Know what the single most popular mechanized vehicle in the world is? It’s not the Toyota Camry. It’s not the Honda Accord. It’s certainly not a Ford or GM.
It’s the Flying Pigeon bicycle from China. First produced in 1950, the Flying Pigeon is the symbol of an egalitarian system that promised little comfort but a reliable ride through life. Unlike the trend toward ultra-light carbon-fiber bikes that sport caliper brakes and as many as 27 derailleur-run gears, these Flying Pigeon bikes have essentially stayed the same for seven decades with one gear and old-fashioned rod-operated brakes. They are simple, conceived of as a working machine meant to last a lifetime. The original was a 50-pound, all-steel, one speed, one size model that only came in black. Now there are two men’s model (the PA-02 and PA-06), a ladies version (the PB-13) and they come in a dozen different colors.
An estimated half a billion Flying Pigeons are in use all over China (Koeppel, Dan (January/February 2007), “Flight of the Pigeon”, Bicycling (Rodale, Inc.) 48). In Beijing alone, there are 10 million on the road. But almost none in the United States before 2007–the Flying Pigeon had never been imported into the U.S.–save for a few that showed up in Berkeley, CA where they were sold as proletarian chic.
Now the Flying Pigeon is poised to invade the streets of America. At least two dealers, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles, are doing their part to get “a Flying Pigeon in every household” (a Deng Xiao-peng aphorism defining prosperity in China during the 1970s). In LA, two local brothers, Josef and Adam Bray-Ali, started importing the bicycles four years ago and are solely responsible for the 250 or so Flying Pigeons on the streets here. They sell the bikes for $399 fully assembled and $199 online unassembled. The brothers also lead a monthly “dim sum run” to a Chinese restaurant in Alhambra. Not sure if you’re required to ride a Flying Pigeon to join in.
(Photo credit: flyingpigeon-la.com website)