objectbook logo
item2a1
item2a

Swiss Army Bike - Militaervelo

Buy on Ebay

item2

The Swiss Army bike, or 'Militarvelo' is simple, with one riding position and a single gear. It is extremly rigid and incredibly heavy. It weighs about 23kg - more than 50lb.

Riding a bicycle designed a century ago, you are going to have some problems. The worst of them is the poor availability of spares. Authentic tyres, for instance. The original Militarvelo tyres were produced by a company called Maloya using a bead system dating back to the end of the 19th century. They stopped production years ago. You can buy a Chinese Maloya clone, but the rubber feels like cheap plastic. Other problems: the bottom bracket tends to wear out after years of low-rev grinds up hills. The rims taco unless you keep the spoke tension just so. The original leather saddle needs careful greasing.

Despite or because of this, the Swiss Army bike has become an icon for the Swiss. That's partly because of the tradition of national service. All Swiss men must serve in the army for many years: an induction course (Rekrutenschule) over several months, then yearly camps (Wiederholungskurs). Some of these militiamen will go on to serve as bicycle-soldiers (Velofahrer). They get issued their own Militarvelo, with the right to ride when they're not on duty. When they retire, they can buy the bike cheap. So throughout the last century, every Swiss city had a few serving and former Velofahrer riding their Militarvelos.

In recent years, this picture has changed. About ten years ago the Swiss army introduced a new bicycle. The new bike is almost as heavy and rigid as its predecessor, but it uses modern parts and gearing. With the introduction of the new bike, the army retired the older versions. As old Militarvelos flooded the market, the price dropped from $1,000 to $100--200. Many of these examples, kept in perfect order by the military, were bought up by dealers for the international market. The rest went to private buyers in Switzerland, so that now you see Militarvelo riders who aren't soldiers.

The big problem for Militarvelo fans is the number of fakes on the market. Several companies build lookalikes. The best way to spot the good ones is to look for the year of production and a Swiss cross stamped into the seatpost lug. Most of the bikes coming up for sale now will be dated 1950-1970. If you find a pre-war datestamp, be suspicious! Check the brake setup: a post-war Militarvelo has three brakes: a front caliper, a rear coaster, and an additional cable-operated drumbrake on the rear left side. Some more things to watch. The rear drop outs are straight and very strong with extra space for the drum brake. The seat-stays are detachable. The frame tubes are oversized. The spokes and front hub are nickel plated. The saddle is numbered and stamped with a Swiss cross. The pedals are huge, black affairs with big treads. Prices outside Switzerland are high.

It is always good to watch a Militarvelo rider, but it's even better to ride one for yourself.

Uploaded by:
Hanz

Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle
Swiss Army Bike - Swiss Military Bicycle