Saturday, February 25, 2017
Paul de Vivie
Paul de Vivie was publisher of Le Cycliste, an early champion of derailleur gears, and father of French bicycle touring and randonneuring.
De Vivie imported machines from England. In 1889 he made a bike of his own, called La Gauloise. It had a diamond frame, chain and a single gear. De Vivie was riding the col de la République (10 km south east of St Etienne) in 1889 when one of his readers overtook him - smoking a pipe. De Vivie felt challenged but also trapped: if he lowered his gear, he would go slower on the flat. But on the gearing that he had, he could not climb hills fast enough either. British thinking favoured epicyclic and planetary gears, concealed in the rear hub. De Vivie created the derailleur. His first had two chain wheels; the chain had to be lifted by hand from one to the other. He then placed two chain wheels on the left side. The combination gave him four gears.In 1901 Velocio combined his invention with the four-speed proteon gear of the English Whippet, which used a split chain wheel. Pedalling backwards made the two halves of the chain wheel open. Pawls then secured them in one of four positions. De Vivie's development appeared in his Cheminot in 1906, the first derailleur. He overlooked taking out a patent and made barely any money from an invention which changed cycling.
It has been said that de Vivie invented something which already existed, in Britain, and simply made the derailleur better known.
Traditional cyclists did not appreciate his gears. The organiser of the Tour de France, Henri Desgrange, dismissed them in L'Auto as fit only for invalids and women. De Vivie campaigned for his invention and rode every morning up the col de la République for the joy of passing riders without them.