Hirondelle Superbe

Certainly one of the craziest bicycles ever built, is the Hirondelle Superbe from the 'Manufrance' factory in St.  Etienne (France). The rounded frame tube should give some extra suspension, I guess. Same idea for the handlebars? The design has clear similarities with the Gormully & Jeffery American Rambler 1888, as shown in the last illustration on this page.
The 'Superbe' was the most luxurious model in the Manufrance-line, built from 1889-1893. 
In the years 1889-1890 it had centres steering, later it had a ball head and there was also a version with socket head.  

Click pictures for links to my pages about Hirondelle Superbe bicycles.

 c.1891 socket head
 
c. 1893 ball head 
   


Manufrance stands for Manufacture d' Armes et Cycles (France) and it once was the biggest factory of arms and bicycles in France. This evolved into the first and best known postorder service of France, which still lasts, although they stopped producing things themselves. Until World War II they built the famous Retro-Directe bicycle, a bike that has low gear pedaling backwards, and high gear pedaling forward. I am lucky to have one in my collection, it dates around 1929-1930. 
It is said that the first models of Manufrance were designed and built by Gauthier, another firm from St. Etienne. I am not sure if the 'Superbe' was also built by Gauthier, I can see no similarities with Gauthiers 1890-1891-model.


 Hirondelle Superbe 1889
 Gormully & Jeffery 1888


Which was first??