowed to post a direct link.

I've been trying to make contact with Ned for a chance to reminisce (and see if he even remembers me), but he hasn't responded to my emails.

Anyway, Labonne bikes were our "house" brand, having been made under contract for the main store and branded with the co-owner's last name, which was chosen, IIRC, because it sounded like an established brand. We also sold Lejune bikes (an inspiration for using Ned's name), as well as Peugeot, Raleigh, Fuji and several others.

Not to cast aspersion, but these bikes were not made to the highest standard and we often had to cannibalize ones still in the boxes to replace broken parts, sometimes on ones that hadn't even been assembled yet. We had several such donor bikes.

It was cool to find the threads on this forum with pictures of these old bikes that bring back so many memories from that era! I'm just getting back in to road cycling again after many years away. I plan to restore a Raleigh International I have from that era -- with the beautifully chromed Nervex lugs, but, unfortunately, a sloped crown chrome fork that the person I bought if from way back in the 1970s considered to be an upgrade. In the meantime I recently purchased a used Marinoni from the 9 speed Dura-Ace era and have got that one working well and I've been working on my conditioning. It's my first experience riding and repairing a bike with "brifters" and clipless pedals! It feels good to be back in the (racing) saddle again after so many years away.

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