Pre-War Hercules?


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Oilit

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Dec 30, 2015
606
449
Concord NC
#1
I know Hercules bikes are hard to date to a specific year, but I believe this one is pre-war, just because the only other "Hercules Sports Model" I could find on here is definitely pre-war: https://thecabe.com/forum/threads/hercules-sports-model.96604/
Unfortunately, this one doesn't have the original wheels, they've been replaced at some point with 26 x 1.375 rims with U.S. Royal Touring tires marked "Fits American Hooked Edge Rims". Sheldon Brown says these were used on "Very Old U.S. Lightweights". The wheels in the pictures are the as-found front wheel with a Schwinn tire and a Schwinn rear just to get it rolling.
There's no marks to indicate this bike was ever a three speed, and looking at the Veteran-Cycle Club on-line library, there doesn't seem to be a specific "Hercules Sports Model" but rather a group, which makes me think these all used the same frame with different fittings according to the specific model, but I could be wrong. The head badge looks like some kind of translucent plastic sheet backed by metal foil as a reflector and a brass ring as a frame, does anyone know the years Hercules used this type of badge? And what would be appropriate wheels if I ever find any? (I have some modern aluminum ones that will get it rideable). And what is the tab on the left rear seat stay for? And have you ever seen a rear fender modified like this? It's neat enough that it could be factory, but I can't see any reason the factory would do this.
The man I bought this from got it from his boss for helping clean out his parents house. The bosses' dad was in England during WWII, so this could have been bought there and brought back. I'll be glad to hear any insights you have. Thanks.

Right Side.JPG


Left Side.JPG


Front Decals.JPG


Rear Seat.JPG


Head Badge.JPG


Head Badge Close-Up.JPG


Pedal.JPG


Rear Fender Detail.JPG


Rear Fender Decal.jpg


B.B. Close-Up.JPG


Seat Post Decal.JPG


Seat Stamp.JPG


Handlebar.JPG


Seat Stay Tab.JPG


Left Side Front.JPG
 

bikerbluz

Finally riding a big boys bike
Oct 15, 2016
144
117
63
Richmond, IN
#2
What a cool bike. Looks pretty unmolested to me. Great saddle and love the pedals. Wish I could give you some info but all I have is props. Congrats on a fine, early lightweight.
 

dnc1

I live for the CABE
Apr 1, 2016
1,788
4,708
52
Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK
#4
I think you're right @bulldog1935, looks like a 'Popular' model.
They were indeed popular and in production for a long period. Usually the centre piece of the badge is missing on most examples I've seen.
If you do have a frame serial number @Oilit I'd be interested to know it. My next door neighbour also has one of these, it would be neat to compare numbers, his is believed to be circa 1930/31.
Thanks,
Darren.
P.S. Owners rate these better than contemporary 'Raleighs'!
Nothing like a little controversy!
 

Oilit

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Dec 30, 2015
606
449
Concord NC
#6
What a cool bike. Looks pretty unmolested to me. Great saddle and love the pedals. Wish I could give you some info but all I have is props. Congrats on a fine, early lightweight.
Thank you sir!
 

Oilit

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Dec 30, 2015
606
449
Concord NC
#7
I think you're right @bulldog1935, looks like a 'Popular' model.
They were indeed popular and in production for a long period. Usually the centre piece of the badge is missing on most examples I've seen.
If you do have a frame serial number @Oilit I'd be interested to know it. My next door neighbour also has one of these, it would be neat to compare numbers, his is believed to be circa 1930/31.
Thanks,
Darren.
P.S. Owners rate these better than contemporary 'Raleighs'!
Nothing like a little controversy!
I take it the "Popular" was the Hercules equivalent to the Raleigh Sports? I'll post the serial number tomorrow.
 

bulldog1935

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jan 21, 2013
3,726
5,371
Bulverde, TX
#8
something that's noteworthy about your rear fender.
It's worth a search, but sometime in the 30s, required white rear fender tip became a law in England (Darren can probably date this).
The white fender tip on your bike is an addition, suggesting your bike was made before that requirement.

Here, found it https://thefrugalcyclist.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/white-tail-english-mudguards-aka-fenders/
Required by law after October 1934 - your bike was made before that, and the white fender tip added later to meet the law - otherwise they couldn't ride it at night.

Popular was used to designate entry-level finish grade in English marketing. You guys know I collect between-the-wars Brit fly reels.
Many models were named Popular. We wouldn't call anything "cheaper grade throughout" today, but frugality then was a virtue.
YYPXKRP.jpg
 
Last edited:

Oilit

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Dec 30, 2015
606
449
Concord NC
#9
something that's noteworthy about your rear fender.
It's worth a search, but sometime in the 30s, required white rear fender tip became a law in England (Darren can probably date this).
The white fender tip on your bike is an addition, suggesting your bike was made before that requirement.
Interesting! I thought someone had cut off the end of the fender, slid it up and bolted it back down, but I couldn't figure out why. Your idea makes sense, and it hadn't crossed my mind. I wonder why they didn't just paint the fender? Thanks!
 

bulldog1935

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jan 21, 2013
3,726
5,371
Bulverde, TX
#10
there was probably a rush to legalize every bike on the road and the bolt-on safety fender tip found a market.

I'm sure all new bikes after Oct 34 had painted white tips
 

Oilit

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Dec 30, 2015
606
449
Concord NC
#11
The information I found matches yours. According to a post on this forum: https://forum.cyclinguk.org/viewtopic.php?t=92888
the white fender tip was required by the 1934 Road Traffic Act, apparently in response to an increase in accidents. But the article you found has more depth! Now I wonder if it was a Hercules accessory, since it has the Hercules decal?
 
Last edited:

SirMike1983

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 27, 2008
2,989
2,553
United States
#12
Not necessarily so. I had a 1946 Hercules with exactly that kind of "add on" white piece. Hubs dated to October 1946, but they were still using the add-on piece at that point still.

I think the decals point to a pre-WWII bike made in the mid- to late-1930s, based on the large, gold block lettering used and the red Hercules triangle. My 1946 had a silver triangle on the black portion of the rear fender and different decals. It's similar to the bikes shown in the 1937 catalog, and appears to be the Sports Model F.

The bracket on the seat stay is for a bolt-on reflector (can also be used for a tail light if you have a generator). This is helpful because many of these have a two-screw plain plate on the rear fender rather than a rear fender reflector.

This model of bicycle was made for quite a long time without significant modification.

Hercules was a big importer of English bikes into the U.S. prior to WWII, more so than Raleigh. Raleigh was much bigger after the Second War.

Sheldon's description of 26 x 1.375 wheels is generally right, but a little vague. That style of wheel dates to the 1930s-50s era, with most examples coming from the 1940s. At 599mm, they're very close in size to the Schwinn 597mm (S5/S6) bead size. It's likely that in some places in the U.S., 26 x 1.375 wheel parts and tires were easier to find than English 590mm in those days. Today, it's just the opposite.

Original wheels would have been Endrick pattern 26 x 1 3/8 English type wheels. If you see signs of clamp use on the frame and the bars, it may have been a three speed originally, but certainly not all were 3-speeds (it was an extra pound on the Model F if you wanted a three speed instead of a single speed).

It's a good find of a pretty old bike. The condition is pretty good.

20160820_182013.jpg
 
Last edited:

dnc1

I live for the CABE
Apr 1, 2016
1,788
4,708
52
Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK
#13
The white add-on mudguard piece was an optional extra, available for many years.
I don't believe any manufacturers ever produced factory models with painted white sections @bulldog1935; you never see this in catalogues anyway. It was marketed as an official accessory by Hercules, a friend has a NOS unused example.

I'm now leaning towards @SirMike1983's above suggestion (and @Oilit's original proposition) that this is a Sport's model.
The head tube length is right, as is the chain wheel (the Popular had the chain wheel with Hercules lettering).
The handlebars for caliper brakes are right.

However, there are a few things incorrect re. the dating:
'30's sports/lightweights had gold painted head tubes.
The front mudguard is not spear pointed shape at the front end, this is a roadster 'guard.
The chromed fork crown cover is late '40's/50's.
Pump pegs are brazed on, '30's are removeable.
Those frame lugs are not '30's.

Whatever it is, its a nice condition rider!

I have to go lie down now, all of these Herc. catalogues have given me a headache!
I'll send photos around, see if anyone can help.
 

Oilit

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Dec 30, 2015
606
449
Concord NC
#14
The white add-on mudguard piece was an optional extra, available for many years.
I don't believe any manufacturers ever produced factory models with painted white sections @bulldog1935; you never see this in catalogues anyway. It was marketed as an official accessory by Hercules, a friend has a NOS unused example.

I'm now leaning towards @SirMike1983's above suggestion (and @Oilit's original proposition) that this is a Sport's model.
The head tube length is right, as is the chain wheel (the Popular had the chain wheel with Hercules lettering).
The handlebars for caliper brakes are right.

However, there are a few things incorrect re. the dating:
'30's sports/lightweights had gold painted head tubes.
The front mudguard is not spear pointed shape at the front end, this is a roadster 'guard.
The chromed fork crown cover is late '40's/50's.
Pump pegs are brazed on, '30's are removeable.
Those frame lugs are not '30's.

Whatever it is, its a nice condition rider!

I have to go lie down now, all of these Herc. catalogues have given me a headache!
I'll send photos around, see if anyone can help.
I know what you mean, I was looking through the late '30's catalogs on the V-C C on-line library. There were a lot of Hercules models, and sorting them out takes some studying! For what it's worth, the serial number is KY 2618.
 

Oilit

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Dec 30, 2015
606
449
Concord NC
#15
Not necessarily so. I had a 1946 Hercules with exactly that kind of "add on" white piece. Hubs dated to October 1946, but they were still using the add-on piece at that point still.

I think the decals point to a pre-WWII bike made in the mid- to late-1930s, based on the large, gold block lettering used and the red Hercules triangle. My 1946 had a silver triangle on the black portion of the rear fender and different decals. It's similar to the bikes shown in the 1937 catalog, and appears to be the Sports Model F.

The bracket on the seat stay is for a bolt-on reflector (can also be used for a tail light if you have a generator). This is helpful because many of these have a two-screw plain plate on the rear fender rather than a rear fender reflector.

This model of bicycle was made for quite a long time without significant modification.

Hercules was a big importer of English bikes into the U.S. prior to WWII, more so than Raleigh. Raleigh was much bigger after the Second War.

Sheldon's description of 26 x 1.375 wheels is generally right, but a little vague. That style of wheel dates to the 1930s-50s era, with most examples coming from the 1940s. At 599mm, they're very close in size to the Schwinn 597mm (S5/S6) bead size. It's likely that in some places in the U.S., 26 x 1.375 wheel parts and tires were easier to find than English 590mm in those days. Today, it's just the opposite.

Original wheels would have been Endrick pattern 26 x 1 3/8 English type wheels. If you see signs of clamp use on the frame and the bars, it may have been a three speed originally, but certainly not all were 3-speeds (it was an extra pound on the Model F if you wanted a three speed instead of a single speed).

It's a good find of a pretty old bike. The condition is pretty good.

View attachment 948007
Thank you, @SirMike1983 ! Thorough and informative, as usual. The fact that Hercules was big over here before WWII is news to me. Was this in the '20's? I've always assumed the depression limited trade and imports during the '30's, but it seems there were always a few who still had money somehow. Nice bike, by the way!
 

SirMike1983

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 27, 2008
2,989
2,553
United States
#16
Thank you, @SirMike1983 ! Thorough and informative, as usual. The fact that Hercules was big over here before WWII is news to me. Was this in the '20's? I've always assumed the depression limited trade and imports during the '30's, but it seems there were always a few who still had money somehow. Nice bike, by the way!
Hercules was a major player in manufacturing and shipping British bicycles abroad prior to WWII, including bicycles exported to the U.S. Although the adult cycling market was very small compared to the youth market, there was still somewhat of a market for utility bicycles for purposes of commuting short distances or for moving goods/deliveries. I once owned 1935 Hercules that was used as a courier bike for some years, and had been outfitted with a heavy-duty basket on the front. Hercules was more aggressive about U.S. marketing prior to WWII than Raleigh was, though you'd never know it based on all the 1960s-70s Raleighs in the U.S. today.

Before WWII, Raleigh's exports to the U.S. were comparatively small. Raleigh did not believe there to be much of a U.S. market for its bikes. Raleigh's imports prior to WWII actually began as a one-man operation in Boston on the part of a man named Hamilton Osgood. This operation actually began in Osgood's house where he would buy the Raleigh bikes and assemble them in his home, then sell the bikes in Boston.

The bike I'm thinking that you have is the men's version of this bike from the 1937 catalog. This bike appears to be the correct frame type (albeit this is the women's version), with the black headtube, white add-on piece, reflector boss on the seat stay, chrome fork crown, etc.

1550507911984.png
 

Oilit

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Dec 30, 2015
606
449
Concord NC
#17
Hercules was a major player in manufacturing and shipping British bicycles abroad prior to WWII, including bicycles exported to the U.S. Although the adult cycling market was very small compared to the youth market, there was still somewhat of a market for utility bicycles for purposes of commuting short distances or for moving goods/deliveries. I once owned 1935 Hercules that was used as a courier bike for some years, and had been outfitted with a heavy-duty basket on the front. Hercules was more aggressive about U.S. marketing prior to WWII than Raleigh was, though you'd never know it based on all the 1960s-70s Raleighs in the U.S. today.

Before WWII, Raleigh's exports to the U.S. were comparatively small. Raleigh did not believe there to be much of a U.S. market for its bikes. Raleigh's imports prior to WWII actually began as a one-man operation in Boston on the part of a man named Hamilton Osgood. This operation actually began in Osgood's house where he would buy the Raleigh bikes and assemble them in his home, then sell the bikes in Boston.

The bike I'm thinking that you have is the men's version of this bike from the 1937 catalog. This bike appears to be the correct frame type (albeit this is the women's version), with the black headtube, white add-on piece, reflector boss on the seat stay, chrome fork crown, etc.

View attachment 951269
@SirMike1983, Thank you again! After I thought about it, I remembered that in Pridmore and Heard's book on Schwinn, they mentioned that adult use of bicycles actually increased during the Depression, partly because of new innovations, but also because many people simply couldn't afford a car. And when I went back and looked, there's no indication that there was ever a reflector mounted on this bike's rear fender, so I've learned quite a bit!

Rear Fender.JPG
 

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