Scale models of bicycles were very popular in earlier decades, with dozens of companies manufacturing them.
Today, they are much harder to find than scale models of cars and motorcycles, but some great miniatures are still for sale, new and second-hand: race bikes, city bikes, cargo cycles, tandems, and mountain bikes. An overview.
1. Miniature Racing Cyclists
From the 1930s to the 1980s, at least 30 companies sold scale models of racing cyclists. Many of these were inspired by the Tour de France, the most famous cycling race worldwide. The websites "Tour de France miniatures", "Cyclistes Miniatures" and "CyclingModel", all in French, show many pictures and an overview of the different brands.
Most often, cyclist and bicycle were indivisible and made of plastic or metal. Some brands produced plastic cyclists that could be detached from a metal bicycle. The scale was generally 1/32 or 1/43 and most miniatures measured about 5 cm long. The cyclists were often used as toys by kids who held races in the sand -- on the beach, in a sandbox, or on a nearby construction site. After a track was made in the sand, players threw marbles and placed their cyclists at the marble's stopping point. The miniatures were also used for a large variety of cycling board games.
After Cofalu stopped the production of most of its miniature cyclists in 2009, the only manufacturers that remain are Cabbe and Fonderie Roger. The latter started offering quality scale models of racing cyclists in the 1940s. The most popular scale model ("Cycliste D") is a plastic cyclist mounted on a metal bicycle. The five models (always the same bike but other figures) can be bought painted or unpainted, and the bicycles can be ordered separately.
The models from Fonderie Roger are sold by other companies, who paint them in a more detailed manner. For example, Miniature Cyclists offers separate models from 12 to 20 euro as well as series of up to 30 cyclists at prices of up to 300 euro. These series bring together cyclists from certain eras and races. Cyclists cannot be separated from their bikes (such as the Fonderie Roger "Cycliste R"). Janol Apin created some great pictures of Fonderie Roger's racing cyclists.
Cabbe sells plastic cyclists. Their handful of models is offered in a large variety, with different decals for almost every famous cycling race from the early 1900s until today. However, the quality is inferior to Fonderie Roger.
Cabbe does not have its own website, but their models can be found in the French Sportgoodies webshop, which also sells the Fonderie Roger miniatures and offers international delivery. Velocollection uses Cabbe miniatures to paint any desired cyclist. Lastly, Norev also has a few plastic racing cyclists.
2. Pre-built Scale Models
In 2006 and 2007, Spanish company Del Prado produced a series of 80 pre-built die cast bicycles in 1/43 scale. The models can be found on eBay for prices of around $20 to $30. There are many different types of bikes available, including choppers, cargo cycles, and tandems. The machines have movable parts. A full list of all 80 models (without pictures) can be found here.
Hong Kong firm Maisto produced a similar series of bicycles which is also discontinued: Tour de Maisto. It includes modern mountain bikes, city bikes, and racing bikes in 1/12 scale. Quite a few of them are bikes produced by car brands, such as Porsche and BMW. They are made of metal and have moving parts. Some Tour de Maisto models can be seen at the bottom of this page, and more can be found here and here. They show up on eBay for prices roughly similar to the Del Prado models.
Producers of doll house accessoiries also offer some great die cast bicycles in scales from 1/20 to 1/6. Online store Lilfishes has seven pages of miniature bicycles (1/2/3/4/5/6/7). There are race bikes, city bikes, mountain bikes, unicycles, tandems, children's bikes, 19th century cycles and quite a few cargo cycles. Several models have working pedals that make the rear wheel spin, and working brakes to stop it.
The Pedal ID Series is a collection of 1/9th scale fixie bikes, introduced in 2009 by the fixed gear collective Pedal Mafia and model specialist Yamato, both from Japan (via). The frame on each is composed from CrMo (chromium-molybdenum), completely identical to its life-sized cousins. In addition, the fully functional bike can be customized, with interchanging parts and accessories. The bikes seem to be unavailable now.
I found several miniature bicycles from unknown brands: three die-cast models in 1/10 scale; a racing bicycle model available in different colours with moving parts such as operating brakes; a model of a city bicycle; hipster bikes; a Schwinn model; a handpainted 1922 bicycle in 1/10 scale; a modern Pinarello race bike in 1/12 scale; and a die cast 1948 Roadmaster's Luxury Liner in 1/6 scale. Welly seems to have produced a few die cast scale models of mountain bikes, but few appear online.3. DIY Kits
During the 1970s, Italian company Protar (especially known for its model kits of motorcycles) introduced a series of famous racing bicycles in 1/9 scale. The frame and fork are in metal, and other parts are in plastic. See examples of the contents of the box here, here, here, here and here. A 1982 catalogue can be seen here (bikes at the end). The product line has been discontinued. Protar model bicycles sell on eBay for the price of a real-size vintage racing bicycle.
Building kits of bicycles are hard to find these days. Tamiya sells a 1/35 scale construction kit of two German bicycles from World War Two. It is not very attractive, but it can be upgraded with photo-etched detail parts (by Royal Model of Italy, Aber or Lion Roar). Diopark offers two DIY kits in 1/35 scale: an Asian classic bicycle and a British military bicycle. Each set includes parts for two complete bicycles. All DIY kits now on the market use only plastic parts.
4. Miniature Bicycles for Model Trains
A treasure cove for miniature bicycles is Preiser, a manufacturer of figurines for model trains. A few models are available in scale 1/160 (N-scale), but most come in scale 1/87 (HO-scale). Preiser offers different types of bicycles: city bikes and racing bikes, and vintage and modern machines. The models mostly come with figurines, but there is also a set of 20 painted racing bicycles (PR25086) and a set of four painted city bikes and one bicycle trailer (PR17161).
Racing cyclists are available in different positions and colours (PR25000-25009). There is also a set of 18 unpainted race bikes and cyclists (PR16340). Urban cyclists are available in different positions on several types of bicycles (PR10515, 10507, 12129, 10091, 10333, 10336, 10637, 12129). Some sets include a bike trailer or a cargo bike (PR10507, 17161, 28075). There are two sets in N-scale: PR79087 and 79089. The latest Preiser catalogue can be found here. Many models can be ordered through Amazon.
Looking for even smaller bike miniatures? Southwark Bridge Models offers three photo-etched cycles, two of which are delivery cycles. The models are available in 3 or 7 mm scale (which are both smaller than N-scale).
Kris De Decker (edited by Elizabeth Fritzler)
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