The French Cyclo company was the creation of Albert Raimond, one of the giants of derailleur history. Raimond developed the ‘Le Cyclo’ derailleur in 1923 (the design which became the Cyclo Standard in Britain). These derailleurs were imported into Britain from 1926. In 1932 the Great Depression had caused widespread protectionism, and Britain imposed high import duties on derailleurs imported from France. Raimond and his British Agent, Louis Camillis, responded by going into partnership and forming The Cyclo Gear Company to manufacture derailleurs and freewheels in Birmingham. By the end of the 1930’s the Cyclo Gear Company was clearly the leading player in the British derailleur market, while the French company was rapidly losing ground to Simplex.
The Cyclo Gear Company started by manufacturing French designs, but slowly but surely started to produce its own variants. By the time that the bicycle market was reviving, after the Second World War, the French Cyclo company was a minor player increasingly concentrating on freewheels, but the British company was going from strength to strength, producing its highly successful ‘Benelux’ range of pull-chain derailleurs. Neither company, however, really appreciated the importance of the Campagnolo Gran Sport and the parallelogram design. The Cyclo Gear Company did produce parallelogram derailleurs in the early 1960’s, but they had the distinct sense of being too little too late. Production of derailleurs in Britain ended around 1970. Cyclo continued to make cycle tools in Birmingham, and the name continues to this day as a brand of cycle tools.
The Cyclo Gear Company had two particular disadvantages compared to the French and Italian brands. The first was that Britain had no real tradition of heroic road racing in the style of the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia. Cycle sport in Britain was a strange, secretive, affair based around early morning time trials - an unexciting background against which to promote a premium product.
The second disadvantage was the dominance of Raleigh as, by far, the largest bicycle manufacturer. Raleigh was not enthusiastic about derailleurs, largely because it owned the Sturmey Archer hub gear business, but also because it didn’t like the engineering. Raleigh’s reputation was built around extreme reliability and this did not fit well with the fickle pull-chain derailleurs of the 1950’s.
The state of British cycle sport prevented Cyclo from becoming a premium product, and Raleigh prevented them from becoming a mass-market product - they ended up with nowhere to go!