WITH mountain bikes all the rage, even with cyclists who...

salmagundi

September 09, 1993

WITH mountain bikes all the rage, even with cyclists who never venture from the level contours of the North Central rail-trail in Baltimore County, it is a pleasure to report that a new Swiss Army bike may someday be on the market. Like the Swiss Army Knife, which is the dream of every Boy Scout, this new Swiss product is characteristically expensive.

The Financial Times of London puts its price at $2,235, which is high but not so high as the $4,000 beauty this department saw recently in a Mackinac Island shop in northern Michigan. That's the tourist mecca that bans cars in favor of bikes and horse-drawn carriages.

Unlike even the most costly two-wheeler currently available, the Swiss Army bike has fittings for heavy machine guns, bazookas and 60mm mortar launchers. Its body paint is invisible at night to someone using infrared binoculars. This differs somewhat from the handlebar bags, the seat pouches and the rear mountings for saddle bags usually seen on the rail-trail.

All this, of course, adds to the weight. The army bike, at 55 pounds, is some 22 pounds heavier than the usual mountain bike. With only seven gears, it offers less help than the 18- or

21-gear jobs on sale at your friendly dealer. But for 5,000 members of the Swiss Army Bicycle Corps, it is sheer luxury.

According to the Financial Times, "these amazingly fit soldiers crank up and down the Alps with something like [220 pounds] of kit and weapons on board." But until now, the FT continues, "they have accomplished these feats on a machine designed in 1905 -- pure heavy clog iron, no gears, conventional handlebars."

On the new bike, everything is designed to endure heavy loads under severe weather conditions -- ceramic coating on the rim to make braking effective, chrome coating on the freewheel and chain and a heavy steel guard for the derailleur. It is almost nine pounds lighter than the 1905 model.

Condor, a Swiss company with a contract to produce 5,500 new bikes for the Swiss Army, foresees a civilian market for photographers, postmen and others who have to carry heavy equipment. It makes no mention of unauthorized aficionados peddling along with bazookas, machine guns and mortar launchers.

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