1935 Manufrance Super Hirondelle Retro-Directe Model 32 Two-Speed
The Manufrance Hirondelle Retro-Directe is one of my favourite models of bicycle. You might expect bicycles with such a curious gearing arrangement to be temperamental. But I have never had a problem with them, and have always been able to amaze passers-by and other cyclists with the machine’s fabulous party trick …pedalling backwards.
Above, you can see the Manufrance in my display at the Amberley Museum Veteran Cycle Show (1952 Rollfast Hopalong Cassidy behind). And below you can see in close-up what all the fuss is about…
When my French friends Alain and Pascal came over to Brighton for the Pioneer Run, they brought with them someone I’d not met before, Francois-Arsene, who soon became a new friend. He’s a journalist and wrote for a French motorcycle magazine (and was doing a piece on the Run). He brought a copy of the mag with him.
As soon as courtesy allowed, ie after he’d shown me his articles, I turned to the back of the mag to check out the classifieds. And there staring out at me was an ad for this bike.
Alain is well aware of my penchant for all things Manufrance. So, with typical patience, he phoned the seller and secured it for me. And, on his return, he made the 400 km trek to buy and collect it. Good friends, eh?
When Alain returned for Stafford Show, he brought my latest French acquisitions. I added the accessories I’d been saving for it, including the Manufrance saddle, above, and bell, below.
Patrick was over from Paris for the Amberley Veteran Cycle Day. Here he is demonstrating the Retro-Directe.
I dressed it for the show, but I still have to install a front brake and replace tubes and tyres. I’ve also removed the lower chain cog to use as a pattern to get one manufactured (my 1935 Ladies Retro-Directe is missing this item).
Its bearing was quite worn, so I’ll have a few extra ones made. I’ll add further photos when these jobs are done and it’s back on the road.
There were several models of Retro-Direct available in this year. This Super Hirondelle is distinguished by its mudguards, which have brackets for lamps. (The chain-guard is missing). Compare it with the ordinary Hirondelle, below.
The one illustrated below is the top-of-the-range Super Hirondelle 4-speed.
I’ve enlarged part of the above page so you can see the different pedal crank on the 4-Speed.
Here’s a 1939 chart showing the various pedal cranks. You can see the crank on this Retro-Directe 2-Speed is different from the derailleur models.
Finally, some more marketing strategy – the last two pages are for the Super Hirondelle ‘Selection’