Saturday, October 10, 2009

French Inspirations II: J'Adore René Herse

As far as vintage roadbikes go, none have gotten to me quite like the impeccably elegant René Herse. For your viewing pleasure, I present some glorious René Herse mixtes throughout the years. Though Herse mixtes are legendary, photos of them are nearly impossible to find online, and I thank the collectors at reneherse.com for their permission to use these images. (For Part I of French Inspirations, see here.)

An early René Herse mixte with twin lateral stays, (c) 1947. To me, it brings to mind a woman in a shimmering evening gown with perfect posture, holding a glass of champagne in a slender hand as she looks out into the sea. Am I anthropomorphising? Well, maybe just a little.

Beautiful lugs and fork crown.

Lugged connection points where the lateral stays meet the seatpost. (This is so much nicer than the welded plate behind the seatpost on my Motobecane mixte.)

How amazing to see a 1940s derailleur. Notice the unusual derailleur hanger design off of the chainstay.

Original Lefol Le Paeon fenders. Velo Orange now sells a beautiful Honjo remake of these.

I am curious about the handlebars. They seem to be Northroads, but weren't these bicycles fitted with the Champs-Élysées bars that these are based on? I would love to see the original Champs-Élysées bars on an early Herse mixte like this one. More photos of this bicycle in higher resolution available here.

Here is a later model of a René Herse mixte - a touring bike (c) 1964. It is incredibly well preserved and part of a gorgeous touring pair. I know that some people do not like mixtes with drop bars, but I am not one of them. The beauty of the mixte is that it is versatile, and I think that the drop bars on the above photo look as natural and elegant as porteur bars. The frame design now features a single top tube branching off into twin stays at the seatpost. Personally I prefer the earlier design, with continuous lateral stays, but still this bicycle is gorgeous.

A close-up of the stays attachment point. I am not certain when the switchover from the continuous twin lateral stays design took place, but possibly in the late 1950s - early 1960s.

And this is one of the later original René Herse mixte designs, again with single top tube branching off into twin stays at the seatpost, (c)1972s.

Stay attachment looks a bit different from the '60s model, in that the stays lie close to the main tube. Because Herse made bespoke bicycles, I am not certain whether this reflects a change in design, or a customer's request.

These wrap-around seat tube lugs are not typical for a mixte. See here for more photos of this bicycle from different angles and in high resolution.

It is interesting that these Herse mixtes all have the characteristic "seafoam" colour scheme that I have also noted in these other early French lady's bicycles. More interesting still that it happens to be my favourite colour. It is a delicate, gray-blue-green, not as harsh as the aquamarine of my Motobecane. I can stare at it all day and I hope you enjoy these images as well. A big thank you again to reneherse.com for their terrific website.

19 comments:

  1. I'm going to be honest, I didn't ready anything you wrote - I was so taken in by the pictures I lost all concentration... BeaUtiful...

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  2. A Nitto Albatross is the closest that comes to the original Champs-Elysees bar. The usual brake levers were inverse brake levers and that's what I put on my Peugeot tribute to the Rene Herse.

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  3. Sigrid - Thanks : ) I overdo it with the writing anyway!

    NormanF - Are you sure? The Nitto Albatross bars are essentially North Roads under a different name. I thought Champs-Elysees bars looked more like this?

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  4. Filigree, what utterly gorgeous bicycles. Such interesting, elegant little details on each of them too. They could only be French. And that seafoam colour is just perfect. I can't believe the first one is 60-odd years old. The design is timeless.

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  5. Go look at
    Citizenrider.blogspot.com

    He just had a lady bring in an Alex Singer mixte to be fixed up. She owned the bike from new. It may not be a Rene Herse, but it's durn close. Good photos, too. Silver, which might be just as nice as Seafoam.

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  6. I mean 'read'. See... ;)
    Why is it that after a bottle of wine I can now spell? interesting...

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  7. No one grows tired of looking at Herse bikes. And, yes, seafoam is a lovely color.

    Now I'm thinking, again, of a woman I saw riding along Manhattan's Gold Coast years ago. Astride a Herse mixte, she was wearing what looked like a Chanel suit and kitten-heel slingbacks. I said to myself, "I want to be her when I grow up!"

    In another lifetime...If only....

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  8. Steve A - Thanks for pointing me that way! I can't believe someone brought in a silver Alex Singer into a rural NH bike shop! I think Citizenrider should gently steer the owner towards purchasing a brown leather saddle and handlebar wraps; they will make the silver come alive much nicer than the black vinyl.

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  9. Gorgeous! I love the seafoam color, too. Thanks for putting all these beauties together, especially with their interesting histories. I certainly can't fault anyone for anthropomorphising bicycles :)

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  10. Lovely!

    It is amazing the sheer variations that exist in the cycling world. Singer, Hearse and a few others were true artists when it came to bicycles. Fortunately we still have people capable of producing similar things today.

    Aaron

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  11. Whatever happened to elegant cranksets? I miss them.

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  12. Filigree, there are stylistic differences but they both accept inverse brake levers. That was a consideration for me in going for the classic porteur bike look.

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  13. Aaron, Electra is coming out in 2010 with the Ticino. Its a crank forward version of the classic French porteur just like their Amsterdam is a homage to the classic Dutch 3 speed opafiets.

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  14. The Electra Ticino is a pretty bicycle, but it is structurally different from an actual mixte in several ways; the same can be said of their Amsterdam models in relation to actual Dutch bikes.

    I love the look of inverse brake levers - but if I were building up a new bike, I would be torn between them vs bar-end shifters. I have yet to find an elegant pair of thumb-shifters, and downtube shifters would not be an option.

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  15. I hope you're notified about this comment so long after the post!

    What, in your opinion, makes the Ticino not a true mixte? Would you say that of the Nirve 3 speed model (http://www.bikecommuters.com/2008/09/26/interbike-2008-nirve-bikes/) or the new Globe Live frames?

    Glossy

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  16. I'm so glad I stumbled onto this site. I have a small collection of "Ballooners" and didn't even know what a Mixtie was when I saw a bike on ebay that put a huge smile on my face, and I knew I had to have that bike. It is an early fifties "Urago" 5 speed. Made in Nice France. With the exception of the Derailleur it is completely original. A local bike shop has some white 27x1/4" tires, There doesn't seem to be a whole lot out there for colors in that size. I think you just helped me make up my mind. Dark blue with unpainted aluminum fenders and...white tires! I have to laugh because I can stare at that bike for hours. I mechanically rebuild all my bikes & this one is ready to go. Just need tires. I just bought a German made "Victoria" 4 speed Mixtie. Gonna need tires for that too.

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  17. Very nice and beautiful photos! I am in restouring a mixte from prugeot. It will be my bike for everyday

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