The Parisian firm La Métropole marketed the Acatène bicycle brand from the mid-1890s. The term literally describes this bicycle’s ‘chainless’ transmission system. Since Henry J. Lawson had shown a rear-wheel chain-powered bicycle in 1879 manufacturers had been waging a fierce ‘chain war’. But the problem with this type of transmission was that it lacked sturdiness, and manufacturers sought other solutions, including this Acatène model, whose back wheel is driven by a system of conical gears. Although this system had some success in races in 1897 and 1898, it proved less effective at starts and uphill than chain-powered bicycles, still the norm today due to their simple maintenance and durability.


  • Title: Acatène bicycle
  • Creator: La Métropole
  • Date: Circa 1896
  • Date Created: Circa 1896
  • Location: France
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Contributor: Author: Sandra Delaunay. English translation: David Wharry
  • Inventory number: Inv. 12862
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Pascal Faligot

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