RETRO-DIRECT GEARING …and PEDALLING BACKWARDS!
The Retro-Direct was developed by French inventor Paul de Martin de Viviés (1833–1911).An early two-chain version was patented in 1869 by Barberon and Meunier, and the single-chain version (seen here) was patented in 1903 by Manufrance.
In the single-chain system, the chain runs from the top of a chainring attached to the cranks to the top of a sprocket attached to the rear wheel hub with a freewheel, as with most bicycle chain drives. The chain then, however, wraps around the rear sprocket to an idler sprocket between the rear wheel and the cranks, then runs back to a second sprocket attached to the rear wheel with a second freewheel, and finally returns to the bottom of the chain ring. Only one freewheel is engaged at a time, while the other spins backward freely. Since the chain wraps around the second sprocket in the opposite direction to the first sprocket, the cyclist needs only to pedal backwards to engage it.
Usually the second sprocket is larger, which provides the cyclist a lower gear for climbing steep inclines simply by pedaling backwards. While most historical examples of retro-direct bicycles used the reverse gear for climbing, several modern retro-direct riders prefer climbing while pedaling forward and engaging the higher, cruising gear while pedaling backwards.
Manufrance sold the Retro-Direct through their annual catalogues. The Retro-Direct was current from 1903 until 1939.
1935 Cycles Hirondelle a 2 Vitesses Retro-Directes
Manufactured by Manufrance of St. Etienne, France
Manufrance Named Saddle
This Manufrance Retro-Directe is in lovely unrestored condition. It has the usual Manufrance accessory set, including the company’s own leather saddle.
If you enjoy astounding passers-by and other cyclists when you ride a vintage bicycle, just stop pedalling forward and engage the high gear …by pedalling backward!