Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Recherche

The Recherche was a private label frame that I built for two brothers, Kent and Kyle Radford. They owned a specialist bicycle store in Rancho Bernardo, which is in San Diego County, California.

They sold the frame out of their own store and also marketed the frame to other dealers, primarily in Southern California. The frame was first built in 1985 up to late 1987 or 1988. There were a little over two hundred of them built.

I have been in touch with Kent Radford in the last year, he still owns the number one Recherche. The name and the decal design was the Radford brother’s creation. They always pronounced it Reh-shur-shay. I believe it means “to search” in French, (Please correct me if I am wrong on that.) and that is probably not the correct French pronunciation.

It was a “no frills” frame, painted in a single color with the white Mylar panel decals; at first available only in red; later it was offered in blue and black also. Although I describe the frame as “no frills” it was of course built by me to the same high standard as any frame from my shop.

The frame was the exact same geometry as the Fuso; in fact the production of the Recherche was grouped together with the Fuso on the same jig setting, and both brand names brazed in small batches at the same time.

The frame was built in the same Columbus tubing, with Campagnolo or Columbus front and rear dropouts. With a Cinelli investment cast bottom bracket shell. The Recherche lugs were also investment cast but a different style than the Fuso; the seat stay caps were also different.

Most Recherche’s had a distinct cast fork crown with two decorative grooves cast into the top. (See left.) Towards the end of production this crown became unavailable and a plain sloping crown was substituted.


The way the tubes were finished at the front and rear drop outs was distinctive. The tube ends were scalloped with a round file and the brass allowed to sink inside as the brazing cooled. I was imitating a style that is common to many French frame builders.

These small but unique features made the Recherche different in appearance, but because the design and workmanship was equal to other frames from my shop, the finished bike rides and handles the same as any other I built.

The red paint finish that the majority of Recherche frames had was achieved by painting a candy red over a bright orange base coat. Most red paint jobs appear orange, especially after they start to fade in bright sunlight. The candy red method I used was labor intense because of the extra steps in painting, but the end result was a truer longer lasting deep red.

My thanks to Lorin Youde, who lives in Southern California not far from my original San Marcos shop, for sending me these pictures. He picked up this 62 cm. Recherche last year, with original red paint and very few miles on it. It is number 201 so one of the last few built.

With so few of these built compared with close to 3,000 Fuso frames produced and with the small but unique differences I have described here; the Recherche could be a desirable frame to own should anyone be lucky enough to come across one.

Because so few were built the chances of finding one in any given size is slim, especially in the less popular very large or small sizes. If Recherche does indeed mean “to search” then maybe the name will become prophetic.


Anonymous said...

I was going to college in San Diego in 1986 when my Fuso was stolen. At the time I was working at a shop called Cycling Tunes on Adams Ave. It was a small shop, more oriented to mountain bikes than road bikes, but was trying to grow its high-end market. At that time we had 1 pro-quality road frame in the store (a Rossin I believe) when the shop acquired a yellow (yes, they came in yellow too) 58cm Recherche. I believe the owner had gotten it from Kyle Radford at Rancho Bernardo Schwinn. One of the other mechanics at the shop had built the bike up, and had put a major scratch in the top tube while cutting the fork (why he was cutting the fork while it was in the frame was beyond me, for some reason the bike business seems to have attracted more than its share of boneheads back in those days). I think they would have given me a deal on it, but besides the scratch, I didn’t care for the color.

I had some insurance money coming (they not only stole my Fuso, but also my mountain bike, my stereo, my camera…) so I had the shop owner order me a Recherche frame, since he wasn’t willing to commit to a minimum order of Fuso’s (I think you were requiring a 3 or 5 frame minimum to become a dealer at that time). My first choice was blue, but none were available in a 58cm, so I settled for red. I got the frame just before Christmas that year, and built it up with 7 speed Dura-Ace, and trimmed it out with white Bike Ribbon, white cable housing, and a white Turbo saddle. It was one fine-looking and sweet riding bike!

I still have the bike, with different components.

My sister (who spent a year if France) told me Recherche means either "to search" or "research".

GhostRider said...

When used in English, the definition of "recherche" means "rare or uncommon". It can also mean "overblown or pretentious".

Read all about it here:

I think they are great looking frames, and obviously made by a master...nothing overblown there!!

Larry A. Edwards said...

I've got #062, 52 cm (C-C)which I believe was built in 1985. Interestingly, it's white (original paint), even though supposedly they were only available red, blue and black. I'd love to find a new home for it if any is interested. I'm in the San Diego area.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding looking bikes.

If you're interested in the exact meaning of the French word "recherché" used like this, to a French person, it would literally mean "sought after", such as a bicycle frame which is sought after", in the sense that it is very desirable. When used in English, it could also mean pretentious, or overblown, depending on the context it's used in, as in someone who talks in a way that is somewhat pretentious, or uses uncommon words as if better than everyone else. But obviously, in the case of this bike, it would be the "sought after" meaning. In French, it would most often be used with the word "très" as in "très recherché".

BTW, I don't mean to sound recherché myself. I was once an English-French lexicographer, believe it or not :-)

Anonymous said...

I worked at Rancho Bernardo Schwinn with the Radford brothers at the time of the formation of Recherche. As I remember, they had brainstormed several names and then sought to see if they looked any better in French. "Search" or "Quest" came back as "Recherche". Recherche emerged as the winner. Our shop nickname for the bike was the 'Rech (pronounced "wretch").

To save money, the Radfords purchased the frames from Mr Moulton with the fork crown detail work unpainted. I was thrilled one day when Kent entrusted this final job to me. So if you own a Recherche, there is a very good chance that I painted the fork crown detail. The paint (as I remember) was Testors model paint, applied with a small brush.

Just this morning, I rode my old yellow 58CM Recherche while towing my toddler daughter behind in her trailer. I believe I own the original yellow bike.

It's quite amazing how different the geometry of this bike is compared to my Trek 5200 (my main bike these days). The 'rech is INCREDIBLY stiff and responsive.

I must commend Mr Moulton here:
The paint quality on this bike was fantastic. Most likely due to the number of clear coats. The decals are still in 100% pristine condition. I do need to get the bike repainted, as some sloppy handling (conbined with sweat) has affected a few areas of the frame. Mr Moulton, might you happen to have some old recherche decals laying around that you might wish to sell?

This was a fine machine and Dave, you build great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

I know I'm late, but I recently bought a 59cm full Dura Ace equipped Recherche in yellow here in Austria! I'm wondering if anyone has original decals cause' I'm planning to give the bike a different color!

Rene from Austria.