How Pearl Harbor changed bicycles

Inspired by a friend, I created a new kind of Advent Calendar this year. Each day we have a different activity. One evening we played a board game, another evening we drank a cup of spiced cider, and tonight we shared something interesting we knew or learned about Pearl Harbor. Here’s what I learned.

Irle White rode an old worn out bike for his paper route in Montana. When he heard the news on December 7, 1941, he asked his dad to take him to the bike shop. He needed a new bike that could carry more papers. Half his customers got their paper late since he had to make two trips, and he wanted to take on a second paper route besides. They arrived a few minutes before the store closed. He didn’t have quite enough money, so his dad loaned him the balance, then lectured him all the way home about how long it would take him to pay off the loan.

A few months later, the trip to the bike shop would be impossible, because of gas rations and a new 35 mph speed limit. War rations on metal meant few new bikes. The government banned production of children’s bikes entirely, and decreed that adult bikes, which weighed on average 57 pounds, be made 10 pounds lighter! Later the weight limit was further reduced to a lean 31 pounds. Bicycle manufacturers discovered that people liked the lighter weight bikes more, and started making bikes even lighter.

At 27 pounds (before I added rack, fenders, basket, lights, etc), my bike isn’t considered light nowadays. A modern road bike weighs about 17 pounds. When we think about post-WWII technology, we think about chemicals and plastic and highways. I did not know that WWII also drove the trend toward lightweight bicycles.