"Bikes not bombs" is a nice sentiment- but the US military would rather have both bikes and bombs, thank you.
After the Gulf War, the military realized its soldiers were doing
way too much walking while on maneuvers. While making Humvees standard
issue would have been nice, it wasn’t feasible. Humvees are pricey,
easy for the enemy to spot and hard to parachute out of a plane. So the
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency brought the problem to
Cambridge-based bicycle maker Montague.
"They wanted something light that produced no heat so it wouldn’t
show up on radar", said David Montague who founded the company with his
father in 1987 after drawing up a business plan for a course he took at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
What Montague developed was a sturdy, lightweight foldable bike with
a tiny electric motor that can be set up and broken down in seconds.
Since then, the Army, Navy and the Marines have all put Montague’s
motored and un-motored bikes to use around the world – they’re stashed
in planes and on aircraft carriers, and soldiers tootle around Gitmo
and Iraq’s Green zone on them.
"We’d get messages saying, " Just jumped with your bike and love it,"
said Montague. "We were asking: " What? Jumped from where?" They ’d
tell us " Well, out of an airplane. "
But what about us- non-paratroopers- those who don’t leap out of
airplanes with our bikes or ride through the dessert with 80 pounds of
During a commute from Somerville through downtown to the Herald and
back, the bike rode like, well, a bike. The Montague motto of "bikes
that fold, not folding bikes" holds true while dodging potholes and
taxis down Beacon Street on the $ 800 Swissbike LX. And because the 30
pound, aluminum frame bike folds up neatly next to the desk, there’s no
need to worry it’s going to get snatched while chained up outside.
But Belmont Wheelworks owner Clint Paige advises the bikes have
limits. " Anything that folds is not designed for extreme use," said
Paige whose shop sells a dozen makes and models of foldable bikes. "
The folding mechanism isn’t designed for heavy –duty off-road use like
bombing down hills. But the Montague bikes are still great for any type
of normal use.
Wheelworks sell Montague bikes that range between $400 and $700 –
and similar bikes for similar prices by competitor Dahon – to
commuters, boaters, aviators, and cramped city dwellers. Last year,
wheelworks sold about 150 to 200 foldable bikes even though they’re
about 10% more expensive than their nonfolding counterparts.
"They’re slightly more expensive, but as the volume of our
production increases, the prices will drop", said Montague. "When there
are design competitions in our industry, the winners are always
different types of foldable bikes. Like your ironing board, umbrella
and baby stroller, it makes sense that all bikes fold."
Once Montague turns every bike into a folding one, he’ll tackle the
next military conundrum: folding Humvees. – email@example.com