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René Herse distributing France's handmade tubular brand, FMB

Published July 15, 2021

A version of this article ran in the July issue of BRAIN.

SEATTLE (BRAIN) — After the Vittoria Group announced in May that it had purchased A.Dugast, a Dutch handmade tubular maker, sew-up aficionados looked to FMB. The French company may be the last remaining independent tubular maker.

FMB's cyclocross and road tubies are available in the U.S. once again at wholesale and retail via Renè Herse Cycles, the Seattle company that sells its own brand of clinchers and other products for gravel and touring.

"Demand has been steady," for FMB, said Jan Heine, the owner of Renè Herse. "There was no real cyclocross last year (because of COVID) so now we have a good supply of cyclocross tubulars that are perfectly aged 12 months."

In the early 1980s, Francois Marie founded FMB (the acronym is for François Marie Boyaux, Boyaux being French for tubular) in the Brittany town of Plurien.

FMB has supplied tubulars to winners of Paris-Roubaix, Olympic track medalists and world champion cyclocross and mountain bike racers. It's common for pros to relabel FMB tires with their sponsor's logos. In some cases the connection to the sponsor tire runs deeper: FMB sometimes cuts the treads off clinchers and glue them to its handmade casings to get the advantage of the tubular ride with modern, sponsor-correct tread designs.

Heine said distributing FMB is "something we do out of passion, not because there's a big market out there. ... They have such a great ride it would be a shame if they were not available."

In Europe FMB primarily sells direct to consumers, and most of those consumers are pro racers, Heine said.

"(In Europe) they don't keep any stock — it's really all made to order. If you want a super mud tread on a silk casing in 32mm width, they can do that."

In the U.S., Heine is stocking road and cyclocross tires in a variety of widths and casing options. Retail pricing ranges from $125 to $175.

"In the end I feel the tubular tire market is not going to growing; it's selling to people who know what they want and we supply them. I'm not trying to convert any novice bikers to use tubulars; they have enough trouble with tubeless tires."

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