The existence of the Five Rams Sliding Bicycle is unknown to most vintage bicycle collectors. There’s a tendency among many collectors to only favour the same as everyone else, what I call ‘fashionable’ bikes. Others, of course, with justification, only collect bikes they can ride. Nevertheless, there is, fortunately, a sub-culture of collectors of the obscure, unloved and completely kitsch: the XQ51 Sliding Bicycle would win every prize in this category.
This QX51 is a unique bicycle style: rather than folding, the frame slides to make it more compact. You can also raise or lower the handlebars and seat post. This is an entirely practical bicycle. Whereas the cycle industry in the West at this time preferred kids to buy a new bike when they outgrew their old one, the XQ51 lasted many more years by expanding to make a larger machine.
But practicality is not the point. What I enjoy here is ‘communist kitsch,’ the fifties styling that can still be seen in many countries of the world. One of the joys of travelling is to see our own culture reflected back at us, often in a slightly different form. The Five rams QX51 typifies this experience, combining elements of various earlier British bicycles, plus a dollop of practicality, lots of transfers (decals) …and, to cap it all, a headbadge that looks, from a distance, like a Raleigh.
1974 Five Rams (Wu Yang) XQ51 Sliding Bicycle
FIVE RAMS EXTENDED
For a time I had two of these Five Rams bicycles (Ten Rams?). To illustrate the effect of the sliding mechanism, I did a comparison with one compacted and the other expanded.
WU YANG (FIVE RAMS), GUANGDONG, CHINA
‘Five Rams’ is the largest cycle company in Guangdong (which used to be known as Canton, and is situated next to Hong Kong). Its factory is in Guangzhou, capital of the province. The company’s Chinese name is ‘Wu Yang.’ The Five Rams name refers to the famous statue in the centre of Guangzhou, part of the story of the city’s founding in the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC – 771 BC).