Shanghai Forever is another one of the "Famous Four" Chinese brands, and currently the most successful. The company was founded in 1940, and was listed on the Shanghai stock exchange in 1993. They were taken over in 2001 and now manufacture all types of leisure products including mahjong tables, but of course it is the bikes we were interested in. As the name "Forever" might suggest, the bikes are intended to last a long time indeed. I was once told that there was a saying in the old Communist days:
"If you have a baby boy, get a Forever, because he will be with the family always, but if you have a baby girl, get a Flying Pigeon because she will eventually fly away."
How do you recognize a Forever? All the Chinese bikes will interchange parts, so what makes a Forever special? First, let's look at the logo. Sure...you probably don't read Chinese, so this is no help for you. Just look at the bike on the right The top character that looks like a small bicycle in red, is actually a stylized "Infinity" symbol. Infinity of course for Forever.
You can see this a much better on the head badge. You'll note the old headbadge pictured on the right has a star in the logo and no name. But the star is absent from the new badges on the left and "Yongjiu", or the phonetic spelling of Forever in Mandarin is noted instead.
The picture on the left above also shows the 3 types of Forever fender.
The bike on the left has a deep bell shape. This is a 28" wheel. I have only seen this fender on the oldest Flying Pigeons and never on a European bike. In my mind it is the most elegant shape.
The bike in the middle has a plain domed fender that is only seen on with 28" wheels.
The bike on the right is a 26" wheel and has a fender that pinches in the middle and comes to a tip at the front which is covered with a chrome bullet. In a flash this looks like older Raleigh designed fenders, but it is not. The pinch is much narrower and simpler than the complex multi fold on a Raleigh.
Occasionally...like almost never, you sometimes see a Forever with a 1950-esq rocket as a fender ornament.
Sometimes Forevers also have a knurling on the seat post which the other brands lack. Also the chaincase typically says "Forever" or "Yongjiu". Like wise the front down post has two variants which say the same.
The cranks also should say "Yongjiu" inset into the metal.
Additionally, on the top tube, it says "Made in Shanghai" as opposed to the Flying Pigeon which says "Made in China".
Finally There are three types of commonly seen rear reflectors. There is the "Half Moon Window" which rather looks like a traditional Chinese window for the 28" bikes. There is an elongated tombstone style reflector typically seen on the 26" bikes, and there is also an old style reflector as seen below.
The fenders also attach differently than on say, a Flying Pigeon. As you can see from the photos above the rear fender stays go directly through the fender. On a Flying pigeon the rear fender attachment is indirect through a bracket which attaches to the rear of the reflector. On a 26" Flying Pigeon, it is also indirect on the front fender using a similar bracket, while the 26" Forever front fender stays go right through the fender.
Also, the top of the rear fender attaches directly to the seat stay cross brace. This is the same on 28" and 26" roadsters. There is no D bracket. On a flying Pigeon, while this arrangement holds true on 28" bikes, on 26" bikes a D-racket s used. The upshot of this is that no Forever roadster frame can mount caliper brakes without drilling, and 26" bikes cannot interchange fenders with a Flying Pigeon. This is a rare case of non-interchangeability among the "Famous Four" bikes
Finally, if your bike has been buried in a sand dune for 50 years and has no other recognizable features, just look at the lugs. To my knowledge, all of the Famous Four use slightly different lugs. For example the lugs on this 28" Forever headstock have a deep cup in the front rising to a flat on the sides.
The lugs on a 28" Flying Pigeon,seen on the right, by comparison, rise in a continuous curve from front to back with not flattened section on the side.
On 26" Bikes the lug difference is more pronounced. Again, below you can see Forever on the left, Flying Pigeon on the right. The Forever seems to use the same lug on the 26" as on the 28" frame, where as the FP uses a distinctly more curvaceous lug on the 26".
I won't say that the distinguishing by lugs is a very cut and dry business...it isn't. on some models, presumably for export, the lugs are quite a bit more ornate than those seen above.
So while on the surface a Forever may look similar to other Chinese bikes, the real telling is in the details.