Gallery: David’s Monark Balloon Tire Bike

This is my Monark Balloon Tire bike made in the former Kroon bicycle factory in Vansbro, Sweden. It was the military version of this bike (and not the similar Kronan bicycle) that was used by the Swedish Army to fight off the ferocious Dutch Bicycle Army. It is a very robust bicycle and the front rack can carry a 40 liter canister of flamethrower fuel should you choose to use your flamethrower in urban traffic situations, cycling to work and so on.

Forget about the pansy-assed weight limits on your flimsy aluminum pannier rack. The rear rack on the Monark is made of 1″ flatbar steel and has a capacity of 200 kilograms (probably, I suppose). Should you choose to carry another 200 kilos on the front rack there is a steering damper spring so you will still be able to weave in and out of traffic with one hand and have your other hand on your coffee mug (or ready on the flamethrower trigger). The nice thing about the front rack on this bike is that it is attached to the headtube instead of the fork so you can carry really long objects, like 8 foot long 2 x 4’s (longitudinally) and the front rack will not turn when you turn corners.

The Monark has the most awesome steel kickstand ever made (see photo). It will never break or fall over. It’s really handy when loading up the bike with 6 months worth of groceries, livestock, bales of hay or bags of cement. The basket is the really large Wald basket with the mounting hardware removed. I ziptied it to the rack with about 80 zipties and I ziptied some yellow Ensolite foam sleeping pad to the bottom of the inside of the basket to keep stuff from bouncing around too much. I keep a couple of bungee cords on the basket to hold stuff down. For grocery shopping the basket is far superior to any pannier. The back of the rack has two pieces of flexible marine water hose ziptied on to carry a kayak paddle. I have had at least 100 people ask me what those things are for so I put half a paddle in one for the photo to demonstrate.

The basket is handy for carrying the 55 lbs of chains and locks I use to slow down the swarms of rabid bike thieves in Vancouver, which is the undisputed property crime capital of the world.

Judging from the gearing that came with the bike (a three speed) the Swedish army is definitely on steroids and they probably do not need to carry any weapons other than their disproportionately large pumped-up steroid legs. The gearing was so high that Lance Armstrong himself could not have propelled this bike from a standing start. I switched out the ridiculously large 46 tooth crankset for a 36 tooth one which unfortunately did not clear the lovely steel chainguard that came with the bike so I had to remove the chainguard and wear pant clips.

This is not the first Scandinavian bike I have had that was geared too high. It may not matter when cycling in the Dutch Alps but in hilly places it’s quite important to have low gears on this type of bike because this type of bike is very heavy. There’s lots of heavy-duty steel on it. Even the rims and mudguards are steel.

I got the bike from Rain City Bikes in Vancouver, British Columbia. You can see the Rain City shop in the photos. Rain City specializes in Dutch bikes, workbikes, English roadsters and bakfiets . Dutch bikes like the Azor Oma are very popular in Vancouver and people use them as fashion accessories. The Monark Balloon Tire bike is also available in a step-through frame which I would recommend. It is a very attractive bike and the step-through (ie girls) frame makes it much easier to get on and off whether you are a man or a woman. It’s not called a Balloon Tire bike for nothing. Those are 584-54 Nokian Balloon tires on that bike in the photos and they really help raise the top tube to toe-catching height.

—David Cambon, Vancouver, BC

9 Responses to “Gallery: David’s Monark Balloon Tire Bike”

  • Greg says:

    That’s… an amazing bike there. The question is, do you need tho 200 kilo hauling capacity? That’s humongous! You could fit one or two Americans, or three to four Canadians.

  • Roland Smith says:

    > the front rack can carry a 40 liter canister of flamethrower fuel
    > should you choose to use your flamethrower in urban traffic
    > situations

    Why go for half-assed solutions? Strap a carl gustav to the horizontal tube, and car drivers will think twice about not giving you right of way ;-)

    The bike look absolutely bomb-proof.

    It’s strange that the racks are only rated for 35/45 kg (front/back, according to the manufacturers website). In the Netherlands it’s not uncommon to carry another person on the rear rack. That’d be in the 60-80 kg range. I guess that the wheels would fail long before the rack does?

    BTW, does anyone know what the maximum allowable load on a typical bicycle wheel is? I’m having trouble finding data on that.

  • Roland Smith says:

    BTW, the stickers are rad! :-)

  • Croupier says:


  • David Cambon says:

    “BTW, does anyone know what the maximum allowable load on a typical bicycle wheel is? I’m having trouble finding data on that.”

    Roland, there is no hard and fast data on wheel loads. Basically the more weight you carry, the shorter the life of the wheel. Eventually spokes will start breaking. For example, well-built fully loaded lightweight tandem wheels (eg Mavic 719 rims and Phil Wood hubs with DT or Wheelsmith swaged spokes) can carry 125 kilos each for ten to twenty thousand kilometers without breaking spokes.

    Workbikes and some of the Dutch roadsters use very heavy chromed steel rims that can take a lot of abuse. They also tend to use abnormally heavy-gauge spokes which can make the wheel last a long time under heavy loads (depending on the quality of build and the quality of spokes).

    The weight limits you see advertised on some of these bikes are to prevent litigation in the United States. Handling deteriorates as you add weight to any bike, especially if you are a skinny human. So the wheels might handle a 200 kilogram load with no problem but the 80 kilogram person riding the bike is probably going to get into some type of handling problem.

    The other thing to consider if you carry 200 kilos of beer and chocolate chip cookies on your racks is that there are going to be very large stresses on the wheel if you brake on steep hills (due to the hub brakes). Frequent high braking stress will shorten the life of a wheel with disc or hub brakes.

    Usually for loads over 50 kilos I use a trailer although I have carried some crazy heavy stuff on workbikes but I would not recommend it.

  • Roland Smith says:


    After some thought I realized that a bike wheel is probably not prone to catastrophical failure, because you’ll start breaking spokes long before that happens. I was wondering because my brother-in-law kept breaking spokes on his no-name hybrid. Maybe the spokes were overtensioned, or the spokes were sub-par.

    Do you perchance know the safety factor used in sizing wheels? Normal engineering practice is to dimension a part to hold three times the design load for a static load. (that’s a safety factor of three. But in aerospace 1,5 is common while heavy engineering can use a factor 10) Since wheels are of course loaded dynamically, I suspect the safety factor might even be larger.

  • David Cambon says:

    “Normal engineering practice is to dimension a part to hold three times the design load for a static load.”

    A properly built wheel with quality parts can hold a lot more than three times the design load in a static test. The problem is that almost all wheels on production bikes are made entirely or almost entirely by wheelbuilding machines and that’s why they tend to fall apart. Bike manufacturers design to a price point rather than a failure point because they know that bikes at certain price points will never be ridden far enough to cause a failure of even the most shoddy wheel. Most cheap bikes designed by marketing types are not ridden over 100 miles in their entire life cycle.

    A handbuilt wheel with good parts costs more than the full cost of most of the bikes people buy.

    Dynamic loads on bicycle wheels can be very large and manufacturers of cheap production bikes tend to mitigate high dynamic loading by specifying large low-pressure tires based on the usually correct presumption that the fluffy tire will prevent the destruction of their crappy wheel.

    Bicycle wheels, of course, are only designed for loading in one plane and customers unaware of this limitation may unwittingly submit bike wheels to side loads that pretzel the wheel or shorten it’s life drastically (usual causes – bad landings on mountain bikes and curb hopping). Hard landing one of those cheap department store objects resembling a mountain bike can result in the complete failure of the front wheel. Fortunately most customers cannot get those crappy department store bikes to go fast enough for big air.

    I’m not sure what your question is about wheel sizing but I can tell you that small wheels can be as strong and stronger than big wheels. That’s why you can use 20″ front wheels on tandem recumbents and heavily loaded trailers.

  • raincityblog » Blog Archive » Customer’s Bike: Monark says:

    […] David Cambon put up a great review of the Monark he bought from us. You can check the rest out here. […]

  • Emitt D. Dixon says:

    These are beautiful pictures especially the one with the paddle.

© 2011 EcoVelo™