Words: Ian Cleverly | Photos: Benedict Campbell
7 minute read
We look behind the curtain of one of cycling's lesser-known superbrands - starting with their first rather impressive drop in the sea that is hyperbikes.
Everybody loves dimples, right? From Shirley Temple’s cutesy overload little cheeks to the deep recess of Kirk Douglas’ chin, through to the winning smile of pop singer Ariane Grande, those glorious facial indents give character and set their lucky owners’ visages apart from the crowd.
Dimples on a bike, though? That’s something else altogether. When we first got hold of the Heroïn H1, it was clearly a classy and eye-catching machine, but it was those front-facing stippled surfaces that drew us in like a pack of slobbering cycling hyenas.
Golf ball designers have understood the science behind the windcheating effect of dimples for decades, of course, while Zipp’s wheels have also utilised the principle for some time now. Heroïn spent three years developing, testing and 3D printing the prototypes of their frame before emerging with the extraordinary-looking H1 in 2016, claiming a 10% improvement in drag coefficient under wind tunnel test conditions – not to be sniffed at. There are also, you will notice, sizable slotted vents in the forks that are designed to aid the air flow from the rim away from the brake. Clever stuff.
The French-based company launched the rim brake-only version, a limited-edition full build with a top spec with just 349 bikes available. Why that number? He haven’t the faintest idea. It could be in honour of the London bus route that runs past Tottenham Hotspur’s ground, or the year 349 on the Gregorian calendar – otherwise known as the Year of the Consulship of Limenius and Catullinus – but neither of these options seem likely. We’ll leave the deeper meaning to Heroïn. It’s a mighty fine number, so why not?
Two years later, things moved up a notch with the introduction of the Heroïn HR. Now a dazzling array of options were available, over 3,500 configurations for those who insist of specifying everything right down to the bar tape – and in this price bracket (€7,500 to €17,000), why wouldn’t you? Custom sizing, disc or rim brakes, a dazzling array of quality components and, crucially in our eyes, custom paint to make the Heroïn a genuine one-off and stand out from the sea of black carbon out on the road. Très chic, n'est-ce pas?
The frameset-only package from Heroïn includes their own design seatpost and ultra-smooth looking cockpit combo, and a saddle, but with their full bike configurator giving a massive range of options, why would you?
And now we have a genuine contender in the high-end custom bike market worthy of consideration for those in search of the perfect ride and prepared to pay for it.
Founder Marc Simoncini and company CEO Jules Trecco are the guys behind Heroïn in France. If Simoncini’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he founded the online dating agency Meetic, which makes him the internet version of Cilla Black on Blind Date, but with more success in matchmaking. He’s transformed his skillset from being passionate about, er, passion, to lusting after beautiful bicycles – and is clearly skilled in this department too.
Talking of passion, there is also an Italian connection here – never a bad thing where bikes are concerned – with a team of five dedicated craftsmen from motor sports and aeronautics backgrounds using the high-grade carbon fibre to great effect before shipping to the French HQ for assembly. It’s exactly the kind of borderless trans-European business co-operation the UK deemed surplus to requirements, apparently... Don’t get us started.
All in all, Heroïn are producing a unique piece of kit in a world of increasingly bland uniform-looking bicycles. That alone makes them worthy of consideration. They focus on making one model and making it the best it can possibly be, and there’s a lot to be said for their approach.
Next up for the brand, a series of capsule editions. “Why not one with Rouleur?” says their marketing guy Maxime.
Why not indeed. We’d better get busy with the crayons...