Resurrecting a 1950 Swiss Army Bike
Posted on 15 March 2016
When I was 12 my dad got me my first job. I loved antique bicycles and had been collecting them since I was 9 or 10, so he went and had a conversation with the bike shop owner on Main Street about fixing me up with a job. On Saturdays and Sundays, I would go to the bike shop and work mostly on antique bikes, which the owner also had an affinity for. I had the option of working for $4 an hour or in trade for bikes and parts. Considering I was definitely more of a pain in the ass than a help, this was generous on the bike shop owner's part. One of the things I traded time for was a 1950 Swiss Army Bike.
The bike is an MO-05, the standard Swiss Bicycle Regiment machine used from 1905-1990's. As far as I know the Swiss were the last European army to have a whole bicycle regiment, being that it wasn't disbanded until 2001.
My bike was manufactured in 1950, making it smack in the middle of production. It's outfitted with 650B tires, a heavy leather saddle, a tire pump, a coaster brake, drum brake in case the coaster brake overheats, and a "spoon" brake (a rubber block that presses directly on the tire). It also has a tool kit, a rather feeble wheel lock, a bell, and a dynamo lighting system that powers the headlight and tail light with a small tire driven generator. One must be in at least decent physical condition to power the bike as it has only one gear and clocks in at 48 pounds.
Unfortunately, when I was 13 or 14 the bottom bracket spindle snapped in half. By the time I found a new one (ordered from Swizzerland) I had lost one of the original bearing races which are even harder to find than the spindle. At that point the bike went into long term storage at my older brother's house. A few weeks ago he brought it out to me from Colorado where it has been sitting for for 14 years.
I have been puzzling over what to do about the missing bearing race until a friend and Curiosity Club member offered to take the existing part into his work place, a large high-end bicycle component manufacturer here in town known for their bottom brackets and headsets. He asked the prototype department if they could make me a new one, and they said, 'Heck, we will make you two!'
Within the next few weeks, the old Swiss Army bike is going to be getting shiny new bottom bracket cups in hardened stainless steel from one of the fanciest bicycle component makers in the US. I will be giving the bike a mechanical overhaul in the next few weeks and will keep you all posted. If you figure out who is making the parts for the bike, please don't pester them about making custom bits. It's not usually their MO, and I don't think they want to go into the specialty weirdo part market. That all said, keep your eye out here for updates. I'll start getting the bike cleaned up in the next week or two.