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Yesterday I got my hands on an old soviet city bike "Ukraine". It was produced in Kharkov velo factory, 1987. I could not help but notice that the bike frame has different geometry compared to my Peugeot city bike from around the same time frame. As you can see on the imagephoto there is a noticable difference in the frame geometry, adding up to about 10-15cm more to the length of the soviet bike. I have also noticed that other bikes from Soviet era also have wider frames, e.g. Diamant bikes that were produced in East Germany.

So, my question is, were bikes in the past indeed "longer" and why was this the case? How has city bikes geometry changed over the years? Do they still produce bikes with "old-style" geometry?

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  • 1
    Which one do you find more comfortable to ride, yourself? Its hard to do a direct comparison because I can see the headtube angle is different, and all these variables are interrelated.
    – Criggie
    Sep 19, 2022 at 21:15
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    The Peugeot bike is definitely more comfortable and weighs around 2 kilograms less. I also find it easier to make sharp turns with it. Moreover, it has speeds, while the Ukraine bike is single speed and has coaster brake. I do find the Ukraine bike more stable on bad roads though. It also puts you higher up the ground compared to other bikes i have tried, which i do not find ideal.
    – Badan
    Sep 19, 2022 at 21:41
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    I there's one thing that Soviet Union wasn't known for, it was making desirable consumer products. Bad roads were certainly a thing.
    – ojs
    Sep 20, 2022 at 7:25
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    The Ukrainebikes were well known for being combersome even in the western part of the Eastern bloc. But sometimes better bikes just were not available. Or actually, it was very often the case, the best bikes were only for racers or exported to the west. Sep 20, 2022 at 9:26
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    This is an apples to oranges comparison. We are comparing wheelbase between one French touring bike and a Soviet utility bike. Neither of these bikes represent all of the kinds of bikes made in either country.
    – David D
    Sep 20, 2022 at 13:29

3 Answers 3

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A soviet bicycle is designed to carry very heavy loads on the rear (like two large containers of milk one each side). Hence the rear wheel and the pannier are moved backwards, giving more weight of the rider to the front wheel. One of the usual uses were riding them for milking cows in the pasture. A cow produces somewhat 25 liters per day and it may be more than one. It is also useful to have more clearance from the driver for fixing load on the top.

Here is not a soviet bicycle but the picture explains how a bicycle is used in the village (image credit):

enter image description here

You clearly see the need for both clearance and load tolerance.

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  • The question that remains is why the old roadster design is still popular in Africa and India and the cargo bikes used in developed countries have evolved to different direction.
    – ojs
    Sep 20, 2022 at 10:19
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    It is quite common to have a road just wide enough for a human to walk or a single board across the creek. You have no problems with two wheels on such roads, but a tricycle is not usable. The cyclist is usually quite skilled.
    – nightrider
    Sep 20, 2022 at 11:12
  • Two-wheeled cargo bikes exist too. And there are even in-between things like the relevantly named Kona AfricaBike.
    – ojs
    Sep 20, 2022 at 11:21
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The Ukraine bike looks like a copy of older British roadster bikes, only in more 80s-appropriate colors. It could be speculated that the longer frame and sprung saddle were more comfortable on bad roads than a shorter frame with steeper angles would be. Note that the saddle is pushed forward so that the actual riding position isn't that different from modern bikes.

This style is still manufactured in India and China, often in black and sometimes with rod brakes. See Wikipedia for roadster bicycles

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You probably have В-130 «Украина» ("Украина" В-130, 1976 г) Its longer then В-110 Why its longer? It makes it more stable on bumpy country roads, where they are used. You can call it gravel if you want to, but it's more like an everyday commuting bike for every one. It’s not made light or extra comfortable, just cheap and reliable. It doesn't break because it didn't work correctly from the start. You need fix it to ride it. But that's how you understand it.

enter image description here

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    I think the exact model is 111-421 vplate.ru/velosiped/brendy/ukraina Here, it is said that the last soviet model 111-431 was made with a shorter frame compared to the older models.
    – Badan
    Sep 20, 2022 at 16:15
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    Great to have original documentation. Do you have a source? Sep 21, 2022 at 10:12
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    +1 for this dimensional drawing. Great find!
    – newroadie
    Sep 21, 2022 at 21:25

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