1952 Condor Militarvelo MO5 (‘Swiss Army Bike’)
Swiss military bicycles are as well-made as you would expect from the source of the world’s top pocket knife.
There are three brakes as standard on a Militarvelo: on the front is a caliper, and the rear has a coaster brake as well as a cable-operated drum brake.
Chaps in Switzerland have to do national service, and many of them will ride military bicycles at some time. Bicycle soldiers can use their mounts when not on duty, and also have an option to buy their cycles cheaply after their service ends.
With only a few detail changes, this model (the ‘Ordonanzrad 05′) was manufactured from the beginning of the 20th century until 1993, when Condor introduced a new, modern 7-speed version.
It’s not surprising that the Swiss are nostalgic about these machines, and that they have become a national icon.
History of ‘Condor-Werke-AG‘
The French brothers Edouard and Jules Scheffer built a factory in Courvaivre on the banks of the river Sorne, to make metal products. Safety bicycles had just been introduced and were being manufactured in large quantities in Great Britain and France, and companies all over Europe who could adapt to bicycle manufacture quickly moved into this new field of enterprise. ‘Scheffer Freres’ soon established a good reputation in Switzerland for technical innovation and quality products.
They changed their name to ‘Manufacture Suisse des Velocipedes in 1901, and by 1904 were supplying the Swiss Army and Post Office. The Belfort lion, similar to that of Peugeot, was the original company motif, the condor being adopted in 1900. The company name was changed to ‘Condor-Werke-AG’ in 1914.
The river provided electricity for the factory, but in 1908 a 25hp petrol-driven engine was added to drive the machinery.
The company had an excellent reputation for quality and technical innovation, and enjoyed motorcycle racing successes which further boosted sales. By the 1920′s motorcycle production took over, though after Great Depression of 1928 Condor revitalized the bicycle side of their business again.
Motorcycle production continued up to 1978, and they made bicycles until 1995.