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Viking Cycle History

Viking Cycle Models - Viking Cycle Catalogs


Alfred Victor Davies reportedly founded Viking Cycle Company in 1908 in Wolverhampton, England (although a vintage 1970s Viking catalog claims the company was established in 1906. The company of the 1970s had already suffered two sales and a move to Northern Ireland). Davies had begun fixing bicycles to augment his meager salary as a railway clerk. When the railway discovered that he had a supplementary income, they forced him to choose between bicycles and trains. Davies chose bicycles and opened a shop at 5 Wolverhampton Road, Heath Town (a suburb of Wolverhampton).

Davies’ lightweights quickly gained a reputation in the local communities as one of the best bikes around. Indeed, 1910’s Viking Challenge model came in at just 20 lbs. At the time of WWI, Alfred halted production because of his own failing health. It was eleven years before the tiny company started up again, this time with the aid of Davies’ son Victor.

After these fits and starts, the small shop expanded to larger digs in 1928 and again in 1934. In 1935, Viking acquired a second facility and began producing their own frames. Viking was producing some 800 bicycles annually out of Wolverton in 1939 when it became Viking Cycles Limited.

As WWII approached, Alfred left the reigns to his son, Reg Davies. Alfred Victor Davies died in 1941. Reg is largely credited with growing the company to a large manufacturing operation. Like most manufacturing plants at the time, Viking abandoned its regular product line to join the war effort. The company manufactured munitions throughout the conflict. At the war’s conclusion, Viking went back to bicycles and was putting out close to 2000 bikes every year. In 1946 they began exporting their product.

In 1948 Viking introduced their new racing team, headed by Bob Thom. On Reg Davies’ designed lightweights the team did very well for the Viking Cycle name brand, including a Tour of Britain victory in 1951 by team member Ian Steele. Davies used seamless TI and Reynolds tubing on the high end racing bikes. Viking went home with the team award in 1955. Belgium went home with the award in 1958, but they were riding Viking’s Severn Valley models.

Viking Cycles were sold through as many as 1250 dealers in the early 1950s. In 1963 production hit 20,000 bicycles. Former Viking racer Bob Thom became one of the company’s top sales manager and is credited with a large portion of Viking’s success. But the rest of the 60s were not kind to Viking. In the midst of a rapid expansion period, sales began to slump and the cash was not available to keep things humming along. The company developed an innovative children’s bike with a telescoping frame that grew with the kid. These bikes quickly became Viking’s bread and butter, accounting for more than 75% of sales. But it wasn’t enough to keep the company afloat. Production ceased in 1967 and the business was sold to American investors who moved it to Londonderry in Northern Ireland. The company made it to the 1980s, but no further.

The Viking factory in Wolverhampton did not remain completely idle, however. Lambert (which became Viscount) made their first lugged frames there in 1972.


Sources:
Wolverhampton Museum of Industry
classicrendezvous.com
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