History of military bicycles in pictures

Bicycles may not be standard military hardware, but they have been used by a number of armies since the late 19th century.

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    Switzerland’s cycling troops

    A participant dressed as soldier of the former Swiss bicycle regiment rests during the Convoy-to-Remember 2010 meeting in the village of Birmenstorf, west of Zurich August 7, 2010. (REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann) 
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    Norwich Regiment rifleman

    An undated postcard shows a British soldier from the Norwich Regiment, with a bicycle and Martini Henry rifle likely from the late 1880s or early 1890s.  Note that the rifle is held to the top tube of the bicycle while blanket role is mounted to the handlebars – a practice employed almost universally at that era. (Postcard Collection of John Adams-Graf)
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    French Chasseur

    A pre-World War I postcard showing a studio photo of a French Chasseur (light infantry/light cavalry) with a bicycle. French military planners considered how bicycles could be employed alongside horses. Neither bike nor beast proved ideal once the static trenches were dug, however.  (Postcard Collection of John Adams-Graf)
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    French soldiers

    Photograph shows French soldiers with bicycles during the beginning of World War I. Image is part of the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress (Library of Congress).
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    Columba Light Roadster Safety

    An American made 1891 Columba Light Roadster Safety, considered state-of-the-art at the time as it featured a rear brake, no seat tube and cushioned tires. This example in the Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen, Ohio, was modified for use by the U.S. military to hold a rifle and ammunition case. (Photo: Peter Suciu, Bicycle Museum of America)
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    British Soldier World War I

    A World War I era postcard shows a British soldier with a bicycle, likely in bombed-out France or Belgium. The soldier, who is armed only with a revolver, is likely a dispatch rider or scout. Bicycles were widely employed by the allies behind the lines to deliver dispatches and reports from the front. (Postcard Collection of John Adams-Graf)
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    Swiss ‘Savoy’ Army bike

    The iconic Swiss Army Bike at the Bicycle Museum of America. This is the 1943 "The Savoy" model, which featured special panniers to allow a soldier to transport much of his gear. This basic model remained in use until the 1990s when it replaced by a more modern "mountain bike," which in turn remained in use for only a decade. (Photo: Peter Suciu, Bicycle Museum of America)
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    Durable Swiss Army bikes

    A pair of Swiss Army Bikes. Hundreds of these bikes were sold off as military surplus in the 1990s and when maintained can still be ridden today. The front bike likely dates to the 1930s or possibly earlier and has a simple front brake that literally is lowered on the tire when the brake is engaged. The rear bike is a post-war version, and each has only a single gear! (Photo: Peter Suciu, Private Collection)
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    BSA folding bicycle

    A World War II British-made BSA folding bicycle. This was designed to be folded and could be carried across rivers on the rider's back, as if a soldier didn't have enough to carry. This bike was offered for a sale at a collectible show for nearly $4,000! Very few of these have survived over the years and most were sold off as scrap or offered to civilians after World War II. (Photo: Peter Suciu, Private Collection)
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    French-made bicycle

    A French-made bicycle likely dating from the 1940s. This bike was used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and was brought back to the U.S. by a returning American soldier. While not a "mountain bike" it was likely ridden by soldiers to move equipment in the jungles of Vietnam. It is now in the collection of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum. (Photo: Peter Suciu)
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    ‘Pack mule’ bike

    A pre-World War II French bicycle that has been heavily modified to move material on the infamous "Ho Chi Minh Trial" in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. This bike couldn't be ridden but instead served a role like a pack mule. It was offered for sale at a collector's show. (Photo: Peter Suciu, Private Collection)
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    BSA Mk.V

    During World War II BSA – a company known for its motorcycles – also produced a number of bicycles for the British military including a folding bike for use by paratroopers. A much rarer bike is the BSA Mk.V, which was based on the BSA Mk. IV that was used during World War I. Produced only in small numbers these Mk.V bicycles were later used by the Belgian Armed Forces until well into the 1990s. This example has been restored by noted military bicycle and motorcycle collector and author Johan Willaert. (Photo: Johan Willaert, used by permission)
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    Westfield Columbia

    A trio of U.S.-produced World War II era bicycles that were manufactured by Westfield Columbia for use by the Army. The Army's official use for these bicycles was: 'To provide Transportation for Personnel engaged in Dispatch or Messenger Service.' These three bikes are part of the collection of military bicycle and motorcycle collector and author Johan Willaert. (Photo: Johan Willaert, used by permission)
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    Sri Lankan troops

    Special Task Force soldiers on bicycles patrol near Vellavely village in Sri Lanka, which was territory formerly controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels, in Batticaloa May 28, 2007. (REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe) 
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