Rivolier Père et Fils (RPF) was established in 1830 as a manufacturer of firearms based in St-Étienne. Although RPF was never a major manufacturer of derailleurs, it played a central role in their early development - mainly through two individuals who worked for it - Albert Raimond and Joanny Panel.
In 1909 a young Albert Raimond worked at RPF and persuaded the company to start manufacturing bicycles. He was put in charge of this operation. At this time, many companies manufactured both bicycles and guns as they used similar technology (high strength and hardened steels), required similar levels of precision engineering and provided usefully diversified demand (sporting rifles sold in winter, bicycles in summer, military rifles were subject to the whims of government, bicycles were bought by consumers etc...).
From around 1909 to 1911, Joanny Panel also worked as a clerk at RPF, and Raimond became aware of Panel’s developing plans for the Le Chemineau derailleur. Possibly through Panel, Raimond also became aware of Paul de Vivie’s experiments. Like Panel, Albert Raimond became a friend of Paul de Vivie and a part of the small group of French cyclists, known as ‘L’École Stephanoise’ (‘The St Étienne School’), who were actively involved in experimenting with derailleurs to facilitate cycle touring.
In 1911, Joanny Panel left RPF and set up his own company manufacturing Le Chemineau bicycles and derailleurs. He made a deal with Albert Raimond to sell his derailleurs to RPF to fit on some of their bicycles. Needless to say, Joanny Panel was not a reliable supplier and Albert Raimond’s frustrations led him to explore alternative avenues.
According to Frank Berto, Albert Raimond’s first alternative avenue was to produce his own design, completed before the First World War. This was called ‘Le Routier’ and virtually nothing seems to be known about it.
A second alternative avenue was Claudius Bouillier. Bouillier was a long-standing member of ‘L’École Stephanoise’, had collaborated with Joanny Panel on his Le Chemineau patent, and had patented his own l’As design in 1920 which used a ball bearing running in helical groove on a shaft to turn the rotational motion of a control ring into the lateral motion of the pulley cage. In the L’As design the mechanism was operated by back pedalling.
In 1924 Bouillier patented the design of a touring derailleur which again used a rotating control ring causing lateral movement using a peg and a helically grooved shaft - but this time the control ring was operated by a twin cable arrangement. Albert Raimond adopted this design and commercialised it as a derailleur called ‘Le Cyclo’. The level of Albert Raimond’s contribution to the design is unclear - many sources consider that the basic design was Raimond’s, not Bouillier’s, based on a mechanism Raimond had first seen on machine guns during his military service during the war. However this story does not quite gel with the similarity to the mechanism used by Bouillier in his, earlier, L’As derailleur.
At first Albert Raimond continued to work at RPF and manufactured Le Cyclo derailleurs in his spare time. However, as demand grew, he established a factory in Saint-Priest-en-Jarez, part of the Saint-Étienne. After Albert Raimond left RPF the company continued to fit Cyclo derailleurs to its models for a number of years.
RPF stopped manufacturing bicycles in 1950 and stopped manufacturing firearms in 1973. After a chequered period, it currently exists as a company called Rivolier, importing and marketing firearms and hunting equipment.