03 August 2015

They Have Been Done; They Will Be Done Again

Who made the first dual-suspension folding bike?

No, it wasn't Dahon.   Nor was it Montague.  Even Moulton's double-shock folder has antecedents.

We may not ever know for sure who made the very first bike of this type.  I did find out, though,that one was made 100 years ago by a company that's still making bikes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was developed for use in war.  Some of the earliest foldable or collapsible bikes were made for soldiers to carry on their backs. Some, like the one I'm about to mention, even had mounts for guns or rifles.

In 1915, all of the major European powers were embroiled in World War I.  Some of the best-known developments of that conflict are the machine gun (which is said to have inspired the ratcheting freewheel) and chemical weaponry.  It may also have spawned bicycles with suspension and some of the earliest foldable bikes.

Bianchi Dual-Suspension Folding Bike, 1915

A bike that could both bounce and fold was created for the Italian Army by--you guessed it--Bianchi.  The company claims that it was the first of its type.  That may well be true, but it's always difficult to say that anything was a "first" in cycling because so many designs simply disappeared without a trace only to be resurrected, sometimes by "inventors" who had no idea of their previous existence.

Still, I don't think folks at Bianchi are stretching the truth very much, if at all, when they say the dual-suspension folding bike they created for the Italian Army in 1915 was the first of its kind. There don't seem to be any records of bikes with dual suspension or folding bikes much before that date. Also, it's hard to imagine that the technology of the 19th Century--in bikes as well as manufacturing techniques--could have made suspended or folding bikes practical or widely available much before that date.

Whether or not it was the first bike of its kind, it's yet another example of how this passage from Ecclesiastes applies to the bicycle world:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. 

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