1910s BSA ‘Machine Folding, General Service’ (WW1)

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There are, more especially on the Continent, critics who advocate the use of the folding cycle for military purposes. I cannot but believe that these must mostly be people who have never ridden a folding bicycle. It is heavy, lacks rigidity and strength, entails loss of time in folding and unfolding, and even when it has been folded and is strapped on to the back in such a manner, by the way, that it cannot possibly be unstrapped except by the assistance of a comrade, it is the most unwieldy burden I have ever carried.

The advantages claimed for it, even if real, would hardly compensate for these drawbacks; but the advantages are theoretical rather than practical. It is claimed that cyclists when they wish to cross fields, etc., will dismount, fold their bicycles and stow them on, their backs. I was once the proud possessor of a folding bicycle, which I used for experimental purposes, and I can assure you that for half a dozen excellent reasons nothing would induce me to take one on service, or if I did it would never be folded except when the spring got out of order and it collapsed automatically, which is one of its unexpected habits.

By Captain. A. H. TRAPMANN, Adjutant, 25th (Cyclists) Battalion (County of London) The London Regiment. 16th December, 1908


1910s BSA Folding Bicycle (WW1)

Officially described as: ‘MACHINE FOLDING, GENERAL SERVICE’

25″ Frame

28″ Wheels


The BSA ‘Machine Folding, General Service’ commonly used as a military folding bicycle for carrying on soldiers’ backs during the First World War was a medium weight roadster with 26 inch wheels. But BSA also made a heavy duty version with 28″ wheels, and it’s not known if these were made alongside the smaller frames, were first built before the war, or after the war ended.

Although heavier to carry, the larger frame with 28 inch wheels was a much more robust machine for rough riding and less likely to get damaged when it was manhandled under wartime conditions. Every ‘Military Model’ bicycle advertised by British cycle manufacturers was a similar heavy duty 28” wheel roadster (though not folding). And although the French and Italian military folding machines were small (with 24″ wheels) they were not light. BSA would have faced a dilemma over whether to supply a folding machine lighter to carry but more prone to damage, or a heavier but more practical one for war use. In my opinion, they built both sizes to provide the War Office with a choice that depended on requirements and destination.

There’s no way to check exactly when this particular machine was manufactured, nor if it was supplied for military use (I can not see any markings). But it is the design used by the British army during World War 1 and it is extremely hard to find any surviving examples of this model. They never come up for sale. If you want to own one, this is your opportunity…