If you’re heading to the beach or the campsite this summer and looking for a good read, or even if you’re just hanging out at the house on a rainy day, you should definitely check out The Bicycle in Wartime: An Illustrated History by Jim Fitzpatrick.
While The Bicycle in Wartime is an accessible, informative history of military uses of the bicycle, it’s much more than a history of warfare. This book is an interesting read for anyone who enjoys bicycles, is curious about bicycle technology, or has an interest in 20th century political and social movements.
The Bicycle in Wartime begins around 1900, when standard military land transportation was still provided by horse, and explores the bicycle’s transformation from an experimental, unofficial military vehicle, through the First and Second World Wars and Vietnam, to its use by modern militaries around the world. Fitzpatrick describes not only the role the bicycle played in major 20th century military campaigns, but also the impact of the bicycle, changing technology, and the wars on society as a whole.
The text is accompanied by photographs on almost every page (true to the title, it is very much an illustrated history) showing how the bicycle and its applications changed over time. From the first penny farthings used on police patrols to WWI’s folding bicycles, from bicycles used on supply lines during Vietnam to the Montague military folding bike, the photographs provide a vivid look at the bicycle both in military and civilian life.
The Montague Paratrooper Folding Bike
Fitzpatrick also gives special attention to Montague Paratrooper bikes, as “the world’s standard military cycle” (p212). He notes how the unique frame design and locking mechanism “overcame the instability problem confronting the long-term users of most other folding bike designs,” (p211-212). The Paratrooper is also lightweight, easy to fold, and durable. And even though you can fold it, strap it to your pack and jump out of a plane with it, it still rides just like a traditional bicycle.
What are You Reading/Riding this Summer?
Have you read The Bicycle in Wartime already? Or have you read Fitzpatrick’s other books, Major Taylor in Australia or The Bicycle in the Bush? Do you own a Paratrooper? Or a Paratrooper Pro? If you’re in the military, have you used yours overseas? How do you find the ride?