Brief history of the Swiss Army cyclists

The bicycle troops existed 112 years and were a quite unique fighting force in the world. The “service pattern bicycle 1905” was used nearly unchangend by the bicycle troops for more than 90 years and may be one of the most long-lived pieces of military equipment in modern times.

After positive trials with volunteers of the Swiss Cyclist Federation in maneuvers in the 1880s, the National Council and the Council of States decided at the end of 1891 to establish cyclist detachments. Bicycles had to be brought privately by cyclists until 1905, and a signaling device on the bicycle was mandatory, with a bugle being preferable to a bell. Luggage rack, lantern holder and pedal support were provided by the supply department.

The trained cyclist-soldiers formed small detachments with a maximum of 15 soldiers, who were mainly employed as dispatch riders.

In 1908 the cyclists were transferred to the infantry and in 1936 they changed from the infantry to the light troops (yellow) as combat troops. Starting in 1965, the cyclist units basically fought like infantry units within their own operational doctrine. With the ‘Army Reform XXI’ the bycicle troops where abolished in december 2003, mainly because of their lack of splinter protection and modern sensor equipment.