1954 René Herse 650B Randonneur Unrestored Show Bike: 61cm - 99% Original - RH Stem/FC/BB/BR/FD - Maxi CAR - Ideale Alloy - Mafac Open Back
This gorgeous rarity is a 1950's top of the line randonneuse bicycle in a large size for riders roughly 5ft 9 to 6ft 2 tall. It was imported by Alex March for a US collector (confirmed by Alex) in recent years. It retains its original finish and hand painted logos on the downtube and head tube, tubing decal, and even some of the pinstriping (although the fork was repainted)! It shows well at trade show—it graced the floors of the 2016 NAHBS, among others. Also, it is fully rideable and catches quite the amount of attention from bike lovers in the know. Riding it down the streets of Portland, a surprised double take and a "damn, nice bike!" was a common occurrence. It's been in my custodianship nearly two years in which time I've changed out the few incorrect components its previous owner had installed for proper 1950's pieces. It has been surreal having this museum piece living among me in my loft, and it's time to pass it on to another soul to love. Take it on a L'Eroica ride, ride it around your town, take it to bike shows, or display it at your shop or living room!
*Note on shipping: Yes, it is a high shipping cost due to the exceptional care in shipping a piece of history such as this requires. I strongly urge buyers to take a trip to Portland to pick it up and save the shipping cost (select local pickup)! If shipping is required, I would suggest we ship it in a hard case. Contact me and we can work something out*
René Herse's bicycles were almost without exception custom built, and he did not assign models to them. There were loose "models" in the catalog based upon desired riding purpose, and these were shown to prospective customers for inspiration for their build. This one is a quite close match to the "Cyclotourisme (Cyclotouriste)”, which differs from the "Randonneuse" by 1) the presence of a rear rack and thus lack of seat tube mounted taillight 2) Phillips randonneur bars vs the Randonneuse model’s road drops, 3) lacks the Randonneuse’s RH modified eccentric shifter. The only obvious differences between this bike and the Cyclotourisme in the catalog is the catalog bike has internal cable routing, a different JOS taillight setup, and variances in rack style.
This one has all the top end features René offered in the early 50's, such as the René Herse crankset and bottom bracket, cantilever brakes, stem with bell mount, suicide front derailleur, carbon brush in headtube for dynamo lighting (not connected), chainstay mounted Cyclo derailleur hanger, hand-cut lugs, and an integrated rear canti cable hanger. It is VERY close to "all original", and has period correct 1950's parts with the exception of the headlamp mounting bolt/nut, racks, tires, brake blocks, and possibly the cable/housing. Tubing is top level ultralight Vitus, with a 28mm downtube instead of the O.S. 30mm Herse's tall bikes usually had. Its components are the top level parts Herse put on his nicest machines, including Maxi-CAR high flange on Mavic Criterium rims & Bell Wingnuts, AD-HOC pump, Ideale 57 alloy rail saddle, Radios/Jos lights, correct early Mafac levers w/ fully open backs, Lefol fenders, and what appears to be a Sonn-Net bell sans logos. The racks were custom made by Mark Guglielmana in the RH style. Even the chain is correct; a Brampton. Phillippe Randonneur handlebars are wrapped in cotton tape and coated with amber shellac with rare and proper G.B. plugs. Note that the generator’s mounting braze on is present, though there is no generator attached.
Its frame number appears to be 56-54, indicating it was (most likely) the 56th frame built in 1954 . Herse numbered his bikes with four-digit frame numbers on both underside of crown and non-driveside dropout, with two pairs of numbers separated by a large space. The dropout reads "54" only, on the far right side, the crown reads "56" on the far left side. The corresponding pairs on each one must have been worn away with time. Mike Kone of Boulder Bicycle says "it's most likely the 56th bike of 1954 but if not, it's the 54th bike of 1956."
Beautiful show bike condition with its exceptionally nice original unrestored finish and logos, though the fork was repainted by the previous owner. It presents as a bike that has clearly been cared for and has a lovely light patina to show for its 68 years. The finish has been preserved with two coats of Renaissance Wax. The frame is straight, and tracks well. In a pleasant surprise, there are zero dents and very minimal tiny spots of corrosion. The hand painted logos on headtube and downtube have an almost glowing effect—the color is so vibrant! Spots of original pinstriping in that same brilliant amber color are present throughout. The seat tube Vitus tubing decal features warm colors and is readable but has wear. The black paint has a medium gloss, certainly not the deep glossiness of a modern paint job but shinier than expected from a 1950's original paint. From 10 feet away, it could almost pass as a restored bike. Up close you see large swaths of unblemished glossy paint mixed with adjacent sections of varying patina, most of which is a "crackle" effect in the paint. The only spot of significant paint wear is a slender 5" long section underside of the top tube with chipped paint from the cable slapping it. There's also a bit of light chipping on the front of the headtube, much of it on the edges of the bottom lug. Various lug edges have paint chipping, but none bad enough to spotlight. There are too many bits of patina on the paint to cover them all, but those are the significant ones. The photos depict the condition accurately, more so than words could.
As for the components, they are all in working order and most in brilliant condition with a light patina to match the paint; they have marks to show age but largely do not have significant wear worthy of note. First thing to note is the non-drive crank arm is NOT cracked; it is a deep scratch. That was my first thought when I saw the bike and I've examined it thoroughly, it is definitely not a crack but a ~2mm wide & <1mm deep gouge likely from a tool. Crank and chainrings otherwise are in lovely shape with minimal arm end scuffing. All bearings are very smooth and well adjusted. The wheels spin nicely as expected from the superb Maxi Car bearings, the rear wheel is quite true, the front wheel has a spot that's a bit out of true–enough to feel under hard braking. Front rim decal is still present and readable, rear has worn off. Hubs are in lovely condition with a bit of fading to the red dust caps & some light pitting on the hub shells. The headset's top nut and lower cup have some rust. Saddle leather is supple and plenty of firmness to the top; many miles left in it. The taillight's plastic has a couple long cracks. Fenders are in excellent shape, no dents and only very light pitting. Brake arms are very clean, though some hardware has bits of chrome flaking and corrosion. Brake levers are very clean with supple original (production) hoods and some light scratching throughout the blades. The stem and bars are in very nice shape. Pump is fully functional with hose, free of dents, and two of the stripes are faded. Rear derailleur is in lovely condition. Front derailleur looks great with just a bit of chain rub. Shifter outer cover plate has much of its silver finish worn off, but looks great otherwise. Pedals have nice looking patina and some light corrosion in spots, dust caps barely have any scuffing.
- Frame number: 54
- Vitus tubing
- Seat tube: 61cm (center to top of seat tube), 59.5cm (c-c)
- Top tube: 56cm
- Head tube: 206mm
- Chainstays: 449mm
- Head angle: 73 degree
- Seat angle: 73.6 degree
- Crankset: Réne Herse 2nd type, double - 170mm x 46/26t
- Stem: Réne Herse 85mm
- Brakes: Réne Herse 2nd type cantilever
- Front derailleur: Réne Herse
- Rear derailleur & shifter: Cyclo
- Wheelset: 36H Mavic Criterium rims laced to Maxi-CAR high flange hubs, Bell wing nuts
- Freewheel: Atom 4 speed, 15-20t
- Fenders: Lefol Le Paon mod dep
- Saddle: Ideale Mod. 57, alloy rails & Ideale seat clamp (binder bolt not original)
- Handlebars: Phillipe Randonneur drops, 40cm
- Pedals: Lyotard 460 Course extralight
- Lighting: Radios No. 18 & JOS F.R.C.
- Bell: Appears to be a Sonn-Net without logos. Alloy striker