Bicycle HistoryLate 1940s

Post-war bicycle in the late 1940s

For Estonia, World War II ended with another annexation to the USSR. During the first post-war years, since 1945, bicycles were less available than in the 1930s. They became widely available again only in the early 1950s (after Riga bicycle factory started mass production), and a typical (gearless) bike was generally available to the public until the end of Soviet times. However, occasional lack of bicycle parts persisted until the late 1980s (the end of Soviet period), but not the lack of bicycles itself.

After the war, a small-scale bicycle manufactury “Säde” started operation in Tallinn, but only for a few years. Extremely low production volume was insignificant when compared to the mount of reparation bikes and bicycles made in Riga factory.

From 1946 to 1953, local shops sold reparation bikes from Germany. After losing the war, Germany had to pay to the USSR compensation for damages arising from the war, and such compensation consisted to great extent in goods, including bicycles. Majority of reparation bikes received in Estonia were Diamant bikes, although other models, such as Simson, Mifa, and Standard were also represented to a lesser extent. In terms of construction, the reparation bikes were similar to pre-war bikes, but they used less chrome due to difficulties of the post-war period, and had somewhat poorer quality. Yet they had much better quality than Soviet bikes and, when maintained properly, lasted for decades.

By the way, Diamant women’s reparation bicycle was the first straight-tube women’s bike widely used in Estonia. Interestingly, certain amount of reparation bicycles reached local distribution network without tyres, apparently due to lack of tyres.

The reparation bicycles from the early 1950s were the last bikes produced in Western Europe to reach the Soviet Union (incl. Estonia) before the end of the Soviet period. Thus the bicycle industries of the Soviet Union and Western countries followed different development paths since the mid-1950s to the late 1980s – at that time only a few West-European bikes were brought here (mostly by seafarers). There were a closed and well-guarded border (an "Iron Curtain") separating Soviet Union from other countries between 1940s and 1980s.