Review the René Herse Book on Amazon

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To make the wonderful story of René Herse available to a larger audience, we’ve decided to list our book René Herse: The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders on Amazon.com. The story has inspired our readers. René Herse is fascinating not just because of the amazing bikes he built. At least as inspiring are the riders who rode them: impeccably turned-out cyclotourists, randonneurs in search of personal bests, racers who rode Herse frames to victories and championships…

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Many were larger-than-life characters, and their first-hand accounts and photos in the book really bring the story to life. It’s been fascinating how every reader discovers their very personal connection. A friend’s wife commented how she loved the book for the clothing the riders wear. Another friend enjoyed studying the facial expressions of the riders, whether it’s a smile as they ride by the camera or the look of intense concentration as they battle for victory on the 14% hill of the Poly de Chanteloup. And of course, the bikes also are spectacular…

bookbqrh_318Since you are reading this blog, there is a good chance that you’ve read the book already. So perhaps you’ll consider writing a review on the Amazon page, if you enjoy that kind of thing. Our biggest challenge has been to convince readers that they’ll enjoy the story. Too many think a book about René Herse must be intended for collectors, when it’s actually written for a much larger audience – anybody who enjoys an inspirational story.

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Constance Winters wrote on the Lovely Bicycle blog:

“I am stunned by the Rene Herse book. I cannot put it down. This book is much more than I expected. The amount of work you must have done to do this research and put together this narrative, with all the photos and illustrations… Just amazing.”

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If you don’t have the René Herse book yet, it’s a great thing to put on your holiday wish list!

Click on the links for

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into high-performance components for real-world riders.
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21 Responses to Review the René Herse Book on Amazon

  1. Peter Chesworth says:

    Right. It’s going on the list (a list of one item …). My office is adorned with the large Rene Herse posters – highly recommended. The frame on the tandem looks incredibly slender, and no diagonal tubes. Yet your PBP experience was positive. Would be interesting to understand what tricks were used, and perhaps some finesse by the riders of the day.

    • There were a lot of “tricks” on the old tandems. First, the good ones all used oversized tubing, as early as in the 1930s. The Herse tandem I rode in Paris-Brest-Paris actually had very effective triangulation, with twin lateral stays (which creates a 3D structure, unlike the extra tubes in the plane of the frame added to most modern tandem frames). Finally, the older tandems were shorter in the back, since there is no need for the stoker to adopt an “aerodynamic” position. That said, the French tandems weren’t as incredibly short as some other old tandems – the right length, as always, is important. Finally, you need the right front-end geometry to have the tandem not react to the stoker’s movements. If you are interested, BQ 7 was dedicated to French tandems, with geometries, photos, articles…

  2. Damian says:

    Jan,
    Did you consider using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature? The book represents a considerable investment for buyers who may not already appreciate the genius of Herse and the beauty of his creations. A short preview of some of the exciting tales in the book might help convince a prospective buyer to click the purchase button.

  3. Any chance of cheaper shipping to Norway ? Currently the minimum is 64$!

    Thanks

  4. marmotte27 says:

    Done.

  5. Justin Hughes says:

    If you were ordering the Firefly today, would you spec the cable routing exactly the same?

  6. Rob says:

    “The Herse tandem I rode in Paris-Brest-Paris actually had very effective triangulation, with twin lateral stays (which creates a 3D structure, unlike the extra tubes in the plane of the frame added to most modern tandem frames)”

    Not all pundits would agree:

    “Two thin tubes twist four times as easily as [a] single fat tube made from an identical material. Twin lats … have no place on a lightweight tandem.” (Chris Juden, Cycletouring and Campaigning, Feb/March 1996, p. 27)

    “I do not consider twin lateral tubes worthy of consideration on a quality tandem … [they] are good at doing one job, and that is to control bending, but only in one plane, the plane lying between the two tubes. … A single full-size tube properly mitred and fitted will quite as efficiently control bending, and will also control twisting.” (Tony Oliver, Touring Bikes : a Practical Guide, 1990 The Crowood Press, p. 82)

    • Generally, I prefer direct experience over theoretical reasoning.

      Having ridden two otherwise similar Herse tandems, one with and one without the triangulation, the difference is very noticeable. Even though the “open” frame had larger-diameter tubing, it was noticeably more flexible. Most importantly, the 1946 Herse tandem (with two sets of twin lateral tubes) which we rode in Paris-Brest-Paris still is the best-handling, best-performing tandem I’ve ever ridden. I’ve ridden most of the popular modern ones, but none even come close. The superb performance of the old tandem is one reason that our ride still is among the 15 or so fastest tandem rides in PBP – ever, with male or female riders.

      I think the writers you quoted overlooked that those thin tubes are not stressed in bending, but in compression/tension. Based on their reasoning, seatstays wouldn’t work, either, nor would “mixte” frames. The flex of bike frames remains poorly understood, which is why on-the-road experience still yields the best results when attempting to design a well-performing bike.

  7. Rob says:

    Chris Juden was CTC Technical Officer for many, many years and a regular CTC tour leader so no lack of direct experience (and a degree in engineering so sound in theory also). The quote is from a mammoth, three-part tandem article/group road test run in the CTC magazine over three issues. Tony Oliver was a highly-respected framebuilder. CJ is, if course, coming to the subject as a tourist rather than a performance cyclist. I thought it striking, though, that there could be such a great divergence of view.

    • It could also be a difference in how the lateral stays are designed. I have seen one British tandem where those stays indeed couldn’t do much, since they didn’t connect in the points where the loads are fed into the frame.

      A general problem with the perception of older tandems is simply that there were many bad ones and a few excellent ones. Most riders (and even experts) have experienced only the bad ones. Perhaps I am lucky that I’ve never ridden a Peugeot tandem made from standard-diameter tubing and with a mixte rear. Those who have report that it was “interesting”. And since the mixte rear looks a lot like the twin laterals (but missing the crucial top tube), it was easy for that configuration to get a bad reputation.

      It’s interesting that the “open” frame configuration without any bracing had been maligned for many years (read Oliver’s opinion about it!), but recently has seen a comeback. Having ridden an “open” Herse and a Jack Taylor with an extra bracing tube in the stoker compartment, I can report that the two felt almost identical. (Both were built from the same diameter Reynolds 531 tubing.) It seems like all the extra tube does is provide a good place for a water bottle. 😉

  8. Rob says:

    I wonder also whether for touring, a stiffer frame being desirable/essential to keep the load stable, oversize tubing and a direct internal tube (or a marathon design if the riders are more evenly matched in weight) is optimal but that to get performance when the load is lighter the right sort of compliance might actually be of benefit, as with a solo. So both points of view might be equally valid taken in context.

    From time in the bike trade during the ’80s I recall several twin-lateral solo frames breaking where the twin tubes joined the seat tube. A sign of poor construction, certainly, but also an indication of where the torsional stresses are concentrated. One reason, rightly or wrongly, that the design fell out of favour, in the UK at least.

    • I find the “direct internal” and “Marathon” tandem designs hard to understand. Simply adding more tubes in the same plane is the least effective way to increase stiffness. Triangulation is a much better way. Witness the Moulton, which uses very fine tubes, yet is quite stiff with its triangulated 3D structure. (Triangulation basically creates the effect of a super-oversized tube with much less material.)

      It seems that the common tandem designs are mostly designed to hold up the riders’ weight, like a bridge truss (an analogy that was given to me by either Jack or Ken Taylor), rather than for torsional stiffness.

      The “mixte” frames that broke at the seat tube – my sister had a Peugeot that failed that way – were due to a simple steel plate being used to connect the tubes. There wasn’t much contact area to that joint.

  9. Rob says:

    We have a direct internal tandem frame and it’s stiff, but the tubing is oversize and the drainpipe is oval which may be plenty stiff anyway (can’t really hack out the direct internal tube to see if it has any effect). The Moulton spaceframe is of course reinforced with diagonal braces between the lateral tubes but it’s also very stiff. The mixte frames I’m thinking of were mostly Raleighs (same steel plate issue).

    • As I mentioned before, I have done the “with and without direct lateral” experiment. A friend has an Herse made from the same tubing and similar sizes as my Jack Taylor, but with an open frame. The two seem indistinguishable in their ride (albeit not their quality and price!).

  10. Rob says:

    Perhaps this serves to show that measurement is all very well so long as you know which measurement matters. Like early digital sound being “bit perfect” but not always sounding perfect because no-one had thought to measure timing error. The combination of forces that apply when actually riding may be much more complex than torque about the “twist axis”. Thanks for the detailed replies. Very interesting if still a tad mysterious!

    • Perhaps this serves to show that measurement is all very well so long as you know which measurement matters.

      Absolutely. That is why Bicycle Quarterly starts with real-road observations, then measures, and then designs experiments to validate what we have measured.

  11. marmotte27 says:

    Very interesting reading. I’m in the market for a tendem for my wife and me. Now I know better what to look for, and what to stay clear of. There are lots of machines on offer, quite a few Gitanes and Peugeots with a mixte rear…

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