It would seem that such a peaceful invention as a bicycle cannot have anything to do with war. But this is far from the case. For over 150 years, cyclists have been involved in many military conflicts.
It so happened that most developments are first created for military purposes, and then for civilian purposes. The bike made its way back. The first use of bicycles for military purposes is considered to be the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Then two-wheeled vehicles were mainly used by messengers to quickly deliver valuable information. Unlike horses, bicycles provided mobility and quiet movement.
The military quickly appreciated the advantage of the "two-wheeled horses", and already in 1895 a special unit was founded in the British army, equipped with "spiders" (bicycles with a large front wheel). In the period from 1899 to 1902. During the Boer War, bicycle troops played an important role in the British army.
Naturally, bicycles had a number of disadvantages. The most critical of these is low traffic. Often bicycles had to be carried in hands, which was completely impractical and inconvenient. Two Frenchmen were able to solve this problem: a certain captain Gerard and engineer Charles Morel. In 1895, they patented their first folding combat bike. The mobility issue has been resolved. The soldier could easily fold the bike in half and hang it on his back. Moreover, his hands remained free, and he could fire from a standing or sitting position.
The concept of a folding bicycle turned out to be so successful that by the beginning of the 20th century it became a trend and was used in many countries of the world. One of the most famous manufacturers of folding two-wheeled military bicycles is B. S. A, which has produced tens of thousands of copies.
Also, the military designers were faced with the task of making the bike as efficient as possible in terms of combat power. This is how tandem tricycles with mounted machine guns and bicycles were born - three- or four-wheeled armored bicycles with the Maxim machine-gun system.
World War I
The period of the First World War can be called the heyday of combat bicycles. Most of the countries participating in the war manned their armies with bicycle, or, as they were also called, scooter troops. More than 30 bicycle companies were formed in the Russian Empire alone.
Germany had over 125,000 combat cyclists, France and Belgium had about 150,000, and England had over 100,000. It was believed that serving in the scooter troops was an honor, so only the best fighters were recruited into them. Also, bicycles were actively used by messengers to deliver supplies and transport the wounded.
In the Russian Empire, bicycles were very popular. This is proved by the fact that the entire imperial family loved cycling, and Leo Tolstoy was also an adherent of bicycles. Nevertheless, for a long time, our country was not engaged in the production of military bicycles, but bought them abroad. According to Novate.ru, the first combat bicycles in Russia were produced by the Rossiya factory in the period from 1914 to 1917, as well as the Dux factory, which in 1916 created the legendary Dux Combat model.
World War II
By the start of World War II, bicycle troops were in most of the world's armies. The championship in the number of cyclists belonged to the Wehrmacht. The most popular military bike in Nazi Germany was the Truppenfahrrad. There were no specialized cycling troops in the Red Army, as the Soviet leadership considered them ineffective.
Nevertheless, history proves the opposite.
Thus, during the siege of Singapore, Japanese combat cyclists successfully captured the British army. 20 thousand Japanese soldiers on bicycles attacked the English garrison, located in the jungle, and therefore considered inaccessible. And this is not an isolated case of effective use of bicycle troops during World War II.
In 1942, British combat cyclists successfully sabotaged a German radar station. As military practice has shown, bicycles were especially useful when landing and conducting combat operations behind enemy lines. The speed of the two-wheeled "horse" was significantly higher than that of the infantry, and the noise of the bicycles was much less than that of motor vehicles.
Combat bicycles, albeit in smaller numbers, were produced after the Second World War. So, during the war in Iraq, the Americans used reliable and fast devices from Montague Paratrooper. They were made of lightweight and durable aluminum and could carry over 200 kg. cargo. Cycling units are now in the Swiss and British armies.
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