The Bicycles of René Herse

A search for “René Herse” didn’t bring up anything so I thought I’d supply some content myself. Here’s a history lesson for you’z all.

René Herse was a French framebuilder of great renown who worked from the 40’s untill his death in the mid 70’s. Often referred to a “constructeur” because of his holistic approach to bicycle fabrication, Herse refused to be merely a framebuilder, and instead built bikes from the ground-up with every component specifically chosen for the required application. Many of them, he custom fabricated, or found ingenious way to integrate into the bike’s design. Although he is best known for his touring bikes and randonneurs, he built bikes of all sorts including racers, cruisers, porteurs, and even mixte frames. His craftsmanship is often cited as an influence on frame builders of the “bicycle renaissance” such as Sacha White and Ira Ryan.

Here is what Sheldon Brown has to say about him:

"To illustrate the concept of top-end French bicycles, consider the following quote made by a friend about top-end French automobiles:

    "Imagine that an advanced civilization was discovered living beneath the soil of Mars - and that they had developed automobiles - these automobiles are to Earth autos as French cars are to all other Earth cars."

Indeed, French exotic bicycles are quite other-worldly as well. They are more advanced than the bikes the rest of the world produced - and have parts that are quite other-worldly. Herse bikes are the most sought after of all vintage lightweights in Japan. Sure, there may be some French builders that on occasion topped the masterpieces produced by Herse, When, however, the diversity of his product line and level of artistry his works displayed is considered, the fame his bikes attained is completely understandable. Herse touring bicycles feature incredible integrated racks and lighting systems.

Herse produced wonderful proprietary cranksets, brakesets, and stems. His bikes often used sealed bearing bottom brackets - even in the 40's. Oh, he did make some race bikes too - for his daughter who was several time national female cycling champion of France. Some Herse race bikes even had oversize downtubes! He was a touring bike builder who was way ahead of his time. Herse bikes are very rare and very valuable. The smaller the size the better, and the more touring goodies the better. Race bikes, however, are fairly rare and do have value. For a prime sized bike (less than 58cm c-t) with lots of touring goodies, a price in the $ 3,000 to $ 4,000 range is reasonable. Because the original proprietary bits are nearly impossible to find, missing parts can severely impact value. Theoretically, really mint examples in small sizes with all the right bits may have values much greater than $ 4000."

Here are some pics (courtesy of

those bikes are beautiful.

Thanks for this history.

The hell are those things on the wheels? They look like amplifier tubes.

They’re generators used to power the lights. If you look carefully, you’ll notice internal cable routing.

Also, post more pics please.

Ohhhhhhhhhh! I’m blind, I thought they were attached to the rims. o_O

I know a person with 1 complete and 1 frameset.

So many handmade/proprietary parts… that’s some serious craftsmanship.

Herse made some beautiful, albeit strange, bicycles/parts.

for all with an interest in the constructeur bikes (Herse, Singer, Routens etc), maybe consider getting a subscription to “vintage bicycle quarterly” or getting a copy of “Golden age of handbuilt bicycles”

i like 'em a lot. [/unsolicited shill]

ps, i thought long and hard about bidding on that herse tandem (doofo’s post) when it was for sale earlier this year. i sensibly concluded that i couldn’t afford it, let alone the freight. :frowning:

These bikes are bad motherfuckers.

The tandem looks so sad.