The bike owes a lot to Peugeot. In 1885, the company Les Fils de Peugeot Frères launched the mass production, in Beaulieu, of the Grand-Bi – a stock with a large wheel at the front and a smaller wheel at the back – , as well as bicycles and tricycles.
In 1900, production reached, all models combined, 20,000 units.
Cold tubes provided
A few years earlier, specifically in 1894, the lion brand made a frame from cold tubes. Then, in 1896, he developed a cycle with a horizontal top tube, thus giving shape to the common bicycle.
Innovation had to follow: the models were changed, refined, freewheel and braking by flexible cable invented; The rubber tire was also replaced by the inflatable tire created in 1888 by Briton Dunlop.
But from the story told here, Peugeot doesn’t exist, at least initially. A story of shared fatherhood.
It is for Lieutenant Henri Gérard (he is not yet a captain), who was assigned 159.e The Briançon Legion between 1891 and 1892, to which we owe the design of a folding and portable bicycle intended for the army. The problem: he can’t find someone to finance his project.
When he was transferred to Grenoble, he met Charles Morel, an industrialist from Dauphine, manufacturer of crushers and grinders, who showed interest in engaging the craftsman, Adolphe Dulac. This modifies the model by adding a crankset, chain and intermediate pedal.
Presented at the Paris Bicycle Exhibition in December 1894, the two-wheeled motorcycle weighed 14.5 kilograms and cost 300 francs (civilian price), or a quarter of a worker’s wage. The army paid less.
Ten regiments of 400 cyclists of chasseurs
Captain Gérard’s folding bicycle – only his name has been preserved to identify this invention (1) – it can be carried on the back, without hindering the movement of soldiers, or preventing them from handling weapons.
The military bike was not new. Workers quickly discovered the full potential of this new form of transportation that proved its value during the 1890s in information transmission, then in combat during the Great War.
In 1913, France established ten regiments of 400 cyclists. Cycles, which should not be fed or left to rest in a stable, have gradually replaced horses in action theaters.
Russian and Romanian forces were equipped
The success of the folding bicycle (frame adjustable according to the size of the soldier, internal brake and brake on the driving wheel, adjustable booths and pedals, etc.) Among the buyers: the French army, of course, and also His Russian (until 1917) and Romanian counterparts.
Promoted captain, Henri Gérard found a celebrity that led to the breakup of his partnership with Charles Morel (the two men fell out): the patent was sold to Michelin in 1899 and, faced with an influx of orders, mass production (until 1919). ) was produced by Les Fils de Peugeot Frères, in Valentigney, with a modern version including mudguards and new handles.
(1) In the book called “Charles Morel, builder of the Dauphinois under the Third Republic” (Grenoble University Press, 1990), the author, Jean-Pierre Borgis, attributes the fatherhood of the invention to Charles Morel alone. Adolphe Dulac is completely forgotten.