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WW2 US Army Bicycles


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A GI on an early 'curved frame' Columbiatakes two British kids for a ride at a US Camp in Britain in early 1944 (Still from 'Color of War', Carlton DVD)

 

Genuine WW2 US Army bicycles are amongst the rarest of vintage military vehicles around. Sure, you will see a lot of them at shows but when you have a closer look, hardly any of those are real, complete military production bikes. Most of those are 40's era civilian bikes painted OD....

So few of them are left, especially in Europe, that a bicycle with provable World War 2 US Army use and in any condition is truly a very rare and expensive vehicle.

 

Although the US Army had used bicycles for many years before WW2, none were standardised for procurement before 1942. The Army's official use for these bicycles was: 'To provide Transportation for Personnel engaged in Dispatch or Messenger Service'. Of course they were used for many other purposes. They proved a fast and economical way to get around Depots, Camps and Airfields.

 

The 'Bicycle, Military, Universal' was adopted in October 1942 by the Ordnance Department. It was a military version of the Westfield 'Columbia' and was equipped with heavy duty rims and spokes. It came with a D-Cell powered headlight on the front fender and basic tools were carried in a toolbag attached to the Persons saddle. A tire pump was clamped to the frame.

 

These bikes were manufactured by both Westfield Columbia and Huffman with only minor differences in parts. Huffman fenders were rounded as opposed to gothic ones on the Columbia, chainguards varied and Huffman front sprockets had a unique whirlwind design.... All parts were interchangable. Early rubber pedal blocks were replaced with wooden ones later in the war. Early frames had a curved front tube but these were replaced with straight tubes on later models.

Late in WW2 Columbia produced a Women's model. Folding 'Compax' models were tested by Airborne Troops and the US Marine Corps but saw no action in Europe in WW2.

 

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Westfield Columbia MG138969 (±Late 1943)

 

The Westfield Serial Number files do not contain any reference to specific Military contracts, so it's become very hard to determine how many bikes were maufactured and when....

Huffman frames were dated, but there too there's no reference to how many were made...

I am trying to put together a database with Models and SerialNumbers and their location, so I invite you to post that info here with a picture of the bike if possible....

 

For more info and wartime images, feel free to visit the Bicycles pages of my site: www.theliberator.be

 

Thanks,

 

Johan

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  • 2 weeks later...
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because you look so sad:

 

This only confirms how rare!! these genuine US bikes are! think.gif

 

 

Johannes,

 

The British MkV was made by several British manufacturers during WW2. Most common were BSA and Philips...)

The MkV had a rod front brake with a coaster rear brake, while the MkV* had two rod operated brakes... Both had 32 spoke front and 40 spoke rear wheels, all 28" rims!

Serial Numbers are located on both sides of the frame just under the saddle post... Numvers start with T00000 up to ±T160000....

Most of the luggage racks are marked and dated, but these dates are not connected to the actual frame!

 

US Army troops used these type of bikes in their rest centers in Southern France!

 

 

The MkV was replaced by the MkVI with 26" wheels early after WW2, while MkV were issued to several European armies and used well into the 80's and 90's...

 

More pictures and info: Military Bicycles

 

 

I was referring to US bikes for more info though! ;)

 

Johan

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Ever since restoring my Westfield Columbia I had been riding on original WW2 US Royal Chain tread tires.
However since these are getting hard to find, and the ones on the bike were deteriorating rather rapidly I decided to replace them with decent replicas.

I found a set which are the correct size and in a Good Year All Weather tread dating back to the 40's and fitted them to the bike.
They turned out great and are a very comfortable ride...

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Johan, where did you find the new tires? I can use a set for my 1943 Columbia. I have one original WW2 tire that is deteriorating, and one civilian tire that just looks wrong.

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Johan, where did you find the new tires? I can use a set for my 1943 Columbia. I have one original WW2 tire that is deteriorating, and one civilian tire that just looks wrong.

 

Robin,

 

I ordered them from http://www.memorylane-classics.com. I would have preferred Coker made BF Goodrich Silvertowns but they are not available anymore.

These have a vintage Good Year G3 All Weather tread and are described 26 x 2.125" GT Goodyear Tread WW also available with same tread in BW for the same price on this page: http://www.memorylane-classics.com/Bike%20...e%20Listing.htm

 

They are marked 'MADE IN TAIWAN', but once mounted that is invisible. Rode 15Km last Sunday and they are a great ride!!!

 

 

Meanwhile here's a Men's bike in France, October 1944

 

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Detail

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I knew I had seen that bike before, especially since the seller/restorer used the original bike with the USAAF sign on my site as an example.

 

Check out this topic on the re-enactors board

http://ww2reenactors.proboards35.com/index...8669&page=1

Sadly the pictures are no longer online.

 

Brian McNamara (McNasty) restored this bike to its current condition, and it was discussed on that forum in July-August 2005.

 

Edit: the seller contacted me and has altered the description, stating that it is not a Army contract bike but rather just a vintage bike that might have been used by the USAAF.

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Johan

Did you pick this photo up on EBAY. I cant blow it up anymore. It apears to have a tool pouch and the pointed grips.

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These are two original photos I own. Not sure of the model. This bike can be seen in an old Army Motors (MVCC publication). I also have a shot of a soldier loading this bike onto a mocked up Glider/airplane, and a couple of more shots in other books. I once had a line on one of these about 10 years ago. I found it on the internet. I just dont have the gift of talking people out of things. He was a car collector and had no interest in it, but just wouldnt take the time to sell it. Eventually his phone number wouldnt work.

 

Since Im at work and cant look at my othere photos. I will say there are some minor differences between these two pictures and the ones in Army Motors, but I believe it is the same model.

 

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Craig

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Hi Craig,

 

No, sadly I did not see that pictue of Ebay. There's a standard WW2 bike under those GI's. Handlabrs hae bent down from weight...

 

The other bike is indeed th same model as the one shown in the Army Motors issue. It was testedearly during WW2.

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I also have a shot of a soldier loading this bike onto a mocked up Glider/airplane, and a couple of more shots in other books.

I cannot remember now where I have it, but somewhere in my library I have the US WWII para memoir from ETO when he mentions that the TCC aircrews dropped the bicycles during NOE flights over the DZ. They dropped the bicycles without the parachutes and it was dangerous for the paras because it was possible to be hit in head by air dropped bicycle without any chute-breaking system.

 

I have always thought how much serviceable was bicycle dropped from approx. 100m (approx 328ft) at typical C-46 or C-47 cruise speed of 160kt (298kph). ;)

 

Regards

 

Greg

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