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1968 Rene Herse Gentleman's Bicycle

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1968 Rene Herse Gentleman's Bicycle

Old 01-13-22, 07:31 PM
  #1  
2flit
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1968 Rene Herse Gentleman's Bicycle

At the risk of being far to over wordy, here is my brief history with this R. Herse



Traveling thru France on a 2012 Tandem bicycle tour along the Loire River, we stumbled upon a Rene Herse being advertised in the local paper. Original owner bicycle in exceptional condition, just waiting unridden in the old owners storage. The French ad read as follows (and this reads as a good description of how she came):



EXCEPTIONAL STATE
Vélo René Herse taille 68 cm axe/axe René Herse bike size 68 cm axle / axle
Tube supérieur 60 cm axe/axe 60 cm top tube axis / axis
Potence René Herse René Herse Stem
Pédalier René Herse René Herse Crankset
Manivelles René Herse René Herse cranks
Garde boue Durex RBN Fender Durex RBN
Freins Weinmann 610 vinqueur 999 Weinmann 610 brakes vinqueur 999
Moyeux Normandy Normandy hubs
Pédales Lyotard Lyotard pedals
Pompe Lapize Pump Lapize
Selle Brooks B66 à ressorts Brooks B66 saddle with springs
Jantes SuperChampion Wheels SUPERCHAMPION
Tubes Reynolds renforcés fourreaux de fourches et arrières Reynolds tubing sleeves Reinforced forks and rear
Eclairage fonctionnant parfaitement Lighting works perfectly
Feu arrière ULO Taillight ULO
Dynamo SOUBITEZ 10 Dynamo SOUBITEZ 10
Numéro de Série 53 68 Serial Number 53 68
Remise en main propre sur Paris Hand delivery to Paris



Difficult to do anything on a two-up self-supported tour; We continued cycling on to Budapest, the Rene Herse always in the recesses of my mind… the thought of her growing… was it provenance that had caught me in its web with that incredible coincidence of my very tall frame size at 68cm axe/axe (c-c)?

We came within the tiniest of margins of cancelling our return flight to gain the time to cycle back and arrange purchase and shipment home. Looking back, I can’t believe I just flew home.



But I could not escape the attraction and arranged for a local mechanic (Enzo at Velorama) to meet up with the owner and ship the “Gentleman’s Bicycle” home.



Because the bicycle became a daily commuter on a steep and hilly ride…. I made a few reversable changes to the gearing and provisions for a front bag. The old parts (freewheel, original drilled bars, derailleur, and such) safely stored away for someone that comes eventually down the road from me, probably when I’m 80 years old like the former owner.



The conversion to the (up to) 16% grades that I commute on was mostly done with the addition of a clamp-on suicide shifter a slightly wider range of the French threaded freewheel and a bit of magic from Jan Hein with an adaption of the original cranks to a double. Shifting is not what one would call smooth but I don’t want to violate the originality with an actual Herse square tube shifter that’s brazed. My hope is that some day I (or the next owner) will be back on level-ish ground and can return the bicycle to the original unmolested state without any noticeable history of a former hilly life.

Original Condition on arrival

Original unmolested condition left side

On a sunny day before the changes started

Seat Lug and cable routing

Fender reinforcement

BB shell

Front light

Seat Bolt


Next>>>>
Original

Brakes pivot on seatstay posts (not the bridge)

Fork

Single original Crank

Rack works fine for loaded bags

Brooks original seat Has old school clamp shells

Front brake and roller

Lettering

Original bars were somewhat narrow for city streets and I wanted to add a Nitto F11 carrier which would have destroyed the original bars. Switched out for some similar modern bars and drilled them for the reverse lever brakes

Rear fender

aft view

Rear roller
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Old 01-13-22, 07:46 PM
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Original single now converted to a double with Jan Hein's help

Rear rack can carry a substantial load

Original B66

Front brake on very low pivots

Lettering

Original handle bars now replaced

Fender Mark, rear fender was damaged in shipment
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Old 01-13-22, 07:49 PM
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This is how the bike looks today with the modifications that I made to the gearing, shifting, and handle bars.






Last edited by 2flit; 01-13-22 at 08:16 PM.
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Old 01-13-22, 08:06 PM
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Man, so cool, fantastic score, very well done.
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Old 01-13-22, 08:49 PM
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Beautiful! Truly a spectacular bit of cycling history. It’s my size too…. I’m shocked that 68cm Herse bikes even exist!
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Old 01-13-22, 09:23 PM
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Big enough to consider the top tube as a roll bar for me.
Fortunate to be old enough to have the hand painted downtube graphics.
Very nice.
Fits as if designed for you.
Given the size, I would have been tempted to go to a cable operated front mech and a shift lever near the seat lug as done on some demountables, using a single sided shift lever clamp.
I could see a few ways to run the cable.
No idea how you reach that far down!
Consider lengthening the shift cable housing for the rear shift at the bottom bracket.
And reducing the loop for the rear brake near the seatpost. Things are tight for sure there.
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Old 01-13-22, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
Given the size, I would have been tempted to go to a cable operated front mech and ...
No idea how you reach that far down!
Repêchage
It's all relative as we can all touch our toes... and me toves are way down der too!
The front cable shifting seemed like yet one more thing to potentially mar the finish and leave a trace of my molestation. The long reach keeps me honest and the bike is ridden as a 5-speed except for the truly steep bits on my gravel road. Like getting out and turning the manual hubs on my 1965 Jeep CJ5, it's a very conscious decision and something I don't want to do all that often.
It's a bit weird but this is the only bike I've owned that has the presence and responsibility of owning a piece of history and all that might imply with regards to 'stewardship'

Last edited by cb400bill; 01-14-22 at 05:37 AM.
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Old 01-14-22, 12:09 AM
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Very cool indeed - thanks for sharing! You are now the steward of an amazingly rare bike. I’m glad that you stuck with Huret for the RD. I think that the PO, and Herse himself would approve of the continued use of the bicycle as intended. He himself was known to make modifications or upgrades as bikes returned to his shop over the years. Your tasteful and reversible modifications keep it alive for you.

Here’s to many more miles with your machine!
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Old 01-14-22, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by 2flit View Post
This is how the bike looks today with the modifications that I made to the gearing, shifting, and handle bars.



Cool bike and interesting thread. What kind of handlebars are those on the bike now? Thanks!
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Old 01-14-22, 10:18 AM
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Looking at the photos in post #1, I was sure that any added front derailleur was going to need to be modified to clear the pump peg; seeing the follow-up photos, clearly not.

Very cool bike.
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Old 01-14-22, 01:25 PM
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really beautiful machine you have there and amazing you tandem toured in Europe. I recently bought a road tandem (90's Santana) and enjoyed the ride more than expected, especially when the stoker and I synced our cadence. Perhaps one day I'll do a tandem tour myself!

I've also read that drilling aluminum bars is a big no-no, perhaps I'm off here. Any concerns on your end?

Here's to many more miles!
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Old 01-14-22, 01:38 PM
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The suicide shift is a cool touch. The other options would have included a Benelux suicide shift with the long control shaft along the seat tube or a clamp-on left lever and under-bottom-bracket cable routing.
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Old 01-14-22, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Force View Post
Cool bike and interesting thread. What kind of handlebars are those on the bike now? Thanks!

I've had enough porteur, northroad, and moustache bars on the shelf that I honestly don't recall, my best guess is that those are either an old Soma bend or most likely a heat treated bar that Nitto made because they are very wide. I have allot of spare parts around and 30 years of handlebar bend names start to become somewhat fungible in my brain. The bars were switched out because I wanted to attach the Nitto F-15 bag support that would have damaged the original porteur bars. The original Herse bars were the narrowest porteur bars that I've ever seen. Both bars are drilled for the cable housings that exit the MAFAC reverse brake levers. I enjoy the esthetics of the reverse levers and the choices that become available for the cable exit from inside the bars.




Original narrow porteur bars



New Bars (similar view)



Old Bar showing Cable exits as originally drilled



New Bars showing different cable exits allowing for hand positions on the more moustache-ey bend

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Old 01-14-22, 02:47 PM
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holes

Originally Posted by romperrr View Post
r

I've also read that drilling aluminum bars is a big no-no, perhaps I'm off here. Any concerns on your end?

Here's to many more miles!

Oh-yea... I was concerned given my size!
I have an older friend named Clay that was a machinist and has the most acutely perceptive mechanical mind I've encountered and he put his 'magic' blessing on going ahead and drilling the new bars (besides Herse did this too - though I have no idea of the old bars strength). The holes are carefully chamfered to avoid a stress riser. These bars have at least a thousand miles on them now both commuting and several Brevets.
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Old 01-14-22, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by tiger1964 View Post
I was sure that any added front derailleur was going to need to be modified to clear the pump peg; seeing the follow-up photos, clearly not.
.
'.... Actually, you are correct.

The suicide shifter needed to be modified to work around that lower pump peg. The sliding shaft and cam needed to be modified and turned upside down and the end nut changed. Still the positioning is less than ideal.
This is also why the Benelux suicide shift probably would not have worked with it's upper arm pivot and difficulty in modification

You are amazing perceptive to have caught this detail (one that I had actually not recalled untill you mentioned it)
Great catch !!



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Old 01-14-22, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by 2flit View Post
Repêchage
It's all relative as we can all touch our toes... and me toves are way down der too!
The front cable shifting seemed like yet one more thing to potentially mar the finish and leave a trace of my molestation. The long reach keeps me honest and the bike is ridden as a 5-speed except for the truly steep bits on my gravel road. Like getting out and turning the manual hubs on my 1965 Jeep CJ5, it's a very conscious decision and something I don't want to do all that often.
It's a bit weird but this is the only bike I've owned that has the presence and responsibility of owning a piece of history and all that might imply with regards to 'stewardship'
only when I have been up all night, otherwise not. Cannot operate a cambio corsa either.
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Old 01-14-22, 09:28 PM
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@2flit

Veering off a bit here.

Been so enamoured with the RH and your fantastic accounting of it that it took me this long to see the "1973 Jim Merz Custom-built" in your list of bikes, pffft!

I must really be slipping now days.

Please show and tell us about it too, 73 is very early, I have JM027 that he built for himself and he says it is 73-74, no build sheet and he's not sure.
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Old 01-14-22, 09:59 PM
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'73 Merz

Originally Posted by merziac View Post
@2flit ... took me this long to see the "1973 Jim Merz Custom-built" in your list of bikes, pffft!
Please show and tell us about it too, 73 is very early, I have JM027 that he built for himself and he says it is 73-74, no build sheet and he's not sure.
OK, will-do
It's bee thoroughly messed with though!... you might hate me for that?... It's actually the bicycle I took with me here on our circumnavigation (now being ridden in Kiwi land while ocean cruising has become Covid impaired)
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Old 01-14-22, 10:10 PM
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Beautiful machine! Way, way too big for me, but nevertheless incredible.
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Old 01-14-22, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
Been so enamoured with the RH and your fantastic accounting of it that it took me this long to see the "1973 Jim Merz Custom-built" in your list of bikes, pffft!
What's even more amazing is that his Bilenky has traveled back in time some 18,000 years!
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Old 01-15-22, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by 2flit View Post
OK, will-do
It's bee thoroughly messed with though!... you might hate me for that?... It's actually the bicycle I took with me here on our circumnavigation (now being ridden in Kiwi land while ocean cruising has become Covid impaired)
No worries, all good, anything still in use and being utilized is a good thing, no judgement from me, we just won't tell Jim, he got mad at me for riding his when I got it.

I didn't buy it to look at, commuted on it for a while, rode it at Crater lake, in the Gorge, Silverton, and all over PDX, fantastic.

I'll wait for it but I have so many questions.

I get so much respect whenever I show them off, its amazing, even when people don't know of him they are still in awe.

Standing by.

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Old 01-15-22, 04:47 AM
  #22  
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Amazing bike!
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Old 01-15-22, 11:39 AM
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Excellent job!

I've always thought I wanted an original Herse. But then I realized I'd want to mess with it too much- kit it out with Suntour and Dura Ace... I wouldn't want to do that. So those are just to enjoy from afar.
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Old 01-15-22, 12:38 PM
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So cool, thanks for sharing!
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Old 01-17-22, 03:07 PM
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A Rene Herse Tandem for sale at a bicycle club in France....
​​​​​​https://tandemclubdefrance.fr/index..../95-rene-herse


I can't pot in the vintage sales../ Maybe a paying "Upgraded" member will repost this there for me?
Asking price : €1,900
Year of manufacture : 1951
Front frame height : 55 cm
Rear frame height : 52 cm
Wheels : 650 B

Very good condition
Description : "Tandem René Herse 650B from 1951 (engraved in the fork pivot). Restored in 2008 by Gerard Saint Martin (33 Cambes)."
Perfect condition! New paint. Very very little driven since its restoration. Size: 55 front, 52 back.
Tandem René Herse cranksets, with original bottom brackets. Super SLJ Simplex rear derailleur. Lighting on. Ideale 80 saddles. Handlebar and front stem Philippe.
Tektro cantilever brakes. Maxi Car tandem hubs. Rear drum brake doubled on Mafac brake levers. New wheels on Brotherhood 650B rims.
Selling price: 1900€
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