The 650B Ancestor: René Herse Randonneur

Fantastic article on what made these machines great. The bit on chainstay to dropout is fascinating as well as the internal routing through the front rack to the light. Thanks for sharing Jan.

Off The Beaten Path

rh52_profile

I had the opportunity to ride a favorite classic René Herse again recently. This is the bike that started the current trend of 650B bikes in North America. It’s the bike that made us re-evaluate front-end geometries and wide tires. It’s truly the ancestor of the bikes we ride today, and it has been hugely influential.

I first rode this 1952 René Herse more than a decade ago. I didn’t have very high expectations. Wide tires at low pressures? Must be slow. “Suicide” front derailleur? Must be difficult to shift. Huge amount of fork rake? A clear sign they didn’t understand front-end geometry back then. Today, we smile about these assumptions, but back then, they were deeply ingrained in all of us.

Imagine my surprise then when the old Herse was faster than my custom bike. It handled better and was more fun to ride. I set a few personal…

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