Here today at lovely Vintage Vélo-Couché Quotidien we would like to introduce Charles Mochet and his « vélo vélocar » recumbent bicycle.
But first a disclaimer: we don’t know nothing ’bout ‘bents. Recall from our previous post that we’ve finally accepted the fact that we’ve been priced out of the Herse, Singer, Routens (etc.) market forever. So now we’re moving on to vintage ‘bents…the next big thing. Come along!
Charles Mochet was not the first to propose the idea of a recumbent bicycle. The idea had been kicked around since at least 1897. A patent was filed in 1902 for this little gem:
Yet it was Charles Mochet and his family who brought the ‘bent to the big time in the early 1930’s. Ironically his recumbent bicycle evolved from a “car”. Mochet’s post WWI dream was to manufacture a small, lightweight economy car for the French market. A lack of postwar industrial capacity meant his dream took the form of a velomobile instead of an automobile. Starting in 1925, Mochet, along with his wife, son George and cousin Alexandre were instrumental in developing the vélocar, a sort of human powered voiturette or velomobile. It seems the vélocar was designed with Everyman in mind. It is estimated that from 1925 to 1950 as many as 6000 vélocars were manufactured and sold. The vélocars were often four-wheeled two-seat models. Some of the vehicles were motorized in after market modifications made by the owners. Here below is a tricycle version pulling a trailer.
On a typical Sunday in December, 1930, Mr. Mochet and his family gathered around the table. Conversation drifted towards performance and the possibilities for their vélocar. It was noted how a vélocar is faster than a tandem bicycle. Hmm…something to do with aerodynamics. By 1932 a successful prototype of a performance recumbent was constructed based on half of a four-wheeled vélocar. Hence the name « vélo vélocar » was assigned. Mochet took care to verify with UCI and UVF that his recumbents were legal for competition. In 1932 and 1933 a string of world speed cycling records, including the hour record, were broken with the « vélo vélocar ». In spite of the Mochet’s earlier assurances from UCI that his recumbents were legal, they were deemed ineligible later and banned from competition.
Here below is Francis Faure riding a performance enhanced « vélo vélocar » on the track. Faure was an experienced cyclotouriste having participated in a number of competitions including Côte de Chanteloup and étape pyrénéenne. But he was only a ‘second category’ rider. Some speculate that Mochet broke an unwritten rule by allowing his non ‘first category’ rider to challenge the speed records.
Here below is a 1933 model of Mochet’s recumbent on display in Saint-Etienne.
And another image, which describes the standard model as having electric lighting, six speeds with derailleur and double chain-rings.
Charles Mochet passed away unexpectedly in 1934. It is estimated that only about 35 of his recumbents survive, mostly in museums and private collections. Oh, well…so much for the bon marché on vintage recumbents.
Reference: http://www.velorizontal.com/hommage_mochet.htm#Pr%C3%A9face > This website is maintained by the Mochet family and is a great resource for further reading (in French) with lots of interesting photos.