Flying Pigeon's stylized bird head badge
|State-owned bicycle company|
Flying Pigeon (Chinese: 飞鸽; Pinyin: fēigē) is a Chinese bicycle company based in Tianjin, a direct-controlled municipality, in Northeastern China. More than 500 million Flying Pigeon PA-02 bicycles have been made since 1950, more, as of 2007, than any other model of vehicle. The next closest vehicle model is the Honda Super Cub motorcycle, which passed 60 million in 2008, and 100 million in 2017.
In 1936, a Japanese businessman built the Changho Works factory in Tianjin, and started to make "Anchor" bicycles. The brand name was changed to "Victory", and then renamed to "Zhongzi". After the Communists led by Mao Zedong came to power in 1949, the bicycle industry was revived.
In April 1949, Chairman Mao's heir apparent, vice president Liu Shaoqi paid a visit to the factory and commanded that it become the first bicycle manufacturer in New China. Their workers were tasked to build a generation of strong, durable, light, and beautiful bicycles for the New China. On July 5, 1950, the first Flying Pigeon bicycle was produced. It was the brainchild of a worker named Huo Baoji, who based his classic model on the 1932 English Raleigh roadster. The "Flying Pigeon" name was intended as an expression of peace during the war in Korea. The Flying Pigeon logo is a stylized dove, representing concord and harmony, resting on the initials FG. Previous logos have depicted the dove in flight.
The Flying Pigeon was at the forefront of the bicycle phenomenon in the People’s Republic of China. The vehicle was the government approved form of transport, and the nation became known as zixingche wang guo, the Kingdom of Bicycles. A bicycle was regarded as one of the three "must-haves" of every citizen, alongside a sewing machine and watch - essential items in life that also offered a hint of wealth. The Flying Pigeon bicycle became a symbol of an egalitarian social system that promised little comfort but a reliable ride through life.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the logo became synonymous with almost all bicycles in the country. The Flying Pigeon became the single most popular mechanized vehicle on the planet, becoming so ubiquitous that Deng Xiaoping — the post-Mao leader who launched China's economic reforms in the 1970s — defined prosperity as "a Flying Pigeon in every household".
In the early 1980s, Flying Pigeon was the country's biggest bike manufacturer, selling 3 million cycles in 1986. Its 20-kilo black single-speed models were popular with workers, and there was a waiting list of several years to get one, and even then buyers needed good guanxi (connections) in addition to the purchase cost, which was about four months' wages for most workers.
The classic Flying Pigeon bicycles are the PA-02 and PA-06 (men's) and PB-13 (women's): single speed black roadsters.
They are simple, relative to other bicycles. They are all-steel single speed with 28 in (710 mm) wheels, fenders, fully covered chain, sprung leather saddle, rear rack and rod brakes (a handlebar lever connects directly to the brake pads), double stand (PA02 and PA06) or side stand (PB13). Like the Ford Model T, they are only available in one colour, black, except for the flare of vanilla at the fender tips. They can be equipped with a dynamo lighting set.
These specifications are standard to all three models, except where otherwise noted.
- Twenty-eight by 1 1⁄2-inch (38 mm) (ISO 635) wheels, 32 spokes in front, 40 spokes in the rear, Westwood rims.
- Rear hub 120 mm (4.7 in) OLD, front hub 100 mm (3.9 in) OLD
- Chain wheel 42 teeth, sprocket 20 teeth
- 22-inch (55.9 cm) frame size (PA-06 also available in 24-inch (61 cm))
- Single-speed gearing of 58.8 gear inches
The classic Flying Pigeon bicycle is the PA-02, a single-speed with 28-inch wheels, mudguards (fenders), a fully enclosed chain case, a rear rack and rod-actuated brakes. The typically available color is black. However other colors are available, such as, dark green, which is used by China Post; red, which is used by Chinese municipal fire departments; and yellow, orange and blue, which are used by various businesses. Most models are pinstriped.
For most of the Communist era, the price of a Flying Pigeon was 150 yuan, about two months' salary, with a waiting list that stretched into years. An apocryphal story tells that a farmer once offered to trade his entire crop to speed up delivery of his Pigeon.
The Tianjin factory produces about 800,000 bikes yearly.
The PA-06 model is distinguished by the use of a double top-tube. It is also the only model also manufactured in the larger 24-inch (610 mm) frame size (The PA-02 and PB-13 are only available in 22 inch frame size). This feature is often cited as being designed to carry pigs, but there is little factual basis for this claim. Double top-tubes are often used to stiffen larger frames in order to reduce "frame-whip" (lateral torsion).
The PB-13 is the ladies' version of the classic Flying Pigeon, using a step-through style frame, similar to a Dutch Omafiets.
In 1998, the Flying Pigeon factory in central Tianjin was shut down and operations were relocated to an industrial zone on the city's periphery. It employs 600 workers who produce the bikes, using modern automated equipment. Flying Pigeon now makes 40 models of bicycles, most of which look like modern mountain or city bikes, in various colors. The frames are welded piecemeal; wheels are built on an assembly line, with spokes first laced to hubs, then threaded to rims. Workers hand-spray rough welds with coatings of enamel, and the bikes move on conveyors similar those of a dry cleaner's.
Despite declining domestic sales, the Flying Pigeon remains China's most popular bicycle, if only because much of the brand's old rolling stock is still in service. The government estimates that a half-billion bikes are in use throughout China, many handed down through generations. The Pigeon is one of the few nostalgically-regarded artifacts of China's postrevolutionary era, despite the controversial Cultural Revolution and intense poverty. In 1994, the government named the bicycle a "national key trademark brand under protection", enshrining it similarly to national treasures.
The company does not advertise its traditional bicycles such as the PA-02 as the brand is so infused in Chinese society and culture. There are, however, localized advertising campaigns.
- Koeppel, Dan (January–February 2007), "Flight of the Pigeon", Bicycling, Rodale, Inc., vol. 48 no. 1, pp. 60–66, ISSN 0006-2073, retrieved 2012-01-28
- Newson, Alex (2013), Fifty Bicycles That Changed the World: Design Museum Fifty, Octopus Books, p. 40
- Cumulative Global Production of Cub Series Motorcycles Reaches 60 Million Units (press release), Honda, May 2008, archived from the original on 2016-03-03, retrieved 2010-10-31
- Squatriglia, Chuck (23 May 2008), "Honda Sells Its 60 Millionth – Yes, Millionth – Super Cub", Wired, retrieved 2010-10-31
- www.flying-pigeon.eu History – Flying Pigeon Bicicle Co., Ltd. - Retrieved 2013-04-29
- Flying Pigeon bicycle old photos, money.163.com Retrieved 2014-01-19
- A Phoenix Named Flying Pigeon, September 20, 2004, Bloomberg
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- Official website Chinese and English.