Although Barberon & Meunier first patented the retro-direct system in 1869, the gear system was further developed and refined by other companies, including Manufacture at the turn of the century. The Hirondelle, or “swallow” (the bird) in French, was introduced in 1903 and became the leading example of the retro-direct gear system and the main alternative to the derailleur for the first three decades of the 20th century. This 2-speed men’s bicycle has independent freewheels, the rider moves forward regardless of the direction pedaled; pedaling forward engages the high gear while pedaling backward engages the low gear. Manufrance, the company’s trade name, offered the first mail-order bicycles through their annual catalogs, alongside other products such as household items and firearms.
Designer/builder: Manufacture Francaise d'Armes et Cycles de St.Etienne
Country of Origin: France
Weight: 13608g/ 30lbs.