My only experience with the Flying Pigeon brand of Chinese bicycles occurred during Interbike a few years ago.
Every year, a Chinese trade group buys booth space at Interbike, and I was delighted to see Flying Pigeon occupying a brightly lit corner area. The three reps spoke no English but seemed enthusiastic as I entered the booth. That enthusiasm changed, however, as soon as I whipped my camera up. Politely, but very assertively, they told me “NO PHOTO!” as they stood up to block my view of their rather unremarkable bikes.
Flying Pigeon is, of course, the official bike brand of the Chinese Communist Revolution. In 1949, Communist Party Vice Chairman Liu Shaoqi visited an old bicycle factory in Tianjin and decreed the design and manufacture of strong, durable, light and beautiful bicycles for Chinese workers.
The name and logo is a wonderful example of doublespeak. In 1949, Chairman Mao endorsed North Korea “Great Leader” Kim il-Sung’s planned invasion of South Korea, hoping a Korean War would divert Western resources away from his own ambitions to bring Taiwan into the PRC fold through military conquest. The dove (or pigeon) was chosen for China’s national bike brand, however, as an expression of hope for peace amidst military tensions on the Korea peninsula.
Since then, Flying Pigeon transformed China into zixingche wang guo, the Kingdom of Bicycles. Other bike brands have overtaken Flying Pigeon, but names like “Phoenix” and “Forever” don’t capture my American imagination quite like Flying Pigeon does. My Chinese friends express surprise at my fascination with this bike which, to them, represents the dark days of the Cultural Revolution and privation. “Get a Phoenix” they tell me, “it’s much better bike.”
Some Americans have imported the old, black PA-2 in small numbers. Flying Pigeon in Los Angeles continues to sell a few ($260 for a complete bike — unassembled — with free shipping), although they’ve branched out to other, more modern bikes. You can also buy one from Flying Pigeon NYC for $350.
More recently, a Canadian team worked to sexify Flying Pigeon’s image and began selling these Chinese classics last week in Vancouver for $460. Even an old design looks great when you add a cute young woman in a short chemise to the marketing, such as in this below video.
This Vancouver operation starts with the basic black PA-2 and upgraded the saddle, handlebars, tires, pedals, brakes and fenders. Unlike the other importers, this Vancouver edition replaces the bike’s obsolete rod brakes with cable brakes.
Want more? Visit Flying Pigeon in Vancouver, BC.