French Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Paris Salon 1919

Paris Salon Impressions

Impressions of the Paris Salon

A Resume of Continental Design as seen by "The Motor Cycle" Staff.


Notable Improvements in Design. Up-to-date Machines exhibiting Great Originality introduced by New Firms.

Rear Springing Systems Common.

FOR some years past the motor cycling community of this country has shown but a lukewarm interest in the French motor cycle productions. Though our confreres across the Channel have often proved that they can produce excellent racing engines, they have, generally speaking, failed to produce complete motor cycles of outstanding merit. This promises to be altered now, and to those who have an opportunity of visiting the exhibition in the Grand Palais, which closes on the 19th inst., the enormous improvement in French motor cycle design must come as a considerable, though welcome, surprise. It is true that there are not a great many exhibitors, and that some of the most interesting machines are not attractive to the British eye. Yet such is the striking originality of the designs that our manufacturers would do well closely to observe the trend of French thought. Several of the 1920 models show a combination of the best points of British and American machines, with an admixture of truly French ingenuity, which marks a milestone in the history of Continental motor cycle manufacture. After half-hearted measures, the French industry is undoubtedly at last tackling seriously the problem of catering for the enormous . potential market, and although British machines are still the most common on the streets of Paris, a change is more than likely to be effected in the immediate future.

Clean Design.

Three-wheelers are attracting some attention, and four designs of pedal cycle attachments and one scooter are displayed. In the main, .however, real lightweights seem to be disappearing, and giving place to medium or heavyweight machines, capable of hauling a sidecar with ease and comfort.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature to students of French motor cycle design is the absence of loose control rods and badly-fitted' Bowden cables. The change is so complete that quite a large proportion of manufacturers have adopted twist-grip control. A further noticeable feature is that specially neat fixings for tool bags, speedometers, and other extraneous fittings are the rule rather than the exception. A stand-to-stand inspection reveals so many points of minor interest that only the more salient features are dealt with in the following review of the motor cycle exhibits in the Salon, the first important atter-the-war show, and, incidentally, the first European exhibition for six years.

The Motor Cycle, October 1919

Louis Clement.

This machine, which is one of the most original motor cycles in the show, must not be confused with the well-known products of Clement Freres, who have unfortunately decided to retire from the motor cycle trade.

The whole of the Louis Clement motor cycle is extremely novel, and shows a careful study of the more advanced section of British thought combined with excellent design and ingenious construction. More...

The Motor Cycle, October 1919


A new two-stroke Alcyon. The knee-operated change-speed lever is clearly shown.


The Alcyon is one of the best known makes of French motor cycle, and the firm staged a small single and a twin of more or less orthodox design. But the feature of the stand was undoubtedly the Ballot-engined two-stroke. This machine has a single-cylinder three-port two-stroke engine of 75 x 80 mm. bore and stroke. An extension of the crank case encloses the silent chain, the magneto, clutch, and two-speed gear. The operation of the gears is by a forked lever projecting on either side of the tank, so that the rider can effect a change of ratio by the pressure of his knees. More...


The 2 1/4 h.p. Gratieux two-stroke was described in our issue of the 9th inst. Three of these little machines are displayed.

The Motor Cycle, October 1919


Bleriot spring frame and braking system. Disc wheels form part of the standard equipment,


Quite one of the most important features of the Show is the fact that the well-known aircraft firm of L. Bleriot have decided to enter the motor cycle market. Their production is well worthy of its originators, and though some may cavil at the type of engine selected, and the somewhat "stumpy " appearance of the complete motor cycle, there can be no two opinions as to the ingenuity of the design, or the excellence of the construction. The engine is a vertical side by side twin, having a bore of 60 mm. and stroke of 88 mm. (499 c.c), having both connecting rods attached to a common crank pin. More...

The Motor Cycle


The 6 h.p. M.A.G. engined Motosacoche, which is fitted with three speed expanding ring type.


Our readers need no introduction to the Motosacoche either as regards its leading features or the excellence of its workmanship. There are, however, some interesting details incorporated in the new models, the chief of which lies in the new three-speed gear. This gear is similar to the Enfield two-speed in general layout ; there are, however, three primary chain drives and three expanding clutches, the adjustment for each of which is independent and easily accessible...
Continued: Motosacoche 1919 V-Twins

The Motor Cycle, October 1919


Everyone interested in the motor cycle industry must be glad to see an exhibit by the Fabrique Nationale, whose Liege factory is now emerging successfully from a most trying war-time experience. Both the 7 h.p. four-cylinder and 2 1/2 h.p. single-cylinder models were on view at the Salon and we have it on excellent authority that a revised edition of the four-cylinder machine will make its appearance before long. This firm has always been associated with the shaft and bevel transmission, in which respect it has suffered the usual lot of pioneers, but will undoubtedly reap material benefits before many years are past. It is not generally known that the F.N. designer, M. Paul Kelecom, was a close student of the machines and their performances in the A.C.U. Six Days Trials at Llandrindod, and the result is bound to be reflected in future F.N. designs.


Single-cylinder two-strokes, built almost entirely of British parts, form the attraction of this stand. A Villiers engine and Albion gear box are installed in an orthodox frame.


A most attractive exhibit was staged by the G.L. Both motor cycles and sidecars are beautifully finished. The machine was described fully in our issue for August 21st, and put up a good performance in the recent Six Days Trials in Wales. It will be remembered that the salient features are 4-5 h.p. twin J.A.P. or M.A.G. engines, Sturmey-Archer gear, all-chain drive, engine-shaft brake, and well designed spring fork and spring saddle pillar.

More on the G.L.

Janoir HO Twin, 1919

The 8 h.p. Janoir flat twin, designed tor tandem use. Note the ample protection afforded the rider, and the large detachable luggage boxes.

Louis Janoir

A large horizontally-opposed twin (85 × 85 mm.) forms the power plant of this very unorthodox vehicle. A disc clutch transmits the power to a three-speed gear box bolted to the frame just below the saddle (or front saddle, since the machine is designed for tandem use if desired). Final transmission is by roller chain, a sprocket for the speedometer drive being held in engagement with the driving side. More....

Peugeot 6 h.p. 1919

The 6 h.p. Peugeot, an exhibit conforming in general appearance to British design. A three-speed gear is fitted, and chain-cum-belt transmission.


Two specimens of Peugeot motor cycles are shown, viz., a 3 1/2 h.p. twin (56 x 70 mm.) and a 6 h.p. twin (70x95 mm.).

Both machines are similar in layout, being fitted with primary chain drive, three-speed countershaft gear box, and final belt transmission. The valves are placed side by side and protected by a metal shield. Sidecar lugs are built integral with the frame of the 6 h.p. model... More

The Motor Cycle

Anzani Engines.

In addition to complete motor cycles several engine makers exhibit a goodly display of engines. No greater variety can be found than that on the stand of A. Anzani. They are beautifully finished, but in these and other engines we noticed an absence of adjustable tappets. The smallest Anzani engine shown is the 2-3 h.p. 75 x 80 mm., a single-cylinder, with a gear-driven magneto set at an angle. Another single-cylinder is the 3-4 h.p., 85 x 87 mm., fitted with a mechanical oil pump and crank case sump. A twin-cylinder of the same dimensions is made, and has the magneto placed in front, as on the Morgan-Jap. More...

The Motor Cycle, October 1919


As already announced in The Motor Cycle, the A.B.C. is being manufactured in France by the Gnome and Le Rhone Cie. The differences between the French and English machines are in detail only. Briefly, these differences lie in the fitting of a front stand, a new kick starter, stiffer springing, a Zenith carburetter, and a system of oiling in which the flow of oil from the tank to the pump is controlled. The novelty on this stand consisted of the new French sidecar constructed specially for the machine. It has a chassis composed of channel steel side members and tubular cross-members, rigidly attached to . the frame of the motor cycle. The axle, however, is suspended on long leaf springs, a radius rod being fitted on the outer side. In addition, the axle is attached to the chain stay by means of a stiff leaf spring in the shape of a horse shoe, which is designed to give just sufficient flexibility to save the frame from undue strain. A comfortable sporting body is fitted to this smart outfit.

The Motor Cycle, October 1919


Both single and twin-cylinder models are shown fitted with. M.A.G. engines. For the purposes of description, the most fully equipped motor cycle will be used.

A primary chain drive with engine shaft shock absorber transmits power to an external band clutch, and a constant mesh two-speed gear, the control of which ensures clutch withdrawal when a change of ratio is made. The final drive is by belt, and both brakes act on the belt rim. More...

Griffon details, 1919 Model

Leaf springs are used for the Griffon forks. Inset, a diagram of the rear springing.


A 3 h.p. twin two-speed, with chain and belt drive, a 3 1/2 h.p. single (ZL engine), single geared, and a 6 h.p. twin (Anzani engine), with Sturmey-Archer gear comprise the models displayed on the Griffon stand.

The 6 h.p. machine is the most interesting, having a very neat spring frame and forks. The rear part of the frame is pivoted behind the gear box, and the shocks are taken by a long leaf spring anchored to the base of the saddle tube. More...


A very neat little two-stroke is shown under the above name. The engine is of the three-port type, but, contrary to usual practice it has the inlet and exhaust located at the rear of the cylinder. A chain-cum-belt drive is employed, a two-speed gear box being fitted to the bottom bracket. The frame has a sloping top tube, and Druid forks, with Terry links, are used,


The new Bianchi described in our last issue was shown for the first time,

Moto Reve.

No very startling innovations were to be seen on this stand, but it was a pleasure once more to see a continental motor cycle which at one time obtained considerable popularity in this country. A small twin-cylinder machine with over-head inlet valves and a single with both valves in the head were staged. We noticed also a neat little engine shaft clutch.


Cycle attachments appear to be attracting the attention of French designers. The Cyclotracteur is a neat little four-stroke engine (50 X 55 mm.) with automatic pressure lubrication. The motor is carried by special front forks, and drives by friction on to the front tyre. More...

Viratelle, 3 h.p. 1919

The 3 h.p. Viratelle, a water-cooled single-cylinder with a three-speed epicyclic gear.


A solitary example of water-cooling for motor cycles was the 3 h.p. Viratelle, an interesting machine having a single-cylinder engine with enclosed side by side valves behind, the cylinder. The engine forms a unit with a very simple and ingenious three-speed epicyclic gear. This gear is the outcome of years of road experience, and runs on ball bearings throughout. A circular radiator is arranged in front of the tank, and inside' the two halves of which it is composed lies a fan driven from the engine by a long belt.

A similar machine having two side-by-side cylinders is also manufactured, and drawings of a simple leaf spring fork were displayed. Combined spring footrests and saddle pillar may be fitted if desired.

Motor Fly.

Another ingenious cycle attachment takes the form of a small inverted two-stroke, which drives by friction on to a fabric-faced drum on the rear wheel. This wheel is specially constructed, and consists of a disc dished back to one side of the wheel so as partially to enclose and protect the engine.

Rene Gillet.

The chief features of the production of this well-known firm are the very clean and well designed twin-cylinder engine and the two-speed epicyclic gear housed in a circular bottom bracket casting. Beyond these points the machine follows more or less conventional lines and presents few novel features, but appears lo be well constructed throughout. The gears are operated by pedal.

Magnat-Debon 1919 HO Twin

(Top) On the Magnat Debon flat twin a single tension spring returns both valves to their seatings. Below is shown the tool drawer under the carrier.

Magnat Debon.

A flat twin engine embodying several novel features is carried in a cradle attached to an equally unusual frame. In the sump of the engine is a simple two-speed gear, and a cone clutch is mounted externally, the final drive being by belt. Opposed valves are employed, the exhaust being overhead, and a single tension spring working through rockers is utilised to return both inlet and exhaust valves. More...

British Machines.

There was a very representative display of British machines, which seem to have got a firm hold on the French market. Amongst the many were the Triumph, Douglas, B.S.A. Matchless, Morgan, P. and M., Triumph, Coventry Eagle, and Hobart, while the Velocette and New Imperial were amongst those which were unfortunately delayed by the railway strike.

American Motor Cycles.

Two new comers from across the Atlantic were on view - the flat twin Harley-Davidson, which has already been described in these pages (August 14th), and the new 4 h.p. Indian, of which type we were able to illustrate the forerunner in our issue of September 11th. This is a very attractive medium weight machine with a smaller edition of the Powerplus engine built up into a unit with the gear box. The unit is carried in a duplex frame, the rear portion being unsprung and the front fork spring being modified.

Triauto Godet

The springing of the Triauto Godet three-wheeler

Le Triauto Godet.

This is an interesting experiment in three-wheelers of the type which employs a twin rear wheel. A four-cylinder air-cooled engine (52 x 90 mm.) drives a two-speed bevel wheel gear box by shaft. The gear box is located at the rear of the channel steel frame, the final drive being by chain. More...

Train Engines.

One or two attractive motor cycle engines are shown by the Etablissements E. Train. They are chiefly conspicuous for their excellent finish. Two types of two-strokes are shown, the 2 1/2 h.p., 65 X 74 mm. (245 c.c), and the 3 1/2 h.p., 76 X 76 mm. (345 c.c). These engines can be had with either air or water-cooling. Three types of four-stroke engines are also shown by this firm - a single-cylinder 4 h.p. 80 X 90 mm. (498 c.c), a 5-6 h.p. twin, 74 X 87 mm. (748 c.c), and a 7-8 h.p., 80 x99 mm. (995 c.c). These models may also be obtained with water-cooling. The firm also produces a three-speed gear box, provided with enclosed kick starter, in which the change is effected by dog clutches. A mechanical oil pump of the piston type, driven by means of a worm and designed to work at 1/56th of the engine speed, is also shown.

Lumen Scooter, 1919

A French scooter. The Lumen set can also be adapted to pedal cycles.

Lumen Scooters.

Scooters were represented only by the Lumen, a neat little power unit which is made in a form applicable to attachment to pedal cycles.

A small overhead valve motor of 55 X 50 mm. is attached to the rear forks in such a manner that the crankshaft passes through the hub... more

Motor Cycle Accessories.

Very few accessories are to be seen, and the few that are visible are of British manufacture. The nearest approach to a. well made motor cycle head lamp was to be seen on the stand of Willvey-Bottin, a Belgian firm with a London branch in Long Acre. Of ingenious tools and labour-saving devices, we saw none, but. it is interesting to note that there are one or two cheap dynamo systems, which can be adapted to motor cycles.

A neat acetylene lamp, primarily intended for pedal cycles, but none the less useful for motor cycles for short journeys in towns or as a sidecar lamp, is the Magnetic, sold by H. Picard. On the hicus a non luctndo principle, it is called the " Magnetic " because its source of light is calcium carbide.

The Motor Cycle, October 1919


A quaint little three-wheeler with a single small front wheel is displayed on this stand. The tout ensemble is reminiscent of an invalid chair (for which type of vehicle the manufacturers are famous). Both single and two-seaters are made, and both are engined by horizontally-opposed two-stroke air-cooled engines combined with two-speed gears and fully enclosed magnetos. The final drive is by shaft and worm gear to a neat live rear axle.



Possibly the neatest and most practical three-wheeler in the exhibition is the Diable, which is fitted with a remarkably clean looking 8 h.p. air-cooled V type engine...
Read more on the Diable.

The Sulky.

One of the many curiosities in cycle cars at the Show is the Sulky, made by the well-known aeroplane firm of Voisin. Its motive power is a two-cylinder engine fixed to the side of the frame, more...

Motoporteur A.R.M.

One of the most curious vehicles in the motor cycle exhibit was a self-propelled trailer intended for attachment to pedal cycles. A small sidecar body contains the passenger, and the outfit is propelled by more...


SINCE the earliest days of motor cycles, when Continental manufacturers led the way and British experimenters copied, there has been a steady reversal of roles. Design in this country, after a period of difficulties, went ahead by leaps and bounds, whereas Continental designers appeared to concentrate on cars, and the motor cycle industry lost ground.

As a direct result of the improvements in motor cycles, an important industry sprang up in England, and its products reached almost every corner of the globe. More recently America became a serious rival, but though a few first-class motor cycles have been produced in France, Belgium, and Italy, British machines have been adopted as patterns by most European designers.

The war has been responsible for many changes, and has brought into prominence the extraordinary capabilities of the motor cycle to such an extent that we find that France is once again taking a lively interest in the production of two-wheelers, and not only is she taking advantage of British and American improvements, but also she has introduced many original features of her own.

This is only as it should be, for a country of such brilliant mechanical genius is not likely to allow other nations to have things all their own way in the world's motor cycle market. So great are the differences that it is not an easy matter to compare the motor cycle exhibits in the Grand Palais exhibition of 1913 with those of the 1919 Salon.

In 1913 there was, it is true, much originality, but the few exhibitors had not learned how to make a neat and workmanlike machine, though some of the mechanical features showed great promise.

In 1919 neatness of detail is an outstanding feature, and some of our own manufacturers might well take a hint from French designers in this respect.


Novel Lines.

It is true that the majority of French machines differ in general appearance from the lines to which we have become accustomed, but they are not necessarily any the worse for that. One is apt to get into a groove and consider as a freak anything that does not conform to accepted practice, but this is quite a mistaken attitude to adopt, and, unless other people's ideas are carefully studied, we shall find that, not only will our export trade fail to increase, but that new and dangerous competitors will arrive in our home market.


Perhaps the most noticeable tendencies of modern French design are the prevalence of unit engine and gear boxes, and rear springing. The former is a point on which there has already been much discussion, and which, in our opinion, is eminently desirable ; the latter is a feature which is universally accepted as a desirable point in standard equipment.

Unit Construction.

Let us dwell for a moment on the possibilities of unit construction as exemplified by the Bleriot, Louis Clement, Alcyon, and other machines. First, it is possible to construct a clean unit in which the primary drive is entirely enclosed and runs in an oil-tight compartment ; next, the unit can be made in such a manner as to present a clean and smooth exterior which will collect a minimum of dust and mud and will be easy to clean. It should also be possible to save a certain amount of weight, especially in the matter of attachments, and, if the magneto is carried on the top of the gear box, a further saving is effected in the weight and cost of a special magneto bracket.

Against this must be set the fact that more work is entailed if it should become necessary to strip the entire engine for examination. But how many touring motor cyclists ever remove more than the cylinders? And, if the engine is periodically examined, the gear box usually undergoes the same operation at the same time, or at any rate it should do so.


The Barrellier, a three-wheeler fitted with a flat twin two-stroke engine.

Frame Design.

Some alteration in frame design might be necessary, but this is a good point rather than otherwise, as, though modifications of the diamond frame have proved satisfactory if sufficient metal is employed, it by no means follows that it is the best and lightest construction.

The frame of the Louis Clement motor cycle is an example of advanced construction, being largely constructed of steel pressings, and yet conforming in a great degree to general outlines of standard motor cycle practice. In ,this machine the tank rails and saddle tube are discarded in favour of pressings, which form, in the first instance, an admirable platform for the tank and saddle fixings, and, in the second case, a combined rear mudguard and frame stay. Again, the front forks are of pressed steel, and are light, strong, and easy to clean, and the combined toolbox and carrier are formed as part of the rear guard.

Pressed steel frames are, of course, only suitable for mass production, but, given favourable circumstances and good design, they save weight, money, and leaning, and provide a most admirable form of construction.

Disc Wheels.

Both Clement and Bleriot motor cycles are fitted with permanent disc wheels, the rear wheel of the Bleriot with its integral belt rim being a particularly nice piece of work. Opinions are divided as to the merits of this type of wheel for solo riding; but for sidecar work, at any rate, the permanent type has its advantages.

Carrying the Tools.

As already mentioned, details have been cleaned up to a large degree, and considerable ingenuity has been displayed in the construction of tool-carrying arrangements.

The Magnat-Debon is perhaps the neatest in this respect, having a shallow drawer below the carrier with a compartment for each necessary tool and spare part; but if steel pressings were used, it should be possible to construct the lid of the toolbox so as to form the carrier, and thus save a number of parts and joints.

Circular metal boxes on either side of the carrier are used by the G.L., and either may be replaced by a D.A. cylinder if desired; and the new Motosacoche provides perhaps the neatest example of an entirely armoured toolbag.


The Diable, a three-wheeler of sound design and construction.

Rear Springing.

Rear springing systems of all types were to be seen, from the leaf spring systems of the A.B.C., Janoir, Griffon, etc., to the type which insulates the rider only, as exemplified by the Motosacoche, Condor, Viratelle, etc. In between come such devices as those employed on the Bleriot. This particular example is very neat, the springs being entirely enclosed in the frame tubes, and an adjustable-friction device being incorporated in the link action.

The Magnat-Debon employs a spring saddle-pillar in addition to a spring frame.

Most Continental motor cycles have two brakes operating on the rear wheel : an item which is influenced to a certain degree by the design of spring forks.


Engines show rather an interesting trend of thought, for there is a decided tendency to adopt the side-by-side vertical twin both for two and four-stroke types.

One of the best examples is that installed in the Bleriot motor cycle. Both connecting rods are mounted on a common crank pin, so that the impulses are evenly spaced, though the balance cannnot be better than a single. Detail engine design is good, with the curious exception that adjustable tappets are rare, and very small diameter valve springs employed.

The Viratelle is alone as a water-cooled motor cycle engine, and, though only a single-cylinder machine was staged, a vertical twin cylinder is also made by the firm. This machine is interesting, too, on account of the very neat three-speed epicyclic gear embodied with the engine unit. Horizontal twins were shown on the stands of Janoir, Magnat-Debon, and A.B.C., the last being, of course, similar to the English A. B.C., but built by the Gnome and le Rhone Co.


Of the French two-strokes, the Alcyon is the most interesting (described in our last issue), though the Motosolo is a very neat machine of the lighter class.

Pedal cycle attachments are common and uniformly ingenious. This subject seems to have received greater attention in France than in this country.

Three-wheelers show great originality, though, in the main, the designs would not attract British buyers. An exception, however, is the cycle car Diable. This has a very sound and straightforward chassis, and the layout is about the last word in practical simplicity.

In conclusion, there are many lessons to be learned from modern French designs, and though, perhaps, we could teach more than we could learn, it would be most unwise to pass by the possibilities without very serious consideration.

The Motor Cycle, October 1919

Also covered were the the Cycleauto and the Moteurs Bi-temps, discussed elsewhere on these pages.

Source: The Motor Cycle, Oct 16th and 23rd 1919

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