Friday, September 24, 2010

Pigeon Sighting

Flying Pigeon USA has gotten some press lately for importing roadsters made for the Chinese market.
These bikes, modeled on british Roadsters like my DL-1 were the bike of the proletariat for much of the 20th century.  They're currently falling from favor in China, where the growing consumer market equates cars with material success,  but they've found some market here.
There are two Flying Pigeon retailers here, one in NYC and one in LA, and I hadn't actually seen a real live one in Boston until this weekend.  I was racing home on Sunday, but had to stop and check it out.

The verdict:  Looks a lot like  DL-1 Roadster.  I'm not sure I would make the choice to buy a new bike with rod brakes, myself, even though I love the old bikes I have.    Every time I stop Gilbert in the rain, I'm glad for advances in braking technology.  I wonder if the Chinese could better retain their transportation bicycle culture if they had comfortable elegant bikes with better technology?
I like the chrome rack a lot, and wonder if they'd sell me one- I had emailed them once looking for a rack for Minerva, without luck.

 I'm not sure what the attachment at the front is for.  It seems like a basket support, but it has this odd loop on one side.

A lot of the parts of the bike look a bit cheap (the tires, the paint, the saddle)  but I do like the headbadge.  I'm sure part of it is the humor of a different cultural view of pigeons, but I also think it's cheerful and dynamic.


  1. Looking at the photos on the Flying Pigeon LA web site, it does appear that the weird bracket is intended for a basket.

    Unfortunately, the Chinese government actively discourages bicycle use, though a fairly large number of bicycles are still sold there. Apparently, electric bikes have become very popular in Chinese cities, and sales of those are rising.

  2. Nice, I have never seen one of these in Boston before. I have read somewhere - though I cannot recall the blog now - that the FP racks do not quite fit the DL-1 perfectly; there is a slight but noticeable tilt.

    Re the "Pigeon" name - I suspect, though cannot be certain, that it is an unfortunate mistranslation of what should have been something like "Soaring Dove". In Russian, "dove" and "pigeon" are the same word, and the imagery of the dove - symbolising peace and freedom - is often used in names of things that are meant to be evocative of that concept.

  3. I have a FP rack on my DL-1 Fits similarly to the FP as they have similar geometries (28" wheels). I think that the Dutch one on Cycler's and the custom one on Veloria's are much nicer :). But at least my FP rack did not cost very much. I also love the spring mouse trap on the FP rack-- it holds my mini U lock perfectly. On the downside, my FP rack is not very well made or laterally stable-- eg. a heavy load may push it to one side or the other and the powder coating is not very full coverage. I don't think rod brakes themselves are that much to blame for stopping woes-- it is those darned chrome rims! My rod brakes stop pretty well in dry weather, so I am figuring if I can build new alloy westwood rims for my old DL-1, she might become winter worthy here in Seattle. I might also "improve" her more by building in a new 5 speed and dyno hub too... still haven't ordered the rims yet-- checking on some more Euro connections.

  4. As a female looking at the seat height on that thing-- all I can say is that rider must be tall! (this is coming from a 5'5" female that can barely ride her DL-1-- notice seat height from former post)

  5. Hi

    I met you the other day on our respective commutes. I'm the student from Tufts doing the documentary on bike culture. I was wondering if we could possibly interview you at some point?

    Let me know, and cool blog!
    - Neha

  6. Wow. It is always a treat to see a Flying Pigeon in the wild. Judging by the rear tail light, I am guessing that this came from another source (i.e. not from the LA shop).

    About those rod brakes - they are really tough to install properly. Once they are installed properly, they only work as well as any of the old rubber and stainless steel combinations of yesteryear. That is to say, not very well in the rain and middling when it's dry.

    Still, the slope of the rod brakes lend a grace to the bikes. Once we retrofit our Pigeons, they ride silently and are a little smoother in handling.

    The stock bikes are pretty roughly made - but are durable and cheap enough for most customers the small things don't bother them

  7. Is there an actual entity called "Flying Pigeon USA"? I don't think so. As far as I know, Joe Bike in Portland, Oregon, is the only US importer that has ordered directly from the Tianjin factory. We brought in single- and 3-speed Pigeons, retrofitted them extensively, and converted some to an 8-speed internal version with alloy wheels. We've never sold a Pigeon with rod brakes and never will. Has the retrofit been worth the labor and parts costs? That's debatable, though very few of the Pigeons we've sold have come back to us needing more than a tune-up or a new inner tube.

  8. Oh, and here's a link to a photo of one of ours in Portland...