Bicycle HistorySpecial purpose bicycles

Special purpose bicycles

In Estonia the special purpose bicycles were before WWII mainly cargo bicycles and railway bicycles (and also some tandems).

Cargo bicycle is a bike intended for transporting bulky packages. It has characteristic enlarged rack, or a box. In the early decades (before WWII), there were mostly four main cargo bike layouts.

  • Rack above small front wheel. Such cargo bikes have remarkably smaller front wheel (often 20") and has thicker spokes and wider (often 2" wide) tyre. It has big, tubed rack above the low front wheel, which is not attached to the front fork, but is rigidly bolted to the main bicycle frame. There were many such bikes used in Estonia in pre-war period (German Wanderer, Swedish Husqvarna, etc.).
  • Front-mounted two-wheel cargo box or platform. Such cargo bike has three wheels and front-mounted (usually leaf spring supported) cargo box or platform, supported by rear frame. In the middle of the cargo box is a turning joint – the cargo platform has a handle that turns as a whole with regard to rear part. In the 1920s-30s, many such cargo bikes were import bikes from Germany, but they were also manufactured by local companies in the late 1930s (Saar, Laanberg, Ööpik, etc.). Such cargo bikes usually had 26" wheels and had thicker than usual tyres and spokes.
  • Long John. This bike type, developed in Denmark in 1923, has remarkably extended front frame and the smaller than usual front wheel (generally 20") is far in front of the handle bar and connected to it by a rod. The low tube between the handle bar and front wheel accommodates spacious goods platform or box. In order to avoid bending the long single tube frame, it is usually reinforced with strong tie beneath (similar to older passenger carriages in railway). Such bikes mostly came from Denmark in the 1920s-30s, and to lesser extent, from Germany.
  • Tricycle with rear cargo platform. Tricycles with this layout are widespread in Asian countries – rickshaws (for transporting people) and cargo bikes. Using such bikes in Estonia is highly unlikely. This was probably due to intricate transmission scheme from pedals to rear wheel that required interim shaft and bearings.

Railway bike. In the 1930s, railway bikes were made in Estonia (as individual items or in small batches), which were then used for supervision of both on broad gauge (1524 mm) and narrow gauge (750 mm) railway tracks. The tube or square metal (less frequently wooden) frame had typicallt three wheels, two wheels (and the operator) riding along one rail, and the third wheel on the opposite rail. In order to keep the railway bike on rails, their both wheels were equipped with flanges that run along the rail sides when riding.

As a rule, tandems were individually made in Estonia, usually made of frames of regular bike, by joining them. Only a few old factory-made tandems have been present (and preserved) in Estonia.