Welbike Love?


We were amazed this morning when we stumbled across this amazingly well conceived little piece of kit on the Aether blog.

We had never heard of a collapsible motorbike that could be dropped into action behind enemy lines before. The lightweight issue (which is more or less a proto – Monkeybike) was designed by the British Inter Services Research Bureau, which was based in Welwyn, apparently, to give paratroopers increased range and maneuverability behind enemy lines.

Naturally the bike had to be stripped down to the bare essentials in order to fit inside the standard drop container and so came with a single rear brake, no suspension or lamps. The fuel tank had to be pressurised by a hand pump, apparently, but gave a pretty decent 90 mile range at 30 mph.

According to various sources, though, the bike turned out to be a bit of a liability in action. Because of the weight of them the bikes would usually land a long way away from the troops who were supposed to ride them, and the soldiers would have to fight their back to it.

Once it was found, the bikes had to be assembled under enemy fire and were more or less useless offroad because of their lack of low-end twist.

When load-baring gliders were introduced to airborne forces toward the end of the war the Welbike was phased out in favour of heavier ‘proper’ bikes like the Royal Enfield WD/RE.

A great idea, but, we think, not quite the full, Churchillian cigar.