The reliance on horses for lack of adequate motor transport is a common observation on Germany’s armed forces during World War II, but what is perhaps less well-known is the widespread use of the bicycle. Bicycle units had been organised as part of cavalry regiments since 1936, and by 1939 all 15 cavalry regiments included partially motorised bicycle battalions, while each infantry division’s reconnaissance battalion included a bicycle troop. For the Blitzkrieg campaigns in Western Europe bicycle-mounted infantry were useful not only as reconnaissance troops but also as infantry support since they could more easily keep up with the fast-moving tanks. Bicycle troops also played a part on the Eastern Front, but the lack of good roads limited their effectiveness, and with the onset of winter they became largely foot soldiers. Mountain troops also used bicycles for reconnaissance and other purposes, so one way or another the bicycle had a significant part to play in Germany’s war effort.
Bicycle troops wore the same uniform and used much the same kit as other troops, and these figures are conventionally dressed with the long boots more commonly seen earlier in the war. All wear a field cap of one sort or another, but strangely none have a helmet anywhere, suggesting that they must be well behind any front line, although even then we would have expected helmets to be carried. Each sprue of four figures does come with one extra helmeted head, however. The kit is not always easy to make out but everything here looks OK, including the rolled cape attached to the handlebars, which was a common practice. Three of the figures have rifles or carbines slung across the back, although one is missing the rifle strap that would make this possible. The fourth carries a submachine gun slung around the neck.
Although many models of bike were used those in this set look OK, although strangely all have the chain and gear on the left side, which was very unusual and not an ideal choice.
All four figures have their feet on the pedals so are in motion, and the relatively small variations in pose are easy to see in our photos. As men travelling on bikes these pretty much cover the very limited range of likely poses, so four seems reasonably good in this case. It would have been nice to have had one man standing and perhaps looking through binoculars, but all the poses are perfectly usable and look quite natural.
The men and bikes are all separate pieces, as are the handlebars and one man’s right arm. This means there is a little less assembly here than in some of the other HaT bicycle sets, so the annoying soft rubbery plastic, while a poor material with which to put together any sort of a kit, is slightly less of an issue here. Nevertheless a nice hard plastic would have been much better, and it is still a bit of a fiddly job to put everything together. The men have no flash or unwanted plastic, and the sculpting is reasonable with good though not always very clear detail.
In a world rich in World War II German sets it is nice to still find something a bit different, even if not the most exciting of sets. The lack of visible helmets was a surprise, but otherwise we had no concerns on accuracy and once put together these make decent models that could be seen on many roads of Western Europe during the War.