Herse was born in Caen. He started working on prototype aircraft at the aircraft maker Breguet. In 1938, he introduced lightweight aluminum bicycle components: pedals, cranks, cantilever brakes and stems. In 1940, he began making complete bicycles. Herse was a "constructeur", meaning he built not just the frame but the entire bike.
Herse bikes won technical trials in wartime and post-war France. His riders and especially his daughter Lily Herse (see below) won numerous times in the Polymultipliée de Chanteloup hillclimb races. Herse's riders won the Challenge des Constructeurs for the builder with the three best-placed riders in the Paris-Brest-Paris randonneur event every time from 1948 until 1971, and again in 1975. Six victories out of ten times the trophy was attributed has never been equalled.
His daughter, Lily Herse, won eight national female cycling championships in France. After René Herse's death, Lyli Herse and her husband Jean Desbois, who was one of Herse's best framebuilders, continued the René Herse company until 1984. They also completed back orders of bicycles, so the last classic René Herse bikes were made in 1986.
René Herse today
In the early 2000s, René Herse's daughter Lyli approached Jan Heine, the editor of Bicycle Quarterly magazine and founder of Compass Bicycles, with the request of taking over the René Herse trademark and assets in order to saveguard them for the future. Today, Compass Bicycles owns the René Herse trademark and intellectual property. René Herse components are manufactured by Compass Bicycles. Compass Bicycles licenses the manufacture of René Herse frames to Boulder Bicycles in Colorado.
- Heine, Jan (2012). Rene Herse - The Bikes - The Builder - The Riders. Seattle: Bicycle Quarterly Press. p. 424. ISBN 976546023-6.
- Heine, Jan (2002). "Interview with Roger Baumann, Pilote de René Herse and Winner of PBP 1956". Vintage Bicycle Quarterly 1 (2).
- Heine, Jan (Autumn 2003). "History of the Technical Trials 1946-1949". Vintage Bicycle Quarterly 2 (1): 5.
- Heine, Jan (2012). The Competition Bicycle. Rizzoli. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-8478-3841-7.
- Classic Rendezvous
- article by Sheldon Brown
- Compass Bicycles Ltd., Seattle, WA, owns the René Herse trademark today and manufactures René Herse components.
- René Herse Project Inventory and photo gallery of René Herse bicycles
- Boulder Bicycle, Boulder, Colorado company that manufactures René Herse bicycles under license from Compass Bicycles.
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