Andre Bertin was a French professional cyclist, team manager and entrepreneur. His life spanned the period pre-WW I to nearly the end of the 20th century. Many of his accomplishments were achieved in the bicycle manufacturing and distribution business.
Bertin’s family resettled in St.-Laurent-Blangy, possibly during or post WW I. St.-Laurent-Blangy is also a commune in the Nord Pas de Calais and has become a suburb of the city of Arras. It too was fought over during WW I and re-built. Although the region was in Nazi occupied France during WWII the commune avoided extensive damage. Consequently, it was here that Bertin established a bicycle factory in 1946 to feed the post war French need for personal transportation. As well, there are indications he may have resumed racing in some capacity in 1945 to 1946 as France began to shake off the effects of the war.
Andre Bertin had been a professional cyclist for three years, racing for France-Sport from 1935 to 1937. He appears to have been a domestique for Antonin Magne a 2 time Tour de France winner, World champion in1936 and 3 time winner of the GP des Nations. Bertin left the team before the start of the 1938 season. A list of his fellow team members and palmares can be found in the main link (above) or here for 1936.
After WW II, Bertin began his career as a bicycle manufacturer in St. Laurant-Blangy. Both the factory and the offices (seen in the photos below) of the company appear to have been located there. (See also the Website of Le Club Beaurains 2000 Cyclo/Les Cycles Bertin en1950 and Velo Retro sections.) The actual address was on Rue Georges-Clemenceau in St.Laurant-Blagny. Bertin’s distinctive Tri-colour and Eagle logo was registered in 1950 and remains a registered trademark to this day. (WIPO states that the logo can be published as long as credit is given — which I have done with the previous link.)
In addition to his company’s founding, Bertin continued to race as an independent pro in 1945 and 1946. Thereafter, until 1966, he was the manager and sponsor of the Cycles Bertin professional team which was allied with various co-sponsors over the life of the squad.
The team uniforms varied but all jerseys were presented in a distinctive black and red form during the existence of the team. See photo examples below right of two such jerseys. Others can be viewed here and by clicking on a team name.
Bertin’s commercial activity grew as he allied himself with Ron Kitching in the UK. The two acted as distributors for a line of European sourced cycling parts and accessories known as Milremo. As well, Kitching sourced some of his Ron Kit framesets from Bertin and sold Bertin labelled bicycles and framesets. (I owned one of these Kitching framesets built in Durifort tubing and full credit to Bertin as it was a lovely little bike.)
As though this commercial activity was not sufficient, Bertin, in 1970, took on the French distributorship for Shimano. This led to the surprising appearance of Japanese parts on otherwise quintessentially French bicycles. The company was exporting to both the U.S. and Canada during the bike boom and Bertins were being sold in Western Canada up until the early 1990’s.
In October of 1990, Cycles Bertin sold its Shimano distributorship to Shimano but continued in production with its bicycles. The end for the family business begun by Andre Bertin was drawing near. Ets. Andre Bertin was sold to a holding company Cibo Participations in 1993 (as described in the previous Shimano link). Sadly, this was soon followed by the death of Andre Bertin himself on January 5, 1994 in St.-Laurent-Blangy at the age of 81.
Note: A company called Bertin Cycles S.A.R.L. continues based out of Casablanca in Morocco and was a subsidiary of Cycles Bertin until nationalized by the Moroccan government. The showroom was found at 117 Boulvard Rahal El Meskinni. Apparently, according to a man who worked for Cycles Bertin (Alain Merlier who has been in touch with me via e-mail), the company continues to build bicycles but may now be up for sale or closing..Last updated June 18, 2009