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The BSA Airborne Bicycle, used by British airborne forces in WWII.


The US and British armies have always enjoyed a higher level of motorization than their counterparts elsewhere in the world. In the European countries, reconnaissance and fast-moving troops usually rode bikes. Some countries with more limited budgets, like Sweden and Switzerland, kept their bikes well into the Cold War.

The Bicycle in Wartime: An Illustrated History by Jim Fitzpatrick (Brassey's Inc., 1998).

Son of a....!!!!

The Japanese Imperial Army was famous for its use of bikes during WWII. During the invasion of Malaya and Singapore, the British joked about the Japanese on bikes, all the way until the Japanese forced the British fortress to surrender. Bikes were easy to use on roads and even jungle trails.

In modern conflicts, the US army has explored the use of bikes, and there is a folding bike that has been used in Afghanistan. Part of the problem is that the US military mindset is fixed on large gas-guzzling armored vehicles, and expensive hi tech solutions to problems. Also, the recruits are largely from car-centric parts of the USA.

SJE: I ain't ridin' no damn bike in 100+ deg weather wearing a combat load. I'll take a Humvee,even if the A/C's broken.

We go to war with the bikes we have, not the bikes we might want or wish to have at a later time.

-- Donald Rumsfeld

Dynaryder: there are problems with Humvees
(1) HMMV do not go everywhere a person or a bike can go.
(2) A soldier can carry gear on a bike instead of on their body
(3) HMMV require gas and a supply chain of parts. This has emerged as a key weakness, with most deaths in AfPak coming from supply convoys, not in the "main" combat zones. There is also the problem of extricating all that expensive equipment.
(4) The Japanese invaded Singapore in 100+ heat and tropical humidity.
(5) The military is well known for expensive technical solutions, while commanders in theater tend to prefer simpler solutions.

While I'd like to think, per SJE, there is a place for bikes in modern COIN current trends aren't supporting it. Clearly the gasoline/fuel supply lines are a huge problem. That being said, token use of bikes in combat may shave off a few gallons.

I doubt bikes would see much use under current COIN doctrine, which emphasizes greater safety for US troops. At the same time, this heavily militarized approach to COIN can be criticised as failing in the hearts and minds department (central to traditional COIN) and failing to actually work (unless you call Afghanistan a sucess).

A:was joke.
B:been in 130F,you ride the damn bike,I'll take the Humvee.
C:you can't carry body armor and a helmet on the bike,you have to wear it.
D:bikes can't be up-armored,carry heavy weapons(.50cal,Mk19,TOW),or travel at highway speeds.

Commuting in DC traffic,will take the bike. Rolling through combat zone,will take the vehicle.

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