Bicycle HistoryKids’ and youth bicycles

Kids’ and youth bicycles

Kids’ and youth bicycles was the most developed area in bike industry in the Soviet period (especially in the 1960s-80s). It had been on rather primitive level in pre-war years (and even in the 1950s). Kids’ bike of that time was often a miniature version of the penny-farthing of the 19th century with full tyres, pedals attached directly to the front wheel and one or two (depending on the model) smaller wheels in rear.

In the 1960s-70s, the Soviet Union started production of various rather innovative kids’ and youth bikes with pneumatic tyres.

At first started production of kids’ bicycles Školnik and Ereliukas, the proportions of which reminded adult bicycles and had pneumatic tyres, freewheel and hub brakes. Školnik with 20" wheels came from Gorki (GAZ) automobile factory and was intended for children at the age of 10 to 11. Slightly bigger Ereliukas with 24" wheels was the prodution of Šiauliai bicycle factory “Vairas” in Lithuania. Both Školnik and Ereliukas had models with frames for boys and girls; girls’ Ereliukas had special brand name Kregždute.

In the 1970s, two novel youth bicycles were introduced in the Soviet Union – Saljut and foldable bicycle. Foldable bicycle had 20" wheels and massive one-tube frame, folded in the middle. As the saddle and handle bar could also be removed, it was possible to turn the bicycle into a tiny package that would fit in a suitcase, overhead luggage rack in public transport, and carry in tight places. Despite the fact that riding long and uneven roads was rather uncomfortable with foldable bicycle, it was cultic and fashion item in the Soviet Union at first, which was practically not available to public before the 1980s, and it could only be acquired through acquaintances in the trading circles. Such bicycle was also somewhat more expensive than ordinary gent’s bicycle, around 100 roubles (approximately half of monthly wages in these times in Estonia).

Saljut was a typical youth bicycle – one frame tube and 24" wheels, with the option of extending the saddle and handle bar with some adjustment (handle lever instead of adjustment nut). Some Saljut models had also foldable frame and some did not.

All of the mentioned bicycles were produced in Soviet Union until the end of Soviet era (until 1991) and were widely spread also here in Estonia.