1. Based on the uniforms (especially the service cap and “kabuto” style helmet) and the gun, almost certainly Japanese.

  2. Those are indeed Japanese troops, Ian. The chap aiming the Type 11 LMG is wearing a M 18 helmet, the first locally developed pattern of steel helmet, partly inspired by the French and British models.

  3. I was always curious about combination of bicycles and guns. I imagine to shoot at someone while being at rest should be fun; much worse must be pedalling while trying to escape enemy fire. Funny proposition, up to point.

    • Italian Berseglieri had awesome 1912 Bianchi bikes that folded in half with carry straps. The bicycle itself had solid tires–no flats!–and an early proto-mountain bike suspension with springs to compensate for the hard rubber tires miserable road feel.


      The largest military user of bicycles must surely be the vaunted German Wehrmacht with the heavy, single-speed, dull black “Truppenfahrrad.” During the post-Versailles treat era, the bicycle was inexpensive and allowed the Reichswehr mobility. During WWII, the Germans dusted off the bicycle so troops could try to keep up with the panzer formations, at least to some extent. Finally, as the Germans began to lose the war, the bicycle was used by Volksgrenadiers and ultimately, Hitler Jugend and Volkssturm militia. There are the famous photos of ad-hoc last-ditch units with two Panzerfäuste clipped to the handlebars.

      The last bicycle troops were those of Switzerland. The Swiss Ordononzfahrrad was a one-size-fits-all single speed all-steel behemoth introduced in 1905 and used until the 1990s. It was replaced by a seven-speed mountain bike, which was used into the 21st century, when bicycle troops were disbanded. The bicycles are mostly used for PT by conscripts, or around bases and whatnot. A more recent military bicycle has been introduced.

      I’m reading a lot about WWI these days, and apparently in the French army, a cyclist would provide poilus in the trenches various small items and pieces of kit from stores in the rear.

      • Thank you David, this bike is gorgeous. I see right the way the Italian gracious design in it. My own bike (hybrid assembled in Taiwan) is kind of similar but not with folding feature.

        This way the troops must have been moving surprisingly quick. On another positive side – there is hardly possible to have troops more physically fit while biking in fresh (before ammo discharging starts) air.

  4. The uniforms are japanese, they’re both wearing uniforms similar to this guy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/Japanese50mmGrenadeMortar.jpg

    The one in the background is wearing the same pack,while the one in the foreground is wearing similar shoes. Not to mention the Japanese Imperial army star on the one’s hat. Also (obviously the machine gun is Japanese)

    I do know that the Chinese Nationalists used copies of Japanese helmets, but they had a GUOMINDANG (KUOMINTANG) emblem on them:

  5. Awesome photo. The bicycle is still made today in China by Flying Pigeon. I’ve ridden one. Note the rear double-kickstand that raises the rear wheel. These things are heavy. Something like 50 pounds! Also, note the brakes use rods instead of modern-day wire cables.

    The Japanese armed forces used civilian bicycles that were adaptable to military use.

  6. Any photos and/or informations on the Hamilton skeletonized , single shot , 22 short rifle ??
    I shaw it on a greek site and stroke a doityourself chord.
    Thanks .

  7. makes sense to me, a bicycle consumes no fuel, requires very little maintenance. troop speed goes way up 10 miles/h without much strain, while you can carry more weight. Sure trucks are nicer, bit they are also a nicer target 🙂

  8. While scuba-diving the wrecks of the Japanese fleet in Truk Lagoon 25 years ago, I came across one of these bicycles standing upright in the hold of a sunken freighter. It was in amazingly good condition after about 50 years in salt water, testimony to its solid construction.
    These bicycles, along with others ‘borrowed’ from locals, were instrumental in the successful Japanese advance down the Malayan peninsula in 1942. In one of the rare allied successes of that campaign, an Australian company ambushed a bicycle-equipped Japanese formation on a bridge during the ‘Battle of Gemas’. About 700 Japanese were killed, for the loss of 8 Australian dead. Unfortunately for the allies, the Japanese eventually prevailed due to their superior tactics.

  9. I often thought how effective a bicycle corpse would be for poor countries. A modern Mountain bike with a heavy load could be much less expensive than a equal number of troops riding in trucks and nearly as mobile. A few trucks to tow the heavy weapons and their ammo and away you go.

    • During the Vietnam War, most of the supplies coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail from North Vietnam through Cambodia were moved by bicycle. The trick was that the supplies, rice, small-arms ammo, whatever, were loaded in bags and slung from the bike, across the saddle, like the carry bags used on army mules “back in the day”. The “porter” didn’t ride the bike; he walked alongside it, using the handlebars to push it along, often with a couple of pieces of wood or bamboo tied to the handlebars to give him the equivalent of the handles on a wheelbarrow.

      By this technique, a single man could move about four times the mass he could carry on his back, and move it much faster than he could “humping” it, as well. Also move it farther between rest stops, i.e. with less fatigue.

      It’s a technique used by peddlers, etc., in the region since bicycles came along.

      Fun trivia fact; the wheelbarrow was actually invented in China in about the 7th Century A.D. But the traditional Chinese wheelbarrow isn’t quite like our Western version;instead of a small wheel in front and two handles in back, with the load slung in the middle like a travois, it has a central wheel; big ones often have handles in front and back, for use by two “pushers”. The load is carried beside the wheel on both sides;


      The wheel supports the weight, not the arms of the “pusher”. He just supplies propulsion and balance, basically.

      The Chinese wheelbarrow can carry much heavier loads than the Western version, especially with two men on front and rear handles. With it as an example, when the Western bicycle showed up in the Far East, using it in a similar way must have been pretty obvious to everybody.



  10. For a Documentary Rendition of the “Battle of Gemas” see “Singapore 1942: End of Empire” ( 2-part Doco, 2012). Doco made for the 70th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, February 1942. No Type 11MG ( only T3 and T96/99 etc), but plenty of Bicycles and their use.

    Doc AV
    AV Ballistics Film Ordnance Services

  11. Is it just me, or does it look like he’s gonna shoot right through the top of the tire?

    I’m sure it’s a trick of perspective, but I keep looking at it and can’t see it any other way…

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