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The German Bicycle
By Christopher Wilson, revised by Jonathan Bocek

I do not claim to be an expert on German military bikes but I have learned a lot over the last year or so.  I will try to give a simple overview of period bikes with an emphasis on what to look for.

The German army had numerous troops on bicycles working both as reconnaissance and supply troops.  Troops on bikes date back to pre WWI times.  There were both issued bikes and “appropriated” civilian bikes where necessary.  Period photos show a  wide variety of bicycles in use even in formation; Men’s and women’s bikes are often seen in the same photos.  Some bikes have racks, some ammunition boxes.  Some bikes were used to carry machine guns & some panzerfausts, while others were simply just used as transportation with no special accoutrements.  Below is a list of a few things to look for:

  28” wheels.  This was the most common size for mid century European bicycles.  The tubes were nearly always a presta valve type.  You can use shrader valve tubes if you wish (easier to find replacements and cheaper too).

Rod brakes:  These were by no means the only type of front brake but certainly the most common. 

Crank sets:  There were of several types.  There were cottered cranks,
Ashtabula one piece, and swaged crank sets.  I have seen all types, but cottered and swaged were most common. 

Cargo Rack:  The military rack was very large compared to modern racks and measured approximately 18” x 10”    You will see civilian racks in photos but proper military racks are handier for hauling your kit and will easily identify your bike as “military.”  

Air pump:  The pump has a wooden handle on one end.  These are nearly always for presta valve tubes which were most common at the time.  (It is easier and cheaper to convert your tubes to shrader valves) but you will need a pump regardless. 

Pump clips:  There are several types and these are generally available from suppliers in
Germany .  These allowed you to carry your pump attached to the bicycle frame. 

Generator lights:  These appear on almost all period bicycles.  The front and rear bulb are powered by a generator that rubs on the front wheel when riding obviating the need for batteries.  During the day you simply pivot the generator out of contact with the wheel.  Period lamps tend to be larger than their post-war brothers.  You would want to try to get a big lamp if you choose to go with this option.  

Hand-grips:  Plain grips (no finger grooves) were the most commonly seen style.  

Bell:  Basic thumb operated bell on the handlebar. 

Single speed, coaster brake:  This means there is no gear shift and the rear brake operates by backward pressure on the pedals.

Peddles:  Peddles with reflectors were not common during the war.

Kick-stand:  Period bikes did not have a kick-stand.


As with anything, once one knows what to look for one can often find deals and with a little work most period civilian bikes can be easily converted to an accurate German WWII Fahrrad.



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