The Monark Super Frame "Five Bar"

By Shawn P. Sweeney

 

The Monark Battery Co. (later Monark Silver King Co.) started making bicycles in October 1934. These first Monarks were 24” aluminum bikes and it wasn’t until 1937 that they started making steel framed 26” bikes. The early steel framed bikes were double bar motorbike style similar to the Schwinn offerings of the period offered either with or without tank. In 1938 Monark started offering a Super “Five Bar” frame in two different configurations. One version is a tankless model with the bottom bar running parallel to the top bar and is similar to Cleveland Welding and H.P. Snyder which also built Five Bars except that the down tubes go under and cradle the crank hanger. Monark also referred to this as the “Streamlined” model. On the H.P. Snyder and Cleveland Welding bikes the down tubes come over the crank hanger. This paper will focus on the second version 1938-41 boys Five Bar tank models and the girls version, generally referred to as the Four Bar (with and without tank).

Models.

Starting with the 1938 model the primary model designation for the Monark badged Super Frames were M604 for the boys model and L601 for the girls. An “X” designator was used for spring fork equipped models e.g. M604X. The early ads refer to these models as Super “Five Bar” and Super “Four Bar” models. It appears that sometime in ’39 Monark dropped these designations and began referring to the line as “Super Frame” bicycles. In late 1939 two special Monark models were introduced. Model GT495 was a boys model with the pencil spring fork and dual three rib Delta front loader headlights. Model GT496 was a girls non-tank model with the rare finned horn-light. Spiegel (Airman) literature for 1938 depicts what is described as a “Champion” model Super Frame but it is unclear if the designation carried through in subsequent years. From what literature I have found the dual suspension Comet model was 6097. A 1940 Airman advertisement shows a girls loop tail non-tank, dual spring fork, and dual headlight model as 7872 and says Model 7873 is the same except with no spring fork and a single headlight. There are other varieties of both Monark and Airman bikes such as the girls Monark loop tail with tank and dual headlights but the model numbers are unknown to me at this time. The Super Frames continued into the ’41 model year essentially unchanged except for the tank graphics, rack, and seat. Reggie McNamara brand Monarks were also built during this time but I have never seen a McNamara branded Super Frame bike.

Frames.

I have recorded four different varieties of frames for the boys version and four different varieties of the girls frames. Both boys and girls frames have a 19” seat mast. All Super Frame bikes have built in drop stand ears and provision for a stand even though the later bikes were equipped with the ‘butterfly’ stand. Generally speaking it appears the early style frames (1938-9) had the self- clinching seat post and the serial number crudely stamped on the bottom of the left tube near the crank hanger. The later frame (late ’39?-40) has the built in seat binder and the serial numbers are small even numbers on the left rear dropout.

Boys Frames

The first three boys frame varieties are all very similar with only minor differences. The frame in Figure 1 has no built in seat binder because it used a self-clinching seat post. This frame also has the serial numbers rather crudely punched into the bottom tube.

Figure 1. Typical Five Bar Frame.
Figure 1-1. Seat tube-no binder.

 

Figure 1-2. Head tube of typical Five Bar Figure
Figure 1-3. Serial number location early frame

The frame in Figure 2 has a built in seat binder and the serial number is small even numbers on the left dropout.

Figure 2. With integral seat post binder
Figure 2-1. Small serial number on dropout

The frame pictured in Figure 3 is unusual due to the ‘collar’ on the top tubes. This seems to be a feature on all girls bikes but rare on the boy’s bikes.


Figure 3 ‘Collared’ boys frame.

The frame in Figure 4 is the very rare dual suspension frame. There are at least a couple of very well done conversions of this frame in the hobby. This model is depicted in literature as the Spiegel Airman Comet model.


Figure 4. Original dual suspension Five Bar (Airman)


Figure 4-1. Converted dual suspension Five Bar


Figure 4-2. Detail of rear suspension

 

Girls Frames

There are at least four different varieties of girls frames. The first type is a four bar frame with traditional seat and chainstays with the front tubes close together precluding the use of a tank and was used in both 1939 and 1940. This seems to be the predominant girls configuration (Figure 5) and I refer to this as ‘Type 1’. The bike in Figure 5 has the pencil springer and the serial # is stamped on the bottom of the frame. Similar to this frame is a version with the down tubes far enough apart to allow the use of a tank which I’ll refer to as ‘Type 2’. This style frame was offered both with and without a tank and was probably introduced as a 1940 model (Figure 5-1). The other two types of frames are rare ‘loop tail’ varieties both with and without tanks. All ‘loop tail’ bikes I have seen have the dual spring fork introduced in 1940.


Figure 5. Girls Type 1 Four Bar no tank frame (1939).


Figure 5-1. Type 2 style girls frame.


Figure 5-2. Loop tail frame.


Figure 5-3. Loop tail with tank.

Forks.

There are three different forks found on the Super Frame bikes. The first is a standard un-sprung triple plate truss rod fork used throughout the Super Frame run (Figure 6).


Figure 6. Standard Monark truss rod fork.

The most interesting is the spring fork often referred to as the ‘pencil’ springer. As shown in Figure 6-1. this fork has a rather fragile looking spring that is perpendicular to the fork. The rod on these is often found slightly bowed due to the stress placed on it. An unusual feature of this type fork is the truss rod arrangement which terminates at the crown of the fork. Another unusual aspect of this fork is that the fender moves with the sprung part of the fork rather than remaining stationary as on most spring fork arrangements. The dual suspension bike used the same type of spring set-up on the rear as shown above in the frame chapter. The rear suspension operates the same as the front with the fender moving on the sprung portion of the stays. This requires a special rear fender brace (see Figure 6-3). The third type of fork is the dual springer fork (Figure 6-2) introduced in 1940. This style fork was used by Monark until about 1952 at which time they switched to a knee action springer similar to the Schwinn spring fork.

 

Figure 6-1. ‘Pencil’ spring fork.
Figure 6-2. Dual spring fork.


Figure 6-3. Detail of rear suspension.

Unique to the Super Frame bikes is the shimmed fork cups (Figure 7). This was due to the oversized head tubes found on both boys and girls models. The shim consists of a sheet metal shim tack welded to the fork cup. The headset itself is standard size and the cups take a standard bearing set (Figure 8).


Figure7. Superframe factory modified fork cup.
Figure 8. Headset detail

Fenders.

Most Super Frames are found with a blunt tipped, shallow, gothic (peaked) 3 ½” fenders (Figures 9, 9-1, & 9-2). Early advertisements show similar fenders with a “duck bill” or flare on the front fender (Figure 9-3). The author has never seen a Super Frame (boys or girls) with the duck bill fender.

 

Figure 9. Rear fender.
Figure 9-1. Front fender.

 

Figure 9-2. Typical front fender
Figure 9-3. “Duck bill” fender

Fender Braces.

The Super Frames used a flat brace (Figure 9-4) on the early bikes and probably about late 1939 transitioned over to the round or ‘channel’ braces (Figure 9-5) as evidenced by the girls bike in Figure 5-1.

 

Figure 9-4. Rear fender brace detail (flat).
Figure 9-5. Rear fender brace (round).

 

Tanks/Horn.

The tank for the boys Super Frame (Figures 10 to 10-4) was used on other Monark models as well and features a welded in horn unit. For this reason the horn buttons on all Superframes are painted. The tank halves are secured to each other by a single screw and two straps on top hold it to the frame, while at the bottom, there are flat metal tabs that rest on the tube underneath the tank. It appears the holes were hand drilled on these tanks accounting for the irregular spacing seen on these (Fig 10-3). The design on the boys tank was changed for 1941 (Fig 10-1). The early girls frames had the down tubes close together which precluded the use of a tank. About 1940, the girls frame was redesigned to accommodate a tank (Figure 10-5) although it appears both style of girls frames to include a rare ‘loop tail’ version were produced concurrently.


Figure 10. Boy’s tank 1939-40 design.


Figure 10-1. Boys tank design 1941.


Figure 10-2. Boys tank showing straps and ‘feet’. *Note ‘feet’ and straps are painted main color.

 

Figure 10-3. Front of boys tank
Figure 10-4. Delta horn.

.


Figure 10-5. Girls tank.

Racks.

The predominant rack used with the Super Frames is the McCauley nine hole rack used on many pre-war bicycles in both lit and unlit versions, Figures 11 to 11-2. The rack in Figure 11-3 is on the girls ’40 loop tail shown in Figure 5-3. This is similar to racks used on Cleveland Welding Co. (Roadmaster) bicycles but is slightly different. This is an original paint bike and the rack color and patina match, so it is unlikely that this rack was added. The 1941 model seems to have used several racks including the earlier McCauley rack as well as the later four hole rack with and without skirt (Fig. 11-4). Another rack may also have been used which is also found on Elgin made Monarks (Fig. 11-5).


Figure 11. Standard McCauley unlit rack.


Figure 11-1. McCauley lit rack.

 

Figure 11-2. Detail of rack light.
Figure 11-3. Unusual rack.

 

Figure 11-4. 1941 flat, no skirt rack
Figure 11-5. Elgin style rack.

 

Chain Guards.

While the ‘38 literature shows pictures of a motorbike style guard that was used on the Wing Bar (Figure 12) the author has never seen this guard on an original Super Frame bike. The McCauley guard shown in Figure 12-1 is the guard typically found on Super Frames. It is also found on many pre-war bikes. While chrome versions of the guard are found on other makes of bikes it is always painted on the Super Frames. It should be noted that the so-called “pie crust” guard was never used on the boys or girls Super Frame bikes.

 

Fig 12. Guard shown in 1938 ads
. Figure 12-1. Superframe guard.

Handlebars.

A variety of handlebars were used on the Super Frame bikes. While somewhat rare today, the two-position bar shown in figures 13 and 13-1 was shown extensively in the Super Frame advertisements of the day. The two-position bar requires the use of the “can’t slip” stem due to the fact that the bar and crossbar are a uniform 7/8” diameter. The scout bar (Figure 13-2 & 13-3) was used exclusively on the girls bikes but was commonly used on boys bikes as well. The Scout bar measures 22” across. The steer horn bar (Figure 13-4) was also utilized on boys bikes. This bar measures 28” across. With the exception of the two-position bar the other bars are typical of those found on other makes and models of the period.

 

Figure13. Dual position bars.
Figure 13-1. Alternate mounting position.

Figure 13-2. Scout Bar front profile.

Figure 13-3. Scout Bar top profile.



Figure 13-4. Steer horn front.
Figure 13-5. Steer horn top.

Stems.

The “can’t slip” stem (Figures 14) is shown in the literature as used on both boys and girls bikes with all varieties of handlebars. The “can’t slip” stem is required to use the two-position handlebars. The author has not seen a girls bike equipped with this stem. It appears that a Wald #3 stem may also have been used on boys bikes particularly later (‘40-41) models. Besides the “can’t slip” stem the girls bikes also used the Torrington ‘deco’ stem (Figure 14-2) and a forged stem (Figure 14-3). It appears the deco stem may have been used in ’39 and the forged stem in ’40/41 on girls models.

 

Figure 14. “Can’t Slip” stem.
Figure 14-1. Wald #3 stem.


Figure 14-2. Torrington ‘deco’ stem.
Figure 14-3. Forged stem on girls bike (1940).

Grips.

All boys bikes used the typical black pre-war Monark big bump grips (Figure 15). The literature shows the girls models with these grips as well as ball end grips (Figure 15-1). The girls model may also have used a white grip (Figure 15-2) although this could be an aftermarket grip.

 

Figure 15. Typical pre-war Monark grip.
Figure 15-1. Girls ball end grip.

 


Figure 15-2. Girls white grip-possibly aftermarket.

Seats/binders/posts.

The seats used for both boys and girls bikes were Troxel models. The Troxel M1 with painted or chrome chassis was the predominant seat used for boys bikes (Figure 16). It appears that at least one other model (or variety of the M1) Troxel seat was used as well without the buttons (Figure 16-1) and a slightly different chassis. These seats seemed to have been used during the same time frame and may have been model dependent. A defining feature of the Troxel M1 is that there is an oil cloth material that covers the pan underneath the seat (Figure 16-2). The ’41 boys model uses a bell cupped seat (Fig. 16-6). The girls bikes also used at least a couple of different seats. The early type has long springs and a very Troxel like profile (Figure 16-3 & 16-4). The second type has bell cup springs and is more round (Figs 16-5). As shown in the frame section two types of seat posts were used. The earliest is a carryover from the aluminum bikes and is a self-clinching post that operates like a handle bar stem (Figure 16-7). This type of post used a collar (spacer) inside the seat tube. The later style frame has a built in seat binder which uses a standard straight seat post with no collar inside the seat tube.

 

Figure 16. Troxel M1 with buttons.
Figure 16-1. Troxel without buttons.

Figure 16-2. Detail of under carriage.
Figure 16-3. Long spring girls seat.

Figure 16-4. Top view of girls long spring seat.
Figure 16-5. Girls bell cup spring seat.

 

Figure 16-6. 1941 Troxel boys bell cup seat.
Figure 16-7. Self-clinching seat post.

Crank/Chainring/Pedals.

The crank and chainring used on all Super Frame bikes was the same for both boys and girls bikes. The crank is a dogleg crank common to many pre-war bikes. The chainring is a 52 tooth ½” pitch Wald unit used on most early Monarks. This chainring was also featured on Dayton branded Huffmans. Some top end Cleveland Welding Co. bikes used a chain ring of the same design but in ½” pitch. It appears some early bikes had the chainring that was drilled for the ‘pie crust’ chainguard (Figure 17) even though these guards were never used on the Superframes. Later chainrings did not have the holes (Figure 17-1). The pedals used on the boys bikes were the Torrington 8 and the Torrington 9 was used on the girls models (Figures 17-2 to 17-5).


Figure 17. Drilled chainring.


Figure 17-1. Typical chainring and dogleg crank.

Figure 17-2. Torrington 8 boys pedal.
Figure 17-3. Detail of Torrington 8 pedal.

Figure 17-4. Girls Torrington 9 pedal.
Figure 17-5. Detail of Torrington 9 pedal.

Stands.

Both the boys and girls model frames all had provisions for a drop stand with ‘ears’ built into the frames. It appears all of the early bikes all had traditional drop stands (Figure 18). Sometime in 1939 the switch was made to the so called ‘butterfly’ stand or as Monark referred to it the “retractable ” parking stand (Figure 18-1). It should be noted that the butterfly stand for the steel bikes was different than the butterfly stand used for the aluminum bikes. The primary difference is the way the stand attaches to the bike. The aluminum frame bikes have a tang off the frame (Figure 18-2). There is another butterfly stand that was used on the standard steel frame bikes that has a mount that is too narrow to fit the Super Frame bikes (Fig. 18-3). This stand is made of flat steel instead of the channel steel found on the other two types of stands.

Figure 18. Standard dropstand.

Figure 18-1. Superframe “Butterfly” park stand.

 

Figure 18-2. Wingbar park stand. Figure 18-3.
Regular steel frame stand.

Rims/Hubs/Tires.

All Super Frame bikes were equipped with Lobdell drop center rims and depending on model were either painted with a complimentary pinstripe or chrome plated (Figures 19 and 19-1). From existing original bikes it seems most bikes came with painted rims. The Super Frame bikes could be had with any New Departure (ND), Musselman, or Morrow coaster brake made but the most common is the ND Model D coaster brake (Figure 19-2). At least some of the Spiegel (Airman) bikes used a Musselman coaster brake with an Airman marked arm (Figure 19-3). A highly desirable set-up on the Super Frame bikes is the Musselman Olympic Racer hubs (Figures 19-4 and 19-5). While both a rear coaster and front high flange hub were made, most known original bikes are equipped with only the front hub. It appears from ads that all boys bikes and most girls bikes were equipped with whitewall tires. None of the ads indicate the maker of tires only that they are “double tube white wall Balloons”. U.S. Royal chain whitewalls (Fig. 19-6) have been found on original bikes.

 

Figure 19. Painted Lobdell rim.
Figure 19-1. Chrome Lobdell rim.

 

Figure 19-2. New Departure rear hub.
Figure 19-3. Airman (Musselman)rear hub.

 

Figure 19-4. Musselman Olympic Racer rear hub.
Figure 19-5. Musselman Olympic Racer front hub.


Figure 19-6. U.S. Royal Chain tire.

Lights.

The Super Frame bikes can be found with a variety of lights and a couple of different configurations. The most common is the front loading Delta (Figure 20). While not common the Delta Winner headlight was also used (Figure 20-1). The fairly rare Delta finned hornlight was also found on some models particularly the girls model GT 496 (1939) (Figure 20-2).


Figure 20. Front loading Delta Headlight


Figure 20-1


Figure 20-2. Finned Delta Hornlight.

The more exotic set-up though was the dual three-ribbed Delta front loaders found on some models (Figure 20-3). A dual headlight set-up is also shown (Figure 20-4) in the ad for the Airman Comet (dual suspension model). It is hard to tell from the ad for the Comet (artist’s rendering) whether these were Delta Silver Rays or Seiss headlights. No complete original Comets are known to exist to confirm whether any were actually produced with the twin headlight feature. Another indicator this configuration may have never existed is that there are no known tanks with a light switch which would confirm the dual headlight feature was produced.

 

Figure 20-3. Delta 3 Rib dual set-up.
Figure 20-4. Airman Comet dual set-up.

Badges.

The Super Frame bikes are found with three different head badges. The most common is the standard Monark Silver King badge (Figures 21 & 21-1). The Spiegel bikes are badged as Airman. The Airman badge is found in two different varieties. The earliest is a brass badge with a twin engine plane (Figures 21-2 & 21-3). The later badge is a triangular shaped aluminum badge (Figure 21-4). All badges used on the Super Frame bikes were trimmed to fit the collared head tube. The Monark badge is trimmed at the bottom. The early Airman badge is trimmed at both the top and bottom and the later Airman badge is trimmed at the bottom (the point of the triangle is cut off).

The head badge rivets are smooth on all Monark badges and the ’39 Airman badge but the ’40 Airman badge shown has oval slotted screws instead of smooth rivets. The Monark badges are made of aluminum and generally did not hold up well. The ’39 Airman badge is brass while the ’40 Airman badge is aluminum.

 

Figure 21. Regular badge 1938-41.
Figure 21-1. Trimmed badge.
Figure 21-2. Regular badge.

 

Figure 21-3. 1939 Airman badge.
Figure 21-4. 1940 Airman badge.

 

Colors and Patterns.

Except for the tank design on the 1941 boys bike the pattern found on the Super Frame bikes are the same. The headlights were sometimes painted the head tube color and others are found in white. The following is the published colors by year:

1938

Boys-black/white

Girls-black, blue, or red with white

1939-40

Boys-black, blue, or red with cream trim/cream with vermillion trim/maroon with black and gold trim other ads say black, blue, or red with white trim but show the bike in reverse color schemes as well.

Girls-red, blue, or black trimmed with white/blue or black with red trim/cream with red trim. These have also been found with reverse colors as well.

*There are two different shades of the blue. An Airman ad lists these as “blue” and “royal blue”.

1941

The literature for 1941 is scant and I couldn’t find any color listings specifically for the Super Frame bikes. It is likely many of the previous color combinations were available but 1941 saw the introduction of new color combinations as well e.g. two tone blue and green.

Acknowledgements.

“The Monark Book” by John L. Polizzi (revised July, 2012)

Brian Ingersoll-Finned Hornlight picture

John Atkinson-U.S. Royal Chain tire picture

CABE members who contributed to the original “Monark Five Bar Four Bar Superframe 5 Bar 4 bar Threadhttp://thecabe.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?31452-Monark-Five-Bar-Four-Bar-Superframe-5-Bar-4-bar-Thread

Nostalgic.Net-Dave Stromberger http://www.nostalgic.net/

While the Polizzi book was the main resource for this monograph many hours were spent scouring the internet for images and information on the Super Frame. The author also owns a few examples of this model from which information was derived. The author makes no claims or guarantees but strived for accuracy. Any comments, suggestions, or additional documentation would be greatly appreciated to further the knowledge of this unusual bike. Thanks, Shawn (Freqman1) Oldbikeguy1@hotmail.com

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