Milremo, Andre Bertin and Ron Kitching

The origin of the Milremo product line owes much to two men, cyclist/entrepreneurs Andre Bertin of France and Ron Kitching of Britain. Both men were accomplished riders, Bertin as a professional and Kitching as a gifted amateur. In each case, the two principals involved made a specific decision to downplay or leave the competitive side of cycling  and involve himself in the business side of wholesale, retail and distribution of cycle parts in the mid to late 1930s.

The Milremo house or generic brand name was registered about 1957.  Milremo was a composite word made from the name of the famous Italian Classic, MILan-sanREMO. The name and trademark were used to identify products developed and made for both companies and, in fact, the trademark remains registered to Shimano Benelux. However, it was Kitching’s desire to source pro level Continental components and Bertin’s knowledge of European producers that seem to have combined with rising post-war affluence to make the brand a success. 

Bertin and Kitching supported cycling and especially cycle racing personally as managers and as sponsors of teams and events. Bertin acted as a directeur sportif of the Bertin regional amateur/professional teams as Kitching’s sponsorship did similarily in Britain.  Sponsors varied over time but Milremo developed its brand through these types of cycle sport activities. Kitching used his sponsorship and personal influence to develop Continental style road racing in Britain while in France, Andre Bertin similarly used his contacts to help revive professional racing in northern France and the Benelux countries. (Team photos from Cycling Archives)

The Milremo brand was intended to create a value line of quality components and accessories which had the racing or sporting cachet of the big name brands without the higher prices. Almost all the main post-War manufacturers built for Milremo. Maillard did hubs and freewheels, Zefal and Silca and REG did pumps and minor accessories like strap buttons. TA made chainrings and  water bottles screened with various logos including both the Bertin and Milremo brands.  Belleri and Atax/Philippe were the suppliers of  handlebars and stems which were Milremo branded. Toe clips and straps came from Christophe, bar end plugs from REG, tubular tires from suppliers in Italy, rims from prominent European manufactures all of them recieved the Milremo branding. Arius made Milremo branded Unicantor knock-offs. Lugs, crowns, frame fixings, forged ends all the things needed to make a frameset, everything could be obtained from Milremo. If you wore it or your bike did, you could get it from Milremo for a reasonable price. If you absolutely had to have name brand kit, Bertin and Kitching could sell you that instead. 

Both companies offered framesets and bicycles as well. Bertin built his own frames and bicycles but also constructed the RonKit line for Kitching to distribute. (I owned one of these and it was a lovely bicycle with excellent workmanship and handling – little did I realize then that my ride was a Bertin.) As well, Kitching imported and sold the Bertin line in Britain. Kitching also partnered in MKM, a custom high end builder. Milremo was often the equipment of choice when these bicycles and framesets went out the retailer’s door.

The Milremo line lasted from its late 1950s inception through its gradual decline and disappearance in the late 1980s. By that time there was a different generation of cyclists on the bike who didn’t worship at the altar of bicycle road racing and for whom the line had less appeal. Integrated shifting with its dedicated gruppos and the surging popularity of mountain bikes and hybrids also eroded the Milremo enthusiast market. Finally, both Andre Bertin and Ron Kitching were aging and gradually winding down and/or selling their companies. The Continental businesses they had worked with post-War to establish Milremo were under pressure from non-European competitors who were gradually merging with them or driving these established partners out of business. And so, over time, Milremo faded from the marketplace, replaced by its successors. 

Daniel Rebour line drawings from the 1984 Encyclopedie Andre Bertin.

 

 

10 comments on “Milremo, Andre Bertin and Ron Kitching

  1. In 1978 RK from UK and TA France sponsored the ill fated 800 kms Audax from Paris to Harrogate (RKs UK Base). To celebrate 100 years of the CTC/BCF. 167 Brits started but were decimated by a freak storm and only 35 reached Harrogate to get their medallions from Sir Hubert Oppermann the great Aussie long distance rider. I wrote about it in ‘The Boneshaker’ No. 175 Winter Edition 2007. A Veteran Cycle club publication.

  2. I am pleased I read this as I have just been planning a build up of a 1958 A.S.Gillott with early Milremo components. So far I have a Cinelli steel stem with a Milremo badge, steel toeclips, steel 5 pin Milremo Course cranks (aka Stroglight), a pair of large flange hubs built onto Dunlop 27”Hp rims. Also have a bit rusty Milremo steel pedals and red plastic mudguards. So far it all looks suitably period. I will use Campagnolo gears as the frame has brazons and ropouts to suit. Brakes are Mafac Dural forge ‘racers’ which are the originals as is a Brooks B17. Do you know if headsets, brackets and seatpins were available this early?

  3. Mark,
    Milremo rapidly broadened its line after 1957. They sold parts but , like seat posts, many probably weren’t obviously branded as Milremo. You might get “Milremo” marked on below the minimum insertion line. Consequently, I don’t believe that a generic alloy, domed top, period seat post would be a problem. With the whole “mix and match” philosophy of the time based on availability and affordability, you wouldn’t go wrong by using period correct Lightrace or Stronglight components to finish your assembly. It sounds as if you will have a lovely bicycle when you are finished.

  4. Milremo did not appear in the 1958 “Everything Cycling” but a fairly wide range appears in the 1960 catalogue, delayed from 1959, so it is possible that parts were available as early as ’59. Parts available in 1960 included chrome cranks and chainwheels,freewheels, l f hubs, pedals,steel and dural handlebars and stems, dural mudguards, pumps (I still have a lovely white plastic one made by Silca) , sprint and h.p. rims, & tubulars. Quite a wide range which expanded rapidly, but no headsets, bracket sets or seatpins in 1960, but Bracket sets listed by Campag., Cinelli, Lightrace, Magistroni, TDC,Stronglight, same for headsets + Edco, seatpins by Campag, Unica, & Vittoria. Milremo soon added bracket and headsets,but, strangely, never a seatpin, perhaps because Campag. was universally used! Mike Baker, VCC.

  5. Mike,
    Thanks for your informative comments. I have asked Alain Merlier about the woman in the photo but have not, as yet, had a reply. If you can confirm her identity, please let me know as I would be glad to post the details. As for the seatpin, Milremo did eventually make one as you can see at Velobase.com with the engraved sample they show.

  6. Thanks, Jim. I have not seen this lovely seatpost before. The bolts with the heads underneath are similar design to a JPR ( J P ROUTENS) seatpost I have fitted to a 1980 Carlton. JPR (Swiss) products are shown in 1979 Everything Cycling catalogue, model 3001 with a black anodised head, adjusted by 2 AK bolts from below,much simpler!-so it is possible that JPR was producing for Milremo. My last Kitching catalogue is 1988 by which time they had dropped Milremo and were concentrating on Suntour, in my humble opinion the finest cycling components produced, even better than the benchmark Campagnolo. Sad that they went out of business but I have several of fine Suntour derailleurs fitted to my bikes. Even the non index ones can be indexed using Shimano levers. Regards, Mike.

  7. Sorry, JPR came from Grenoble and was presumably French not Swiss? Mea culpa!! He was a well regarded Cyclotouriste of the French school and produced several innovative parts for touring bikes. Mike Baker.

  8. Mike, Routens made some very nice randonneuse style bikes. A shop in Toronto sold them for awhile and I found them very impressive. Jim

  9. I’m interested in the Milremo story. I have a Young’s of Lewisham, London bicycle bought for me new in 1963, which I am going to restore. The centre pull brakes on it are stamped “Milremo” but the yoke for the pull cord is stamped “Mafac”. Could this combination have been fitted originally by Young’s, or did I replace the brakes at some time! Any view welcome.

  10. It may have been a later addition. I would think that Milremo would have specified a branded transverse cable hanger. Nonetheless, a personalized build up at a custom shop might easily have used various parts for optimum effect.

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