In Belgium carabinier cyclist companies had been created in 1898, and had been combined into one battalion just before the German invasion. When war broke out they served in the cavalry divisions, benefiting from better mobility than the infantry.
Images of Belgian carabiniers are a popular choice for books and websites because they wore a Corsican-style hat that looked and was archaic by 1914, but alone of the carabiniers the cyclist companies wore an undress cap with a very large detachable peak and a steeply tapered crown looking something like a French kepi and known as the chapki. That is what these figures are wearing, although we thought neither cap nor peak were particularly well done compared to photographs of the real thing. The rest of the uniform consists of the M1913 single-breasted tunic with standing collar, breeches and boots or leather gaiters, all of which are accurate. However faced with the emergency of German forces occupying most of their country, neutral Belgium was particularly ill-prepared for war and uniform standards quickly deteriorated such that a vast array of clothing was quickly seen on all troops. Some order was restored in 1915 when the much simplified 'Yser' uniform was adopted, followed by the hugely better khaki uniform, so these figures are only really appropriate for the very early months of the war, although that is when they saw much of their action.
Carabiniers had standard infantry kit and weapons, but these lightly equipped men only have the standard front central ammunition pouch, haversack and canteen. Three have a rifle slung across their back while the fourth appears to have a machine gun on his (should be a Hotchkiss although definition is poor). The cycles themselves could be folded and carried on the back, but those here look reasonable although they all have the chain on the left, which is incorrect.
As is usual these days the figures are made in quite a soft plastic which presents a challenge as there is a fair amount of assembly here. In particular several arms need to be glued on and attached to the handle bars, which is a tricky operation. The drawings on the back of the box include an array of pointless numbers - presumably a forgotten element of the design process - but the actual sprue numbers all the parts one to four so it is easy to see what goes with what. There is very little flash and the detail is fair if not always particularly sharp. The poses are all of men on the move, so very little scope for variety there, but all of them are fine. Some figures of troops in action would have been nice, but perhaps that will be another set.
While sets of soldiers on bicycles don't generate much excitement you would have to say that this set delivers what it promises. There are some minor accuracy issues and it is no easy job to put everything together and keep it so, but the poses are natural and the sculpting OK. As the first ever set of World War Belgians this introduces an army that fought some tough battles and saw action throughout the war, so while it is a rather pedestrian (pun intended) introduction it has its place in the fast-moving opening moves of what would soon become a very static and un-mobile conflict.