It’s summer 2020 and we’re working on a really exciting project with Breakaway Digital and Café du Cycliste. Jan Meier at Rene Herse has kindly agreed to supply tyres for the shoot (thanks to Donal Rey) and this in turn leads me to JP Fereirra, the French distributor of Rene Herse tyres and owner of 2-11 Cycles.
I’m a great believer that things happen for a reason and this has become increasingly apparent since meeting JP. What started as a helping hand to Jan has since developed into a firm friendship and a mutual appreciation of our respective businesses.
We have built Zero Neuf largely on the back of positive and mutually beneficial connections and it was immediately apparent that JPs approach is very similar. Joss and I have spent much time reflecting on Brexit, Covid-19 and our long term commitment to France and thus it felt really important to be developing a relationship with a French cycling brand, particularly one that places as much emphasis on ‘community’ as we do (and an owner who gives everything to what he does).
For relationships to work, things need to move in both directions and within days of first talking we were doing just that; JP sent the Rene Herse tyres in double quick time, we connected JP to our good friend and photographer Tomás Montes, before helping out with said photo-shoot and then JP booked a visit to Zero Neuf with his family.
It was during JPs visit in February that the plan to build a ‘Zero Neuf x 2-11’ bike was hatched. I’d ridden a 2-11 on the aforementioned photo shoot and really liked it – my first spin on a steel bike in over 20 years and I was immediately reminded just how good they are to ride.
When I stop and think of my favourite bikes, the colour of the frame and the material they’re built from are a constant. Whether it’s the first road bike I owned (a much loved Peugeot) the beautiful and rare Guiseppe Limongi that hangs on the wall of our café or Francesco Moser’s stunning ‘Cromovelato’, they’re all made of steel and they’re all a really striking shade of red.
I’m a very proud Welshman so the red connection is a given and many will agree that steel is the real deal when it comes to frame building. I got caught up in the trend for ultra light, carbon frames when I returned to cycling in my mid twenties (having taken a lengthy sabbatical to pursue other sporting interests) but as I now move through my forties, my approach to riding is changing and the use of carbon as a frame material is increasingly lost on me.
This custom 2-11 build meant choices and the easiest was the colour of the frame; we matched it as closely as possible to my beloved red. Next up was the group-set and again the choice was simple: Shimano GRX because the MR4-S frame is crafted with multi terrain in mind and that’s where I’d be taking it. I’ve been riding on Hunt Wheels for a couple of years and I really like their kit so no change on the hoops. The saddle choice was also easy: Brooks C-15 (my go-to saddle) and as this is to be my ‘forever’ bike, I opted for Silca titanium bottle cages and a Chris King bottom bracket and headset. I’m rolling on a set of 35mm Rene Herse Bon Jon Pass and for more adventurous escapades, a set of 42mm Hurricane Ridge. The rest of the finishing kit comes courtesy of Ritchey.
A couple of weeks in and I’ve taken it on tracks, trails and tarmac, up all manner of climbs, down twisting descents and flat runs back to base so I’ve got a pretty good feel for the bike now – I love it. The gorgeous steel frame, the custom paint job and the spec are all fantastic but the fact it has come from a guy who really gets the importance of community and goes above and beyond to make his customers happy make this a really special bike and that’s kind of cool as this 2-11 will be part of me for a long, long time.
Zero Neuf really does go up To Eleven.