Flying Pigeon Bicycle

Since 1950, more than 500 million Flying Pigeon PA-02 bicycles have been made, and as of 2007, more than any other model of vehicle.
Since 1950, more than 500 million Flying Pigeon PA-02 bicycles have been made, and as of 2007, more than any other model of vehicle.

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Flying Pigeon

Since 1950, more than 500 million Flying Pigeon PA-02 bicycles have been made, and as of 2007, more than any other model of vehicle.
PA-02 Flying Pigeon Bicycle

More Flying Pigeon PA-02 bicycles have been produced since 1950—more than 500 million in total as of 2007—than any other vehicle model.

History

A Japanese businessman established the Changho Works factory in Tianjin in 1936 and began producing “Anchor” bicycles; the brand was subsequently renamed “Victory” and then “Zhongzi.” The bicycle industry was revitalised following the Communist takeover of China in 1949, spearheaded by Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party.

After visiting the factory in April 1949, Communist Party Secretary Liu Shaoqi ordered its establishment as the first bicycle factory in New China, giving its workers the mission of creating a new generation of strong, long-lasting, light, and elegant bicycles for Newna. The first Flying Pigeon bicycle was manufactured on July 5, 1950.

The 1932 English Raleigh roadster served as the inspiration for Huo Baoji, a worker who created the iconic model. The name “Flying Pigeon” was meant to symbolise peace during the Korean War. The logo features a stylised dove, which stands for harmony and concord, resting on the initials FG. Previous versions of the logo featured the dove in flight.

Flying Pigeon’s stylized bird head badge.

The People’s Republic of China saw the rise of the bicycle phenomenon led by the Flying Pigeon, which was the official mode of transportation and gave rise to the nickname “Zixingche Wang Guo,” or the Kingdom of Bicycles. A bicycle was considered one of the three “must-haves” for every citizen, along with a sewing machine and other basic goods that gave the impression of wealth. The Flying Pigeon bicycle came to represent an egalitarian social system that offered minimal comfort but a dependable ride through life.

The Flying Pigeon became the most well-known mechanised vehicle on the planet during the 1960s and 1970s, when the logo was almost universally associated with bicycles in the nation. Deng Xiaoping, the post-Mao supreme leader who spearheaded China’s economic reforms in the 1970s, defined prosperity as “a Flying Pigeon in every household.”

In the early 1980s, Flying Pigeon was the country’s biggest bike manufacturer, selling 3 million cycles in 1986. Its 20-kilogram black single-speed models were popular with workers, and there was a waiting list of several years to get one, and even then buyers needed good  (connections) in addition to the purchase cost, which was about four months’ wages for most workers.

Traditional models

The men’s and women’s single-speed black roadster types PA-02, PA-06, and PB-13 are the traditional Flying Pigeon bicycles. The following specs apply to all three models, unless otherwise specified.

  • twenty-eight-inch (71.1 cm) by 1 1/2-inch (38 mm) (ISO 635) wheels, 32 spokes in front, 40 spokes in rear, Westwood rims.
  • Rear hub 120 mm (4.7 in) OLD, front hub 100 mm (3.9 in) OLD
  • Chain wheel 42 teeth, sprocket 20 teeth
  • 22-inch (55.9 cm) frame size (PA-06 also available in 24-inch (61 cm))
  • Single-speed gearing of 58.8 gear inches

PA-02

Classic Flying Pigeon bicycles: the PA-02, a single-speed with 28-inch wheels, mudguards (fenders), a fully enclosed chain case, a rear rack, and rod-actuated brakes; available in black (the most popular colour), other colours include red (used by Chinese municipal fire departments), dark green (used by China Post), yellow, orange, and blue (used by various businesses), and most models are pinstriped.

Classic Flying Pigeon bicycles: the PA-02, a single-speed with 28-inch wheels, mudguards (fenders), a fully enclosed chain case, a rear rack, and rod-actuated brakes; available in black (the most popular colour), other colours include red (used by Chinese municipal fire departments), dark green (used by China Post), yellow, orange, and blue (used by various businesses), and most models are pinstriped.

The PA-06 model is distinguished by the use of a double top-tube.

The Tianjin factory produces about 800,000 bikes yearly.

PA-06

Double top-tubes are commonly used to stiffen larger frames in order to reduce “frame-whip” (lateral torsion), and the PA-06 model is unique in that it is the only one manufactured in the larger 24-inch (610 mm) frame size (the PA-02 and PB-13 are only available in 22-inch frame size). This feature is frequently cited as being designed to carry pigs, though there is little factual basis for this claim.

The PB-13 is the ladies' version of the classic Flying Pigeon
The PB-13 is the ladies’ version of the classic Flying Pigeon

PB-13

The PB-13 is the ladies’ version of the classic Flying Pigeon, using a step-through style frame, similar to a Dutch Omafiets.

Company

After closing its doors in 1998, Flying Pigeon moved its operations to an industrial zone on the outskirts of the city, employing 600 people to produce the bikes using state-of-the-art automated equipment. Currently, Flying Pigeon produces 40 different models of bicycles, the majority of which resemble contemporary mountain or city bikes and come in a variety of colours. The frames are piecemeal, the wheels are assembled on an assembly line with spokes first laced to hubs and then threaded to rims, enamel coatings applied by hand, and the bikes are moved on conveyors akin to those in a dry cleaners.

A nostalgic artefact of China’s post-revolutionary era, the Flying Pigeon is still the country’s most popular bicycle despite declining domestic sales, if only because a large portion of the brand’s old rolling stock is still in use. The government estimates that a half-billion bikes are in use throughout China, many of which have been passed down through generations. In 1994, the government named the bicycle a “national key trademark brand under protection,” enshrining it in the same category as national treasures.

Similar to the Ford Model T, these are all-steel single-speed bikes with 28-in (710 mm) wheels, fenders, a fully covered chain, a sprung leather saddle, a rear rack, rod brakes (a handlebar lever connects directly to the brake pads), a side stand (PB13), or a double stand (PA02 and PA06). They are also simple, compared to other bicycles, and only come in black with a vanilla flare at the fender tips. They can also be outfitted with a dynamo lighting set. The company does not advertise its traditional bicycles, like the PA-02, because the brand is so deeply ingrained in Chinese society and culture.

References

  1.  Koeppel, Dan (January–February 2007), “Flight of the Pigeon”BicyclingRodale, Inc., vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 60–66, ISSN 0006-2073
  2. Newson, Alex (2013), Fifty Bicycles That Changed the World: Design Museum FiftyOctopus Books ISBN 9781840916508
  3. www.flying-pigeon.eu History: Flying Pigeon Bicycle Co., Ltd., Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  4. Flying Pigeon bicycle old photosmoney.163.com Retrieved 2014-01-19
  5. A Phoenix Named Flying Pigeon, September 20, 2004, Bloomberg

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