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.