Here at The Folding Bike Guy, we receive a lot of photos of folding bikes from owners asking us to help identify their maker since, in many cases, it needs to be made apparent. Most of the time, we can help with identification, but often their provenance could be more precise.
Klapprad 1970 Foldable Bicycles
Quite a few mystery bikes are of West German origin from the 1970s.
So to help clear up some of these mysteries, this page, entitled “Klapprad” (the German word for a folding bike), will help decode some of these enigmatic 1970 foldable bicycles. They are mysterious because they all carry brand names that don’t reflect who made them.
Typically they were produced and sold under an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or private label business model.
German Folding Bike Brands History
In general, West German folding bike brands from the ’70s that don’t carry the name of a known bicycle manufacturer are from department stores, mail-order, or similar retail channel brands.
While many bear decals with fancy-sounding names, they were relatively inexpensive mass-produced bicycles. Adding to owner’s confusion about the origin of their bike is that the manufacturers would often use branded parts such as:
- Lights from Union
- Gearing from Sachs, or
- Frame parts from Pletscher (a Swiss company) give the impression that they may have been the primary manufacturer.
Take “Mars” folding bikes, for instance.
Many owners assume that the bike they have was made by Mars-Werke in Nuremberg, the venerable German bicycle, moped, and motorcycle maker.
The problem is that Mars-Werke declared bankruptcy in 1958.
The company’s assets were bought by Gritzner Kayser, a sewing machine company, who did carry on the manufacture of Mars mopeds for a while but didn’t carry on with the bicycle business.
Quelle, a German department store and mail-order company, ultimately obtained the trademark rights to “Mars” for bicycles and contracted with bicycle manufacturers such as Kynast and Schauff to make them.
Kaufhof, one of Germany’s largest department stores, was a big-selling folding bike seller in the 1970s.
They used a myriad of brand names on the bicycles they sold.
Neckermann, a German mail-order company, sold folding bikes as well. While many of their bikes carried the “Neckermann” name, they also sold folding bikes under various brand names.
It is difficult to give a one-to-one mapping between a brand name and manufacturer since the department store and mail-order companies would put out for bid to the bicycle manufacturers the opportunity to manufacture their bikes each year.
So a particular folding bike with the same brand name might have been made by a different manufacturer depending on the year.
The largest West German OEM folding bike manufacturer was Kynast.
Some of the other vintage German folding bike brands were:
- Jobafa (Josef Bachtenkirch Fahrräder)
- Heidemann Werke Einbeck
- Schauff, and
Some of the brand names used were Alpina, Bobby, Condor, Elite, Escorte, Europa, Excellent, Fantom, F.E.M. Brillant, Göricke, Jaguar, Kosmos, Lambertus Flying Dutchman, Radiant, Rekord, Record, Regent, Standard, Sport 80 Luxus, Super Luxus, Triumph, and Victoria.
This list is not exhaustive, and if any readers know of others that should be added to the list, please get in touch with us. Also, if you have a perfect photo of one of these folding bikes in excellent condition, please send it to us.
Some of these bikes were imported to North America by Kent, a bicycle wholesaler, and distributor, and sold in department stores such as Sears and Canadian Tire.
They will have a “Kent” decal on the seat tube and a head badge bearing the retailer’s name.
Others ended up in the U.S. by tourists or American service members returning from West Germany and bringing them back as souvenirs.
Several of these bikes had a “chopper” style meant to mimic a motorcycle and often featured imitation suspension springs on the front, back, or both.
“Bonanza” was a brand name used on a particular chopper-style bike made by Kynast and sold by Neckermann.
The design was copied by other manufacturers, and eventually, the German term “Bonanzarad” was coined as a generic reference to connote this bicycle style.
The chopper style was started by American bicycle maker Schwinn with the introduction of the Stingray in the 1960s.
The term “high-riser” was also used in Germany for bikes, typically non-folding, that featured the Stingray style with a banana seat and high “sissy” bar.
Vintage German Folding Bike Brands
Below you will find some examples of the vintage German folding bikes mentioned above and various brands, starting with the “Bonanazrad” or chopper style.
“Radiant” with “Excellent” decal on the seat tube and “Super 80 Sport” on the head badge:
Alpina folding bike with “Kent” on the seat tube and Canadian Tire on the head badge:
Super Luxus folding bike with imitation front shocks: