Forbes Magazine Reviews the Montague Paratrooper
Noncombatants now can pedal Darpa's bike.
Once he hits the ground, a paratrooper carrying 80 pounds of gear can
average only 25 miles a day on foot. How to increase that range? Give
him transportation. With a horse, for instance, he can do 100. It's tough,
though, parachuting a horse--not to mention the 40 pounds a day of
feed. A motorcycle, maybe? There again, fuel can be a problem. And if
stealth is what you're striving for, an engine's heat and noise are no-nos.
So how about a bicycle?
That was the solution the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
came up with. In 1998 it turned for help to Montague, a company in
Cambridge, Mass. that designs and sells full-size bikes that fold.
Together they produced the Paratrooper, a folding bike now used by the
Marines, Special Forces and Military Police in the Middle East. And yes,
paratroopers really have jumped out of airplanes with it.
The civilian version, which retails for $650, measures when folded
approximately 3 feet by 3 feet by a foot. Turn a single quick-release
lever, and in less than 30 seconds (without need for any tools) you've got
a 24-speed mountain bike with 26-inch wheels. Parts are standard and
easily replaceable. Weight: 29 pounds. You can stow it, folded, in the
trunk of your Humvee. Better yet, you can check it as ordinary luggage
next time you fly, thus saving yourself the $90 surcharge airlines usually
levy on bicycles.
James Ivey, a manager of industrial warehouses in Texas, takes his
Paratrooper when he travels in his own six-passenger plane, so he can
have easy transportation into town from country airstrips. Ivey, 36, has
owned folding bikes before. But he says the miniature kind with "itty-bitty
wheels" made him feel ridiculous:"You look like somebody in a circus."
The Paratrooper is made in Taiwan. Buy it from Montague
(www.militarybikes.com; 800-736-5348) or through a dealer.