Meet the maker: Sébastian Klein of Brevet Cycles

Brevet frameset starts at €3,200. L’Ephémère Classic Randonneur (pictured) approx. €8,000,

Photography: Col Morley

Sébastien Klein was working in the tech industry when he moved to London ten years ago. At the time, cycling was his after-hours hobby, a way of bringing a sense of balance and freedom to a busy working life.

‘Before then I was working in Paris, cycling on the weekends and during the week to commute. There was nothing really exciting about my job, but I could cope with it if I was cycling.

‘I was also part of a group that started a fixed-gear movement riding at night during the week. We’d get back at two in the morning, with work the next day, but we felt happy about it.’

Upon arrival in London, Klein decided he wanted to work in the bike industry and balanced his quest with another tech job to keep the money coming in.

‘I met some people from the London Bike Kitchen, who were helping people fix bikes and teaching mechanics, and I offered to help them.’

It was from there that he was introduced to more people in the community, including framebuilders, which piqued his interest.

‘It was something that I’d wanted to do for a long time but I never found in Paris. Everyone I knew was working in an office, nobody had manual skills or the space to do things.

‘London was a great place to meet people who were making things, especially bikes, so I started getting in touch, taking photos for them and learning from them while keeping my job on the side.’

Out of le bleu

In 2016, Klein got an email from a friend who recommended he enter the first modern Concours de Machines.

The competition, which sees builders test their handmade bikes over a multi-day adventure ride, was the perfect impetus to finish the randonneur bike he’d been working on. His bike ended up winning the beginner’s prize.

‘People were really excited about the work I was doing and gave me a lot of positive feedback, so I started thinking about going full time.

A few months later I got a call from a friend saying they had an empty space in their workshop and that I could come and share tools.’

As luck would have it, two days later he got an offer from a group in France that sold randonneur bikes and was having trouble with the builder it was using. Klein had his first orders, albeit under someone else’s branding.

When it eventually came to building for himself, it took a while to figure out a name. ‘My problem is that my name is Klein and I couldn’t use that for a bike brand for obvious reasons. I think Trek still owns it and I can’t compete with those guys.

‘I was looking for a name but couldn’t find it for months. Then this name Brevet came.’

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Brevet comes from the French word meaning ‘certificate’ or ‘licence’ and is associated with randonneuring events, which are largely classified as ‘brevets des randonneurs’ – often shortened to ‘brevets’ – with riders carrying a ‘brevet card’ to check in at points along the route to prove their full completion of the event.

Now based in Burgundy, Brevet Cycles makes bikes that are very much classic-looking randonneur bikes, but Klein wouldn’t call them vintage.

‘I’m not a big fan of recreating vintage stuff just to look the same. You need to have a purpose,’ he says. ‘I like the simple solutions. In the past they had really good solutions with the materials they had and now the cycle industry has found them and adapted them with new materials. It’s like fashion coming back round again.’

Klein prides himself on taking the time to make something special with each of his full-custom steel and stainless steel builds, with his own philosophies shining through in all of them.

He uses a mix of Columbus, Reynolds and Deda steel – as well as dabbling with Japanese brands Tange and Kaisei for specific parts – and swaps between fillet brazing and lugs depending on the customer, with the latter offering not only a more classic look but less deformation of the tubing that occurs with the heat from brazing.

All in the detail

The bike pictured, L’Ephémère Classic Randonneur, was displayed at last year’s Bespoked show. The lugged frame was built for a customer who had a lot of original parts that he wanted to use on the bike, including the Simplex down tube shifters, Rene Herse cantilever brakes and cranks, and Campagnolo levers.

The frame is made from stainless steel with a Reynolds 953 front triangle and fork, and Columbus chainstays and seatstays.

The bike features a SON dynamo for the front and rear lights (which has a sensor mode that turns the lights on when they’re required), a Hope rear hub, Klein’s hand-built rack and decaleur, Nitto bottle cages, and mudguards, mirror, saddle and bar tape from his neighbour in Burgundy, Berthoud Cycles. Klein says it weighs in at a little over 10kg for a size 56.

It certainly seems like a far cry from the work he was doing in tech, but Klein manages to find the similarities. ‘I was quite happy to spend a lot of time coding and making a system,’ he says. ‘What I like is the creation.’