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French Fashion!

2013 London-Edinburgh-LondonRiding the London-Edinburgh-London was Drew Buck (nattily dressed as a 19th century French sailor it seems)  on a 1913 Hirondelle Retro-direct drive bicycle. At first glance, this bike looks like any other standard diamond frame design although obviously pretty old. But look more closely through the rear wheel. There seems to be an extra length of chain running over an extra cog or jockey wheel, what is that?

After a bit of research I discovered that this is a transmission system that enables two different gears to be chosen, simply be pedalling in different directions. By pedalling backwards, a second gear ratio is engaged by a clever use of two independent freewheels affixed to the rear hub.

Retro-directe drive

Retro-direct drive

In this diagram above, by pedalling backwards a lower gear is engaged for climbing hills. Although it was equally possible to have the backwards gear set up as the higher ratio if required. I am not sure which way round Buck had his set up, but considering he had over 1400km to ride I would assume he used the backwards pedalling action for the hills.

Although this was the first time I had ever seen Drew in the flesh, I had heard of him before, as he had a reputation for riding old bikes, commonly with a string of onions hanging from his handlebars. And that stereotypical Frenchman outfit? Apparently (according to wikifashion) after being introduced as the uniform shirt of Breton seamen in 1858, it became more widespread as a working man’s shirt in Brittany and then made into a fashion item by Coco Chanel in her 1917 Nautical Collection.

 

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