Yesterday, the wife and I attended the regional WWII 60th Anniversary Celebration held here in Vancouver, WA.
There were a large number of displays of WWII equipment and memorabilla. One of the items on display was a foldable bicycle used by paratroopers and others. According to one of the gentlemen manning the display, they were considered to be a disposable item. He demonstrated how it folded - much like our Dahons - but I neglected to photograph it in that state.
The handle bars did rotate down and then rotate around 90 degrees on the stem - to parallel the frame. The pedals were just solid rods that were pushed inward in their mounting holes.
The bike had 26" tires, but felt a bit lighter than out Boardwalk D7s - of course it doesn't have a rack or fenders.
The only Mfg mark was "BSA" on the frame. Goes with the story he told of there sometimes being a motorcycle with the group of soldiers on these bicycles. They were each given a tow rope and as a group they were towed along by the MC ( a BSA, I presume).
It was definitely an unexpected find.
Last edited by Foldable Two; 08-29-05 at 10:17 PM.
Several companies built folding bikes for paratroopers during WW II. Schwinn, known for development of heavy, balloon tired, cantilever frame bicycles in the 1930s, reverted to a foldable "lightweight" frame that folded at the middle of the top-tube and the downtube near the bottom bracket. Schwinn won the Army-Navy E-Award given to military contractors who met production goals and contributed to the war effort at a level higher than normally expected. Schwinn had converted much of the bicycle manufacturing plant to ammunition production facilities for the duration of the war. The War Department award of the E-Award was particularly gratifying to Ignaz Schwinn, an immigrant from Germany.
Here's the Schwinn WW II folder.
I had expected that a vintage bike or military vehicle enthusiast would respond to Foldable Two's message, providing details about the folding bike that he saw. Since this information has not been forthcoming, please let me contribute my own (non-expert) thoughts on the matter.
I feel fairly sure that the bike that he saw is not a US military folding bike, but a British-built BSA folding bike, of which many tens of thousands were built during World War II. They were used extensively by British and Canadian forces during the latter part of that war, mainly by paratroopers. The folded bikes were dropped either in a separate package by parachute or, in some cases, were actually carried by the paratrooper during his descent. The bikes were also carried folded up in gliders. They were used too by regular British and Canadian infantry units during and after the D-Day landings in Northern France.
The BSA mark on the bike frame is an acronym for the Birmingham Small Arms company, originally formed on 1861. Besides its main business of manufacturing rifles, machine guns, shells, etc., from 1881 onwards, the company built bicycles and tricycles. From 1909 onwards, it also built motor cycles. The BSA Cycles part of the company was sold to Raleigh in 1957, who continued to build and sell bicycles with the distinctive 3-rifles BSA badge till the 1980s. I still see them lots of them on the road; indeed one of my departmental colleagues still commutes to the University of Glasgow on his BSA roadster.
For detailed information on the BSA Airborne Folding Bicycle, please see the excellent Web site of Colin Stevens - http://bcoy1cpb.pacdat.net/bsa_airborne_bicycles_(aka_parabike).htm
Since Colin Stevens appears to be based in British Columbia, it is possible that it was one of his BSA folding bikes that Foldable Two saw at the WWII Anniversary Celebration held in Vancouver.
Another excellent site for the BSA Airborne Folding Bike is that of David Gordon from Texas - http://visualcollector.com/OBLI/BSABike.htm
I believe that there are a number of these BSA Airborne Folding Bikes on exhibition in cycle or transport museums here in the U.K.
Two very interesting replies. I was also surprised that there have been so few posts regarding this bike.
What we saw is obviously the same bike for which Gordon has provided documentation. The "BSA" can be seen on the 'main sprocket' in my pictures, and the Patent Number and the 'Broad Arrow' can be seen in the magnification of one of my other pictures, enlarged and shown below.
I did not take time to read the two info boards next to the bike - there was just too much to see, and it was a brutally sunny day to boot. They may indicate that this bike was indeed used by British Paratroopers.
FYI: The "USA's Vancouver" - as the Mayor refers to our City - is on the SW edge of Washington State (across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. (It's actually part of the Portland Metro area.) Vancouver, B.C. is five hours driving time North and just above the NW edge of Washington State. Interestingly, most folks in the U.S. have no idea where Vancouver, WA is located.
Thanks to those who did reply.