I do not know much about the Super Rapid brand. I am aware of a number of fairly basic Super Rapid models of rear derailleur, some of which are pull-chain designs and some of which use a direct pull - typical of the period between about 1935 and 1960. The finish on these derailleurs is fairly plain and looks... how shall I say this... 'inexpensive'. There are a fair number of Super Rapid derailleurs floating around on ebay.fr and at French bike jumbles, so they may have been manufactured in some volume.
There is some debate about whether Super Rapid derailleurs are French or Italian:
On the side of the French:
- when discussing French derailleur manufacturers of the late 1930s, Frank Berto lists a 1939 single pulley, racing derailleur called Super Rapid Record Légere.
On the side of the Italians:
- Velobase.com shows a number of Super Rapid derailleurs but also a number of Super Rapid brakes and, most interestingly, a set of Super Rapid brake cable end covers marked Super Rapid Milano. Velobase.com therefore considers the derailleurs to be Italian and manufactured in Milano.
Some relevant evidence might be:
- Some times you see Super Rapid derailleurs in their original boxes and with instructions, both of which are always in French, never in Italian. Unfortunately, I have never seen an address on either the boxes or the instructions.
- The Super Rapid gear levers are often marked BteSGDG (Breveté Sans Garantie Du Gouvernement), which is a French way of claiming a product is patented. I can't think of an Italian product that carries this marking.
- In 1934 Louis Valat (along with one Alfred Ondet) took out a patent for a derailleur. Louis Valat owned a business, based in St-Étienne (where else?), manufacturing and distributing bicycle frames, bicycle frame tubing and bicycle components.
- L'Auto of 3/10/35, in its review of the 1935 Salon du Cycle in Paris, describes Louis Valat as showing a Super Rapide (with an 'e') derailleur. You might guess that this was the derailleur described in the 1934 patent.
Although I can clearly understand Velobase.com's logic, I am not convinced that the brakes and derailleurs are related. So I am going with the, admittedly unproven, notions that:
- The Super Rapid derailleur brand was owned and manufactured by Établissement Louis Valat of St-Étienne, France.
- The first Super Rapid derailleur was introduced in 1935.
- Most of the Super Rapid derailleurs, that you see around, probably date from the 1950s.