Combine a love of singlespeeds, off-roading, old military bikes and stuff built like tanks and there is only one bike to ride - the Swiss Army Bike (or 'Militärvelo'). We recently picked up a really clean and original example and as with the Parabikes would like to share some information and photos of these amazing machines. Links to other Militärvelo websites can be found at the base of this page.
The model here is the MO 05 (yes, that's 1905) and this 100 year old design served the Swiss Army until the 1990's. It existed virtually unchanged for the whole of the 20th century and remains a legend in its home Country. Its short lived replacement was the equally weighty MO 93 with a more modern MTB inspired design, updated components and seven gears.
These are seriously overbuilt bikes with incredibly thick lugs and tubing. Weight is more than twice a typical modern XC mountain-bike at over 50 lbs. The drivetrain with 3/16" chain appears bulletproof and three brakes are fitted; a coaster, a rear drum and the 19th century design front pad acting directly on the tyre.
Despite all this bulk it's remarkably easy to ride and surprisingly stable and comfortable. Once moving it wafts along in silence (coaster brake so no ratcheting freewheel) and disguises its weight well.
This particular example is a 1949 issue but the condition is as if it just came out of storage, the nickel plating on the 1947 dated hub is like new, the dynamo functions perfectly and all bearings are super smooth. Everything is there as it should be and totally original; grips, bell, huge pedals, the beautifully made leather tool case and the complete set of tools including various 'Condor' marked spanners. Clipped to the top tube is the Edco pump with inbuilt footstand. This bike came from the Swiss Army workshop in ready-to-ride condition with everything greased and adjusted just so.
The cycling regiments of the Swiss Army were, in many ways, elite soldiers enjoying a lofty reputation. Sadly the cycle mounted Swiss soldier is now a thing of the past. The Swiss Army Bike can be seen in civilian hands in many European cities but it's much rarer in the UK and US of course. If you ever get a chance to buy one then it comes highly recommended.
© VeloSolo Ltd 2009.