Steel ‘Steed’ with Wooden Tires
From the collection of the Dutch National Military Museum
h 120 cm (bicycle)
ø 75 cm (wheel)
In the period 1940-1945, very few people actually owned a car so bicycles were a major means of transport. Because imports of rubber were discontinued during the war, bicycle tires were quickly scarce. But this made people inventive: when certain products were unavailable during the war, people came up with substitutes.
In the autumn of 1941 an official contest was even held to find an alternative for rubber bicycle tires. Wood seemed to be one of the most suitable replacements. But how could you make a plank of wood into a tire? It was difficult to manufacture substitute tires that did not result in bumpy, jarring rides. All over the Netherlands tradesman struggled to come up with something that would work. Two thousand contestants submitted a solution to the problem, such as bicycle tires made from a combination of wood and reused car tires. Several varieties of improvised bicycle tires eventually became available.