Highly considered British marque, originally established in Wolverhampton, England
Much Viking history on Wolverhampton Museum of Industry
Viking History (A short History by Richard Cole)
The Viking Cycle company was started by Mr. A.V. Davies in 1908 as a retail cycle business in Heath Town, a suburb of Wolverhampton. Premises were somewhat primitive, the frames were actually made in a small wooden shed behind the shop with the help of a small boy.
Davies quickly acquired a reputation for building good class machines (in particular lightweights). He also was a renowned builder of sports machines and machines for track racing, and by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Viking was a well known name in the “Black Country” around Wolverhampton.
Vikings first catalogue (dated 1908) showed the racing machine “The Whirlwind Viking” which was priced at £6:15:0d cash or £7:10:0d if credit was required. Viking were one of the first companies to offer a gradual payments scheme and also gave a four year guarantee on their frames. Incidentally, the catalogue claimed that the “Whirlwind” machine held the 24 hour cinder track record but unfortunately did not state where!
After just two years in business Viking extended their existing four year guarantee to an everlasting one and in this year, (1910) their range included the “Challenge” path racing machine which weighed only 20 lbs. This machine had a 24 inch frame, 26 inch wooden rims and was available in black enamel with nickel plated fork ends and seat stay tops, price was £7:7:0d cash.
World War 1 and the poor health of Mr. Davies halted production for some eleven years and it was at this time that Mr. Victor Davies, the founders son started to help in the business. He remembered having to build and true a wheel every morning before going to school! School holidays usually meant helping in the shop or assisting in the frame building.
In 1928, Vikings success meant that bigger premises were needed and a move was made to Broad Street, a year later a shop front was added to the works and finally, in the same year the old works in Heath Town was closed.
Six years later in 1935 another move was made to yet larger premises in Princess Lane. The shop had been moved two years earlier to Princess Street, which was a main shopping road.
In 1939, before the outbreak of the Second World War, a private limited company was formed and had it not been for the war Viking would probably have been more well known than just in the Midlands.
The company’s founder A.V. Davies died in 1941 and his son Victor took control, assisted by his two sisters, one of whom was the company secretary.
In 1946 with the war over, Viking started to export cycles for the first time, mainly roadster machines.
Production of lightweights began again in 1947 once the restrictions on steel usage were relaxed and in 1948 Viking introduced its road racing team. Many wins followed with riders such as Bob Thom, Ben Whitmore, Harold Johnson, Bill Allan and Len West (later to ride for the Frejus/Superga team) taking the honours.
Success followed success and Vikings biggest and probably best known road racing win came in 1951 when a 24 year old mechanic called Ian Steel won the inaugural Tour of Britain. He followed this with victory in the 1952 Warsaw-Berlin-Prague race. Vikings fame was probably at its height.
More success in the Tour of Britain came in 1955 when Viking took the team award, then again in 1958 when the Belgian team took the team award and the stage points award riding Viking “Severn Valley” cycles.
Sales of Vikings were now at an all time high with sales in 1957 42% up on those of 1956.
During the 1950’s, Viking produced some of their best machines, these included the “SS Master” series, the flagship “Tour of Britain” model, the race winning “Severn Valley” and popular more modestly priced models such as the “Mileater” and the “Ian Steel model” which was named after their famous rider.
Around the end of the 50’s and into the early 60’s the demand for lightweight cycles started to decline. The introduction of cheap small cars such as the Mini and the Ford Anglia made motoring possible for many families – the golden years of cycle production were coming to an end. Viking riders such as Albert Hitchen continued to give the company racing success, but sales of cycles were falling sharply.
For Viking, this culminated in 1967 in business closure due to a cash flow problem, Vikings domination of road racing was at an end.
The company was resurrected in various forms in the following years but never regained the reputation that it once enjoyed .
A move to Northern Ireland was made during the 1980’s but since then very little has been heard of the legendary marque.
Head tube lug details of Mark Stevens 1960s bike
The radical “SBU Tracker” design