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The history of Bicycle Infantry

Bicycle infantry
Bicycle infantry are infantry soldiers who maneuver on the battlefield using bicycles. The term dates from the late 19th century, when the "safety bicycle" became popular in Europe, the United States and Australia.
Early use
Numerous experiments were carried out to determine the possible role of bicycles within the military establishments. Bicycle units were formed in the United Kingdom primarily in militia or "territorial" units, but not in regular units. In France, several experimental units were created, mostly employing a series of folding bicycles designed by a French officer.

In the United States, the most extensive experimentation on bicycle units was carried out by a 1st Lieutenant Moss, of the 25th United States Infantry (Colored) (an all-African American infantry regiment with white officers). Using a variety of cycle models, Lt. Moss and his troops carried out epic bicycle journeys covering between 500 and 1,000 miles (800 to 1600 km) at a time. Late in the 19th century, the United States Army tested the bicycle's suitability for cross-country troop transport. "Buffalo soldiers" stationed in Montana rode bicycles across roadless landscapes for hundreds of miles with impressive speed.

Dutch bicycle infantry during the Battle of the NetherlandsThe first known use of the bicycle in combat occurred during the so-called "Jameson Raid", which preceded the Second Boer War (1899–1901), where cyclists carried messages. In the war, military cyclists were used primarily as scouts and messengers; however, several raids were conducted by cycle-mounted infantry on both sides. A unit patrolled railroad lines on specially constructed two-man cycles that were fixed to the rails.

World War I and World War II
During World War I, cycle-mounted infantry, scouts, messengers and ambulance carriers were extensively used by all combatants. In the aftermath of the war, the German Army conducted a study on the use of the cycle and published its findings in a report entitled "Die Radfahrertruppe". Meanwhile, in Italy, the "Bersaglieri" (light infantry units) employed bicycles until the end of World War I.

In its 1937 invasion of China, Japan employed some 50,000 bicycle troops. Early in World War II their southern campaign through Malaya en route to capturing Singapore in 1941 was largely dependent on bicycle-riding soldiers. In both efforts bicycles allowed quiet and flexible transport of thousands of troops who were then able to surprise and confuse the defenders. Bicycles also made few demands on the Japanese war machine, needing neither trucks, nor ships to transport them, nor precious petroleum. Allied use of the bicycle in World War II was limited, but included supplying folding bicycles to paratroopers and to messengers behind friendly lines. The successful British raid on a German radar installation at Ste. Bruneval, France in 1942 was conducted by airborne Cycle-commandos with the aid of such folding bikes.
Unconventional warfare
Although seeing heavy use in World War I, bicycles were largely superseded by motorized transport in more modern armies, but have recently taken on a new life as a "weapon of the people" in guerrilla conflicts and unconventional warfare, where the cycle's ability to carry large (c. 400 lb or 180 kg) loads of supplies at the speed of a walking man make it vastly useful for lightly-equipped forces. For extended periods of time, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army used bicycles to ferry supplies down the "Ho Chi Minh Trail", avoiding the repeated attacks of United States and Allied bombing raids. Heavily loaded with supplies, these bicycles were seldom rideable. Instead a tender would walk alongside, pushing the bike like a wheelbarrow. With especially bulky cargo, tenders sometimes attached bamboo poles to the bike for tiller-like steering (this method can still be seen practiced in China today). Vietnamese "cargo bikes" were rebuilt in jungle workshops with reinforced frames to carry the heavy loads in all terrain.
21st century
Bicycles continue in military use today, primarily as an easy alternative for transport on long flightlines. The use of the cycle as an infantry transport tool continued into the 21st century with the Swiss Army's Bicycle Regiment, which maintained drills for infantry movement and attack until 2001, when the decision was made to phase the unit out.

There are some reports of the use of mountain bicycles by U.S. Special Forces as a scouting vehicle in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and in subsequent battles against the Taliban. The only country to recently maintain a regiment of bicycle troops was Switzerland who disbanded the last unit in 2003.

By the beginning of WWII, the Swedish army operated six bicycle infantry regiments. They were equipped with domestically produced Swedish military bicycles. Most common was the m/42, an upright, one-speed roadster produced by several large Swedish bicycle manufacturers. These regiments were decommissioned between 1948 and 1952, and the bicycles remained for general use in the Army, or transferred to the Home Guard. Beginning in the 1970's, the Army began to sell these as military surplus. They became very popular as cheap and low-maintenance transportation, especially among students. Responding to its popularity and limited supply, an unrelated company, Kronan, began to produce a modernized version of the m/42 in 1997.