The Inventor of Cicloturism, Vélocio

Who invented the Cicloturism as we know it today?, who invented multiple gears for bikes?…Mr. Paul de Vivie, a French guy born near Saint Etienne in 1853 has the honor of being the inventor of the derailleur gears on the bike, found the journal “Le Cycliste”, inventing the term “bicycle touring” or Cicloturism (Cicloturisme, in French), found the first French cyclist club, being a father of uncompetitive long distance bike events and many other things. His nickname was Vélocio, evoking the “speed” and “bicycle” (velocité and Vélo, respectively, in French).

He was a real bicycle passionate to the point that closed his silk company and rode another bike company, first bringing the bicycles from England and then manufacturing them.

One day that he was going up the Col de la République, close to Saint Etienne, one of his readers who was on his own bike and smoking a pipe, he stepped forward and that made him think very carefully about the ineffectiveness of developments in different terrains and led him to invent the derailleur gears, a big event in that time. The first series production of his invention was made in 1906 and was not widely accepted at first. The organizers of the Tour de France, for example, said it was for grandpas, disabled and women. Vélocio, however, was enjoying his invention and could without big efforts to raise the Col de la Republique with his derailleur gears on the bike and he was ahead of all the cyclists who met on the climb to the mountains.

He was one of the first Randonneurs (cycling long distance) of the Gallic country, with routes up to 40 hours with rather old bikes and some pretty decent times for the material that he had on this times, claiming that cycling, despite going to a cheerful rhythm, was much more better to enjoy scenery and landscape than going by train or by car.

Following these raids that he did with his bicycle across France, a series of tours were then started as the still existing Fléche Vélocio, 360 kilometers uncompetitive French race to try to do in less than 24 hours by teams of between 3 and 5 a tour that was leaving from different parts of the country and were driving them to the same destination, where everyone gathers.

Vélocio was killed by a tram at 77 years of age when he stepped back to avoid a car. Surely it would have been a much more long-lived person if not for that misfortune, as was what today is called “a convinced environmentalist”, great lover of nature, healthy, vegetarian life and anticommunist. Today are still taken as a reference “the seven rides commandments” he left as legacy. Some of the commands are very famous quotes that even non-cyclists know and are:

1. Make a few stops and short, not missing the beat.

2. Eat before you are hungry and drink before you get thirsty, frequently, but in smaller quantities.

3. Not reach abnormal fatigue that makes you lose your appetite and sleep.

4. Bundle up before being cold, uncovering before having hot. Do not fear the sun, air or water.

5. At least during the route remove from diet meat, wine and tobacco.

6. No force, never exceed the power of yourself, especially during the first few hours, when you feel up to it.

7. Never pedaling for pride.

The years that have passed and are still relevant.

Finally, some sentences of his articles in the magazine Le Cycliste, quite memorable:

“The bike is not just a transportation tool, but also a means of emancipation, a weapon of liberation. Free spirit and body of moral concerns, physical diseases of modern life, the glitz, the convention, hypocrisy where appearance is everything, where we seem, but we are nothing”.

“A shaft of gold pierced the sky and rested on a snowy peak, which, moments before, had been caressed by soft moonlight. For a moment showers of sparks bounced from the pinnacle and tumbled down the mountain in a heavenly cataract. The king of the universe, the magnificent dispenser of light and warmth and life, gave notice of his imminent arrival, but only for an instant. Like a spent meteor, the spectacle dissolved in the sea of darkness that engulfed me in the depths of the gorge. The glistening reflections, the exploding fireballs were gone. Once again, the snow assumed its cold and ghostly face”.

“After a long day on my bicycle, I feel refreshed, cleansed, purified. I feel that I have established contact with my environment and that I am at peace. On days like that I am permeated with a profound gratitude for my bicycle. Even if I did not enjoy riding, I would still do it for my peace of mind. What a wonderful tonic to be exposed to bright sunshine, drenching rain, choking dust, dripping fog, rigid air, punishing winds! I will never forget the day I climbed the Puy Mary. There were two of us on a fine day in May. We started in the sunshine and stripped to the waist. Halfway, clouds enveloped us and the temperature tumbled. Gradually it got colder and wetter, but we did not notice it. In fact, it heightened our pleasure. We did not bother to put on our jackets or our capes, and we arrived at the little hotel at the top with rivulets of rain and sweat running down our sides. I tingled from top to bottom”.

Currently cycling and cicloturism is developed by millions of people in many places all around the world, being Mallorca a privileged destination and enjoyed by thousands of cyclists every year.

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