Saturday, 14 June 2014


As a keen cyclist, I have occasionally toyed with the idea of getting a period bicycle for dressing up purposes, but the idea of restoring a rusty old wreck has always seemed like too much work. eBay however came to the rescue with a a supply of modern Indian made bicycles with many of the features of their 1940s counterparts. Even putting the Indian bike together was an 'interesting' exercise, so I've very glad I didn't go down the restoration route. So, on with turning a modern bike into a 1940s troop carrying bicycle, or 'Truppenfahrrad'.

The Indian bike assembled. It has rod brakes, single speed rear gear and required the application of considerable brute force as it appears to be largely made of cast iron... it does  however have a fabulous early pattern Brooks style saddle, ready painted convoy markings and a heavy duty carrier supplied.

In the process of repainting, undercoat, particularly on the chromed parts. The originals were finished in matt or satin black all over (although many were later repainted in panzegrau, dunkelgelb or whatever too).

Early pattern leather saddle springs.

Front rod brakes. These were an absolute pig to assemble and adjust,  not helped by the brake guide clips being missing. eBay rode to the rescue with spares and a whole fascinating world of vintage bike restoration.

The finished thing, suitably draped with gear.

Not sure how correct these stowage options are, but the breadbag does make an excellent pannier and I've seen the odd photo with bikes set up like this.

This is modern pump in the same pattern as the originals, fitted for the Woods valve (more on those later).

The saddle in all its glory.

One for bike nerds. The abominable Woods Valve, note the spacer collar to keep it off the rim.

Valve 'internals', basically just a brass tube with a bit of rubber to seal it. No screw valves, no internal springs, so has the merit of extreme simplicity. The downside is that they leak, if the rubber doesn't seat well or is perished, they leak a lot. The front valve was irretrievable so I replaced it with a modern Presta, but the back one is OK, and frankly I'd rather keep pumping it up than attempt to take the rear brake assembly to bits. 

So there we have it, a vaguely passable 1940s style troop carrying bicycle. It isn't a perfect repro as really it needs a fixed rear wheel rather than a single speed plus a dynamo front light, a fixed wheel would also remove the need for a rear brake, but is good enough for now and I've got a couple of events coming up later this year where it can hopefully have an outing.


  1. To be authentic you should really have nicked it off a Dutchman .

  2. Inspired! But does this mean you've given up on getting a halftrack?

  3. Thank you. Not sure there is space in the garage for a halftrack and I'd need a lot more spray paint. The single speed gear isn't exactly ideal on Sheffields hills, but it is a fun thing to ride around.

  4. I was wondering if you could provide the model or seller of the original base bicycle. I am doing the same project myself but can't find a donor bicycle to start with!

  5. Hi Paul, I got it off ebay from a seller who had a stock of them. It is basically a modern Indian made steel frame bike with a single speed gear, raleigh copy rod brakes and (really awful) woods valve tyres. This style of bike is quite popular in India, so it may be possible to source one direct from there.

  6. Sorry, mean to add the link:

  7. If you follow the ebay link, actually i can see three other similar bikes listed.