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Compass Meets the Legend of Rene Herse

Riding long distances from our home base in Seattle, we realized that we needed bikes different from those available at the time. Our dream bikes combined racing-bike performance with the equipment for true adventures. We took our inspiration from mid-century randonneurs, who had pioneered long rides at high speeds over all types of terrain. Through them, we discovered the genius of Rene Herse, a maker of prototype airplanes turned bike builder, who had perfected the type of bike we needed. Herse’s first bike, presented in 1938, weighed just 17.5 lb (7.9 kg), fully equipped with fenders, lights, racks and wide tires. He quickly earned the nickname ‘The Magician,’ so amazing were his bikes.

Entering the famous 765-mile (1200 km) Paris-Brest-Paris randonnée in France led to meeting Herse’s daughter Lyli, herself eight times French road racing champion. Lyli and her husband, the framebuilder Jean Desbois, taught us much of what they knew about making bikes and components. After a few years, Lyli asked our founder Jan Heine: Would he be interested in buying the Rene Herse name, designs and remaining tools to carry the legacy into the future? That is how Compass Cycles became the custodian of the Rene Herse brand. We’ve built on Herse’s ideas and techniques to create bikes that offer a cross-country performance unimaginable before. Now we can envision entirely new adventures that zig-zag across mountain ranges over paved and gravel passes.

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