Andre Bertin Biography

Photo credit Willem Dingemanse

Photo credit Willem Dingemanse

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 was born on March 3, 1912 in the rural commune (municipality) of Ecques in the Nord Pas de Calais region in Northern France near the Belgian border. ecques1It is situated about 50 km Northwest of Arras. The commune remains relatively small ( population 1900) even today but this may reflect its deep rural location and the fact that it was fought over, totally levelled in WW I and subsequently re-built post war.

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 warSt 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.bertin-factory-19505 (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 bertin-logowas 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.)bertin-admin2

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-jersey-2bertin-jersey-1

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

20 comments on “Andre Bertin Biography

  1. Hi does anyone know where i can get Bertin decals to decorate my newly sprayed restored frame, or can i reproduce them myself with out getting into trouble?

  2. Hi, Gwyn-

    The decals for my Bertin re-spray were made in house by the company which did the work
    for me. The owner has retired but the painting business has been taken over by Noah Rosen and renamed Velocolour. I believe the decal art work was retained and may still be on file. The business is located in Toronto, Canada and can be reached here. Give Noah a try and if that doesn’t work e-mail me again. Tubing decals are available through Cyclomondo from Australia. Good luck

  3. Since I replied to Gwyn directly via e-mail, this is the reply I received from him, but which others may find helpful.

    “Thank you so much for the quick reply and for the useful information much appreciated I will send you photos if you like when the resto is done.
    thanks Jim.

    In response, I told Gwyn that I would be glad to post his photo in the headerbar “Gallery” page as soon as he finished his restoration.

  4. Very interesting to run into this site–a friend of mine just called; he’s asking my advice to helphim sell a 1970’s Bertin child’s racing bike that his daughter has grown out of.
    I now live in the Northwestern US but grew up and started cycling in Los Angeles–wasn’t the Hans Ohrt bike store a direct importer of Bertin?

  5. David, Nice to hear from you. I knew that Hans Ohrt was a former six day racer and bike shop owner in California, but I did not know that he sold Bertins. I did an online search and wasn’t able to turn up any information. But, if you have other sources, I would be glad to update my site.

  6. I never knew if Hans Ohrt was a direct improter of Bertin, but his (and in my time, his son-in-law Leonard Hearst’s) stores sold dozens of them. Look for a yellow/orange Hans Ohrt shop sticker on any Bertin, Carlton, Alex Moulton or Raleigh in Southern California that looks of “vintage” age. I rode with the La Grange-Westwood cycling club for a couple of years that was informally sponsored by the HO stores; many of the club’s riders were on Bertins. We were into French machinery–the La Grange continengent at many early 1970’s races would be on more Lejeunes, Bertins, and even CNC’s (club founder Raymount Fouquet knew the builder) than Paramounts or Italian bikes.

  7. Hi, David-
    Nice to hear from you again. Here in southern Ontario many of the bikes from that late 60’s to early 80’s period were British and later, Italian. We would occasionally see French bikes especially lower end ones. The CNCs were very nice but had very limited distribution here- only a single shop. M. Fletcher made a very nice product. There is some detail on CNC in Koln and De la Rosa’s book The Custom Bicycle on pages 103 to 105.

  8. I bought a Bertin from Hans Ohrt bicycles in 1975. I became friendly with the people who worked there in the 1973-1976 timeframe. My recollection is that Han Ohrt was a direct importer of Bertin. There were no other shops in So Cal (to my knowledge) that carried Bertin.

    Thanks for your website. It is great to read the history and fill in the blanks.

  9. Robert,
    Thank you for your comment and my apology for the vacation delay in responding. The Calgary Bertin dealer seems to have operated in the same way as an importer. Ed Novotni appears to have imported Bertins and sold them out of his Calgary Centre Street shop much like Hans Ohrt did with his in SoCal. As far as history goes, try website here for some excellent 1950s B&W photos of Bertin’s first factory.

  10. Jim & David: Don’t know if you will receive this since the earlier excahges were over 10 months ago. I can give all of you some background on A. Bertin and Hans Ohrt Lightweight Bicycles stores. Hans Ohrt was my mother’s uncle and Leonard Hearst was my father. Len passed on Dec. 4, 2009 but Connie Hearst lives near me in San Diego. Hans Ohrt was a personal friend of Andre Bertin and my parents continued the personal relationship. Andre stayed at my parents home when he was in SoCal and my parents stayed with Andre when the visited Paris on their way to tour the Bertin factory in Arras. Yes, Hans Ohrt was a direct importer and regional distributor of Bertin Cycles and sold many hundreds of them between the early 50’s and 1984 (also a direct importer/distributor of MilRemo and Kitcking) when the last of my family’s 3 strores (Beverly Hills, WLA and Westwood) was sold. My father Len Hearst personally chose to ride a burgundy Bertin (model C-37 with Reynolds 531 DB tubing) from 1958 to 1973. I was attending UCDavis and managing the campus Bike Barn when my family presented me the fully renovated bike on the eve of the ’73 Davis Double Century. I believe CycleArt did the work- giving it the Bertin Team colors of black & red. I raced that bicycle in many subsequent double centuries, 6 years of USCF, my first Paris-Brest-Paris in ’79 and my first Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii in 1980 until I broke a rear drop out during an airline transport in 1980. I then rode a Bertin aluminum “Vitus” or “Bator” frame for a few years after that. My parents still have a collection of unridden Bertin Vitus framesets. My son Partick is working himself at UCDavis Bike Barn and is stripping the Campy Super Record components off his mom’s Bertin she won the Ironman Triathlon on in 1982 (Kathleen McCartney stepped over Julie Moss, remember?) and mounting them on an unridden 1980 Bertin Vitus frameset this summer.
    Dave- I also rode for Velo Club Westwood La Grange Peugeot in the ’70s but we may not have met since I raced out of NorCal. If any readers ever visited Hans Ohrt they may remember some classic handbuilt bikes from the “golden era” including Hans’ custom chrome Rene Herse, his custom chrome Rene Herse tandem (fenders, lights & full complement of beautiful French touring bags for both exactly like the pictures in Jan Heine’s beautiful book) and a chrome A. Maury. When I was young, Hans rode these bikes and frequently asked my dad to install or remove all the gear depending on whether Hans was going on a short ride, a tour or displaying the bikes for show. Please let me know if I can answer any questions.

  11. Dennis,

    Thank you for the update and elaboration of the information about the SoCal aspect of Bertin’s American business. The C 37 is a lovely bike and I own, ride and greatly value my own.


  12. I bought an Andre Bertin 60cm, all Reynolds tubing/Nervex lugs from Hans Ohrt in the fall of 1960, and have ridden it ever since as my exclusive road bike. In fact, I rode it today, as I do every Tuesday. The only original equipment on it are the Campy shift levers; everything else has been replaced many times. It now sports a lovely Joe Bell paint job with original stickers, and the head badge was painted by CycleArt. It’s a daily rider, not a wall hanger, still going strong at 50 years! Can anybody else say that?

  13. Hi, Michel-

    I have a C 37 as well and I love it. I’m glad your bike gives you such joy even 50 years on. Thanks for the insights.


  14. Michel: I asked my mom Connie Hearst if she remembered you as a regular customer of Hans Ohrt and she did not recall. My dad was always so good at remembering customers I am sure he would have remembered the sale.

  15. Hi
    Just curious on a Bertin with a Made in Belgium sticker on the seatpost , Huret brakes ,weinmann wheels. Perhaps a c-116. Any idea of the year ? The bike is white with red letters (Bertin) on down tube.

  16. Hi Lou. Belgium Bertin’s seem to be a whole other world and don’t readily conform to the usual Bertin model naming system. Would it be possible to send me a photo or photos of the bike via my Contact Form? That would help. As well, I will be writing a post on Belgium models in the next little while which hopefully will clarify some things about them.

  17. Lou — I’m not sure about the start and end dates but I know Bertin production was switched to the Belgium factory after a fire in 1972 or 73 in St. Laurent Blagny. I would expect that after that period, EU integration would have brought down the tariff barriers and rationalized the production.

    By the way, I’m just about to start some minor upgrades to this blog this evening, so if you see any changes, don’t be surprised.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s