Ron Kitching & Andre Bertin as Associates

Update: I am now able to include a photo of Andre Bertin and Ron Kitching, courtesy of Alain Merlier, with my sincere thanks. Please see below under “Commercial Success.”

Ron Kitching was a remarkable British cyclist and businessman best known to English speaking riders and cycling enthusiasts as the publisher of Everything Cycling, an encyclopedia of knowledge, products and practical techniques. However, that was but one of the expressions of a life filled with accomplishments in sport, business and in the area of public philanthropy. The original 1955 cover of the first Everything Cycling, shown to the left, features a portrait of Kitching in full racing kit.

Early Years

The man was born in northern England in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria on April 14th, 1916 and the bicycle came to occupy a prominent place in Kitching’s life as he matured. By the age of 14, he was a Youth Hostel member and a member of the CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club). He spent many of his weekends touring at this stage in his life. In 1934, when he was 18, he took up racing. He entered time trials, long distance endurance events, cyclocross and massed start road races. Kitching visited Australia to race in the later 30s, returning to Great Britain in 1938.

Commercial Success

At this point, Kitching, like Andre Bertin in France, had to decide between racing professionally or going into the wholesale/retail bicycle trade. Again, like Bertin, Ron Kitching opted for the bicycle business and opened his Cycling Centre in Harrogate, in North Yorkshire in June of 1938. The business prospered up until the commencement of WW II. For the duration, cycle parts and production were largely co-opted by the war effort. Although racing was curtailed, it did not entirely end during the War and Kitching placed 3rd in the 1944 British National Road Race Championship. Kitching worked in a munitions factory while his wife ran the cycle shop. Post War, Kitching used his contacts and promotional abilities to advocate for Continental style road racing through the BLRC (British League of Racing Cyclists). As well, he personally raced on the other side of the English Channel in Northern Europe which gave him valuable contacts within the cycle and component industry there. These, in turn, allowed him to begin the importation of Continental components, framesets and bicycles.

Andre Bertin (Left), cyclist Eileen Sheridan & Ron Kitching (Right) at Earl's Court 1954-55

One of these contacts was Andre Bertin who was reviving, temporarily, his own racing career for promotional purposes. Bertin was also reviving his cycle/moped/motorcycle business at the same time that Ron Kitching was doing similarly in Britain with his Harrogate Cycling Centre. The synergy between the two would prove profitable for both. In this period, both components and bicycles in Britain were deemed, by many British enthusiasts, to be dated or backward. British parts manufacturers simply re-issued pre-War  designs whereas the Europeans re-designed and re-tooled for new products. British cycle design languished with 72 degree parallel frame angles whereas the Europeans  steepened the head angle and fiddled the fork rake and trail for quicker handling. All this resulted in a sustained and growing demand for European bicycles and components which Ron Kitching was both happy to meet and helpful in creating.


Bertin, and his company Cycles Bertin, exported framesets and bicycles directly to Kitching for resale in Britain. As well, Ron Kitching created a “house” brand of cycles called RonKit or Ron Kitching. These were quality machines usually manufactured in France by Cycles Bertin to Kitching’s design. They ranged from the lower end of the quality bicycle price point to the middle-upper segment. As was true for Bertin in France, Kitching promoted the line by sponsoring riders and providing kit to promising talents. The great  British cyclist Beryl Burton rode RonKit as can be seen in the photograph above.

Post War Expansion

By 1948, Ron Kitching’s Cycling Centre was importing a wide range of goods and ideas from Europe. In 1953, Kitching began to wholesale to other British shops and his influence and success grew in parallel with his  European associates and suppliers, especially Andre Bertin. Five years later, the two men launched Milremo (see previous post) as the house brand for their businesses. Bertin wholesaled and retailed the brand in Europe and used the parts as original equipment on his line of Bertin bicycles. In Britain, Kitching sold the line through his Cycling Centre and wholesaled to other retailers through Ron Kitching Wholesalers Ltd.

In the 1960s, both businesses continue to develop. Kitching built a new Cycling Centre in Harrogate and by the end of the decade added more warehouse space doubling its capacity. Similarly, Bertin expanded and then rebuilt his factory in France at about the same period. Ron was also the silent, supportive partner behind MKM Cycles at the elite, custom level of the business.

Catalogue Sales

The 1970s saw a tremendous boom for cycling brought on by a combination of fitness awareness and fashion. Both companies profited from the  trend and increased their commercial success. As well, both were publishing mail order catalogues to serve the heavy demand for cycles and accessories. For Kitching, it was his classic Everything  Cycling, expanded and updated whereas Bertin sold through the Encyclopedie Andre Bertin. By the middle 80s, the peak had been reached and both companies discontinued their catalogues by the end of the decade. ( All catalogue covers courtesy of Velo-retro)


By the mid-1980s, the Milremo joint venture was wound down and ended. Ron Kitching sold his business as did Bertin. For Ron, it was temporary as he bought back the failing business, restored it to health and re-sold it much like Bob Jackson had to do. For Bertin, the sale to Cibo – a holding company- was permanent in 1993. By the middle of the decade, Andre Bertin was dead and Ron Kitching was pursuing other interests.


Ron Kitching had, over the course of both his personal and professional lifetime, made contributions to cycling that were non-commercial. He had, of course, sponsored cycling teams and races, contributed to advising and coaching riders, donated prizes and trophies but one of his lasting contributions came in his creating and endowing  a national cycling library/resource centre on the premises of the Otley Cycling Club. Kitching had also been instrumental in establishing Audax riding in the U.K. Too, he had sponsored and promoted the British Schools Cycling Association to develop cycling skills in younger children. All in all, when his life ended December 17, 2001, some seven years after his old associate Andre Bertin, Ron Kitching had packed a full measure of life and accomplishment into his allotted time.

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.