Swiss army to buy new bicycles — with gears

Forget the Swiss army knife, Swiss soldiers will soon be issued with the latest in two-wheel technology -- brand new bicycles to keep the men fit on mountain roads.

But this time, the bikes will come with eight gears instead of the single one that equips current models.

Some 2,800 of the Swiss-made bikes, at a cost of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,700) apiece, will soon be ordered to replace the 20-year-old current model, the NZZ Am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday.

The new bike, with an aluminium frame and disk brakes, weighs in at 15 kilos (33 pounds), 10 kilos less than the older models.

But the big improvement will come with the gears.

The Swiss army retained bicycle-mounted infantry troops until 2003, but the bicycles are now used only for exercise and to get around barracks.

The minister in charge of the armed forces, Ueli Maurer — who has been under criticism for buying Swedish Gripen fighters, considered by critics an aging technology — tested the new bicycle in person, the paper said.

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