07 December 2017

From Pearl Harbor...To Rinko?

A cliche about modern history is that World War II "changed everything".  But I have found it interesting to look at some of the specific ways the arts, culture, technology and politics were affected in the US and other countries.

On this date two years ago, I wrote about how the attack on Pearl Harbor transformed bicycles in this country.  On the day of the attack, the average American bicycle weighed 57 pounds (26 kilos)!  The US Government decreed that bicycles be made lighter, both to save on materials (rationing had begun) and so that they would be more nimble for use on the front lines. Not many bicycles were available to the general public, and production of children's bicycles ceased altogether.  

Those few people who were able to buy those lighter bike preferred them to the older, heavier ones.  So did the troops who had the newly-redesigned bikes--and who saw, and in some cases brought home, still lighter bikes from the places in which they fought.  (Yes, even with their changes in design, American wartime bikes were heavier than even the English three-speeds, French ballon-tired bikes or Dutch city machines!)  Ever since, no American company has made bikes--except those for industrial purposes--as heavy as the ones made before the war.  And no American who is not a collector has bought anything like those old behemoths.

Still, even with all of the bicycles that were made for them, the US Armed Forces didn't use nearly as many bicycles as their counterparts from both their allies and enemy countries.  In fact, Americans didn't use bikes on the front lines at all, while British forces made some use of them in that capacity.  On the other hand, "It was probably the Japanese who used the bicycle most during WW II," according to Bicycle Technology co-author Robert van der Plas.  "The invasion of Malaysia, with thousands of soldiers rolling into Singapore on bicycles, is one of the best-known instances," he adds.  

During the war, according to van der Plas, the Japanese used folding bikes designed specifically for warfare.  Some were later re-purposed for civilian use.  In reading about that, I couldn't help but to think about Rinko, the Japanese way of packing bikes for train travel.


While there is not a Rinko-specific bike, and a bike doesn't have to be foldable or collapsible in order to fit into a Rinko bag, it's hard to think of a system that is more tailored to making bikes more transportable and usable in places where space is at a premium and bikes need to be transported quickly and easily.  Fenders, pedals and other parts are made easily detachable (and retachable) so that the whole bike fits in a bag not much larger than the frame.

I can't help but to wonder whether such a system might be, directly or indirectly, a development of the war.


  1. Let us not forget the British BSA Airborn folding bike made for paratroopers in 1943 and '44. They were used on D-Day and by British commandos in Norway. I understand that they were not looked on very favorable by the soldiers and were usually "ditched"(tossed in a ditch) after a few days when they had fulfilled their purpose of getting somewhere at the start of a mission. Somebody, I forget who, has made an updated version of it only a couple of years ago. Originals are rare and expensive.


  2. Leo--Imagine some farmer or somebody finding one of those bikes?

    BSA used to make some nice bikes and parts. Unfortunately, folding bikes weren't very advanced at that time.

  3. Bicycle Quarterly has opened my eyes to the possibilities of Rinko. I even purchased a Rinko-specific headset for one of my Bikes at Velo-Orange, but so far haven't tried to disassemble and wrap it all together. Maybe on of these days.

  4. MT--I'd love to hear about how it goes!