Despite the fact that today industry and technology are developing by leaps and bounds and most of the modern achievements are available to everyone – in every sphere there are connoisseurs of rare things from the past. Some collect old cameras, some collect vinyl records all over the world, and some hunt for retro bicycles.
Surprisingly, in today’s variety of mountain hardtails and two-pods, stylish city bikes and dynamic road bikes, there are rare models from the past. Moreover, there are people who still ride Soviet bikes with great pleasure. And not because they can’t buy a new bike – they value a good old Sputnik bike more than a branded Land Rover or Audi. So today we are going to look into the past and find out what are the good bikes of Soviet times and why some cyclists are in no hurry to switch to modern models.
Nuances of Sputnik bicycles
They are attractive not only for collectors and fans of the Soviet era. Sputnik bicycles are still on the move and are able to cover significant distances, which means that for connoisseurs of classics they are of very serious interest. Moreover, if you look for it, you can easily find a couple of communities whose members have a great reverence for old bikes. Such cyclists are in close contact with each other, sharing tips on bike repair and maintenance as well as passing along valuable parts and components for custom models.
The USSR era Sputnik bike is not a bad base for garage conversions. After all, the technical equipment of the bike, despite the huge number of years lived, remains in quite usable condition. And there is nothing surprising in this, since the Soviet Union is a special era, when things were created for the ages. Therefore, “satellites” often become the basis for the creation of a custom model.
“Sputniks” were produced by the Kharkov Bicycle Plant (KHVZ). The enterprise was founded in the mid-1920s. In just a couple of years, KhVZ reached a leading position in the country by setting up production:
- children’s 3-wheeled bicycles;
- track models;
- road bikes;
- bikes for teenagers;
- models for professional athletes.
If we talk specifically about Sputnik bicycles, their main fans are ordinary people who lead an active lifestyle. In fact, this is a tourist model, characterized by a soft saddle and a fairly solid frame. Of course, the creators have worked well on the quality of assembly, providing all the “satellites” quality components.
A series of bikes with a typically Soviet name “Sputnik” was produced in the 60’s – 80’s of the last century. The line was represented by 6 models of touring bicycles. Nowadays, KHVZ continues to exist, but it works under a different name – “VODAN”. Despite the fact that the plant has long safely survived the collapse of the USSR, and today is in a fairly good position, the satellites did not go to capitalism, and remained an echo of the Soviet era.
History of the model lineup
A series of Soviet Sputnik bikes were produced for 20 years. All modifications were aimed at adult cyclists, leading an active lifestyle. Chronologically the model range can be presented as follows:
- “Sputnik B-34” – the starting model. The bicycle was assembled throughout 1961-1964. The main features: hand brakes, sport handlebar, 3-speed transmission. The basic package included a bag with tools for repairs and a compact pump.
- “Sputnik B-37. The model was produced from 1964 to 1987. The designers modernized the bike, improving the brakes and the ergonomics of the saddle. The highlight of the bike is the installation of a ratchet on the rear hub. The package included a sport-type handlebar and contact pedals, which helped to increase the load and achieve better aerodynamics. Basic equipment included the same tool bag and pump for pumping up the wheels, a rarity bell, ratchet parts, and electrical equipment.
- “The Sputnik B-39. A model that KVZ produced from 1968 to 1973. The bicycle was virtually indistinguishable from its previous version. But experts could recognize the differences in a matter of seconds. So, the B-39 had steel or duralumin rims, more advanced shifters and reliable pedals, providing good grip with the foot. The frame, front fork and wheel shields were decorated with multicolored enamel and elegant stickers. Moreover, the metal elements of the structure were covered with a layer of chrome.
- “The Sputnik B-301. This is a brand new model, which, judging by official data, was designed for business trips, travels and walks. It was equipped with 4 gears transmission, soft saddle and pedals with tuklips. The bike was available in two versions: basic and extended. In the basic equipment the cyclist received the same bag with tools, stern reflector, bell, a small box on the trunk. But for an extra fee, CVZ also supplied the bike with a front rack, a rear view mirror, a dynamo, and a headlight. The B-301 was assembled on a closed frame with pincer-type hand brakes. The last batch of bicycles came out in 1975.
- Version 153-414. The bike was produced from 1975 to 1977. Many still consider this model a classic “tourist”. Rather hard saddle, pedals – “trampoline” and the rear hub, designed for 3 or 4 stars – it will not go far, but you can go on a tour of the nearby villages. Like the previous model, the “153-414” version has two equipment packages. Extended equipment differs only in the presence of grease reservoir.
- Version 153-424. The model was produced from 1978 to 1982 and was intended mainly for recreational cyclists. However, a little later, after the introduction of a rear rack, the bike became suitable equipment for travelers as well. The frame was made of thinner steel tubes, the saddle – of plastic, which eventually made it possible to significantly reduce the weight of the bike. The model was equipped with a transmission with 8 gears. Wheel size of the bike – 26 inches.
As you can see, the model range of “satellites” is not so small in terms of the era in which the production of the legendary bikes took place. Moreover, there are enthusiasts who still ride those very bikes. And, it should be said, the scope of use of “satellites” today is quite extensive.
Bicycle tuning “Sputnik” nowadays
Today, “satellites” are no longer produced, but thanks to the longing of the post-Soviet man for the past and his nostalgic impulses, quite a large number of iron horses has had the chance to have a second life.
Tuning of Soviet bicycles – a very common phenomenon these days. It is especially keenly felt on specialized forums, where enthusiasts who are engaged in the restoration and modernization of Soviet bicycles communicate. It should be noted that many users periodically praise the “satellite” frames, which after several decades remain as strong and durable – enough cosmetic repairs, and the frame for a new bike is ready.
Experimenters put on old satellites modern “horns” at flea markets looking for leather saddles or order products from hand-made craftsmen, trying to equip the bike “Shiman” awning and enthusiastically share with each other the results of their alterations. I must say, it’s quite a fascinating and, most importantly, effective. If in doubt, try to find the results of such experiments – you will be very surprised to see the traditional “satellites” in a new role. Despite the presence of modern components, the models retain the unique Soviet era and the spirit of the time.
Restoring such “dinosaurs” is a chance to prove to yourself that nothing is impossible. Try to take and put on the frame of an old bike modern mechanisms. It’s not that easy, gentlemen. You will have a long and meticulous search of spare parts at flea markets, scrambled on forums and bike dismantlers, and then carefully match the parts to each other. In general, bike restoration is a lot of fun.
Restored and rebuilt Sputnik bikes have found their own category of admirers. Bikes of such a plan are in great demand among professional photographers. Surely many of you have seen a couple of pictures with beautiful girls in the background of rural landscapes with vintage bike – so it is vintage models in vogue with photographers. Moreover, many ride these bikes every day. Despite the fact that today a huge range of bikes from America, Europe and even Australia is available to the Russian user, many continue to ride on the sports “nedoshosseynik” of Soviet times.
The era of the USSR left behind a rich heritage, which, as life shows, even today finds its admirers. Sputnik bicycles are a valuable collector’s item, which will become a vivid evidence of a huge layer in the history of retraveling bicycles. Sputnik bicycles are also an opportunity to show your talent, creativity and engineering skills, because there is no greater reason to be proud than A bicycle assembled with my own hands.