Establishing themselves in a large factory in the St Etienne area of France, Manufrance became one of the country’s leading retailers of bicycles, establishing the new concept of sales via mail order catalogue. Though they offered a comprehensive range of styles, the company’s leading line became the Retro-Directe, seen below, a surprisingly simple concept that allowed the rider to pedal forward as normal in one gear but backwards when engaging the second gear.
As you can see below, Frenchmen throughout the country rose to the challenge of smoking a pipe while pedalling backwards up mountains to put the Retro-Directe through its paces. As well having this renowned feature, the bicycles were very well-built and enjoyed a first class reputation for reliability. Indeed, the only issue I’ve ever encountered on them over the years is worn teeth on the small retro-direcete cog, and I’ve overcome this by fitting a small rear sprocket to replace the worn one.
1932 Cycles ‘Hiron’ 2-Vitesse Retro-Directe pour Hommes
This Retro-Directe has been part of a private collection for many years, owned by Jean Marc in France. I bought a 1920s Terrot racer from JM earlier this year; when he realised he didn’t have time to do the little jobs on this machine, he decided to pass this beauty on to me as well.
It’s very well-preserved, in original spec, having been restored some thirty years ago. It has old-style tyres and rides well. So, once it arrives across the Channel, I’ll fit brakes and grips and it will be ready to pedal retro-directly and amaze all who watch its party trick …pedalling backwards while riding forwards.