A military bike serves many of the same functions with similar benefits as a police bicycle.
It provides access to areas that armed forces may have trouble traversing while offering a way to move silently and swiftly in hostile environments.
Stealth is the keyword with the ability to travel over a variety of terrains with a bike designed to handle the challenges of these places. Like the bicycle messenger and police model, the military bike saw service not long after the inception of this two-wheeled vehicle.
History of Bicycle Uses in the Military Forces Around the World
Advances in technology paved the way for the military bicycle to take hold and become an essential part of defense during warfare. It offered several advantages over using vehicles or horses.
It didn’t have the higher cost of motorized transportation nor the vulnerability of riding a live animal. Also, there wasn’t the risk of a horse spooking and throwing off a rider during heavy artillery or rugged grounds and waterways.
Some of the first uses in the 1870s and 1880s were as couriers delivering dispatches to maintain contact with troops. France and the United Kingdom used them frequently. Combat use followed, presumably after it proved its efficacy in other capacities.
Early Uses by the Military
One of the challenges of using a bicycle in the field was its portability. All that changed with the invention of the military folding bike by Mikael Pedersen.
It was relatively lightweight and compact. Its wheel size was smaller by today’s standards at 24 inches.
It saw its first use during the Second Boer War in South Africa from 1899 to 1901. The United Kingdom and France were early adopters. The technology soon spread throughout Europe and to the United States.
World War II
Huffman Manufacturing. Company and Westfield Manufacturing Company produced several models during the 1930s and 1940s specifically for military use. The World War 2 bicycles used included the following:
The last one was one made for use by female armed forces personnel.
All sides in the war had bicycles. However, their function was primarily for delivering messages rather than combat. Another complicating factor was the rubber shortage during this time which limited their practicality.
Even countries not involved in the conflict such as Switzerland and Sweden had bicycle infantry regiments. In these places, you’d see a military mountain bike to traverse the terrain. The bicycle saw some service later in Vietnam. Most units have since been decommissioned.
Transition to Civilian Life
Advances in technology for bikes used by the military made its way back home on the civilian front. While there aren’t infantry regiments, armies still use them though scaled back from their earlier functions.
Even their role in the military is minor, they are nevertheless desirable from a collector’s point-of-view. Used bikes fetch a decent price though the market is small.
The military bicycle served essential functions both during peace and conflict. They offered an excellent way to travel across unfamiliar territory more safely, making more areas accessible to troops. That fact alone makes them priceless.