British Territorial Army soldiers are using mountain bikes for patrols during their six-month deployment to the United Nations buffer zone in Cyprus.
UN troops have been keeping the peace on the Mediterranean island for 34 years, in the longest running operation of its kind in the world, but they have only recently started to use bicycles.
Known as the Green Line, the zone is a demilitarised area dividing the island, with Greek Cypriots in the south and the Turkish in the north.
A TA unit, 32 Signal Regiment Group, is now responsible for manning the British sector. Its second-in-command, Major Andrew Thompson, is the managing director of the Mountain Bike Trax shop in Aberdeen in civilian life.
He said: “Bikes are ideal [for patrols]. They are quiet and less confrontational, unlike soldiers in vehicles. Also, you can often pick up on things better than when you are enclosed, and they cover the ground more quickly than foot patrols. We have a qualified cycle mechanic with us, so the bikes are maintained in a safe and roadworthy condition.”
Apart from the bullet-marked buildings, rusting oil drum road blocks and abandoned cars from the 1970s, the troops say the area is excellent for mountain biking.
Andrew thompson 1 centre – leads a bike patrol through the buffer zone.: andrew thompson 1 centre – leads a bike patrol through the buffer zone. British Army
Major Andrew Thompson, centre, leads a bike patrol through the buffer zone