Viking Cycles Londonderry / Derry

For a few years Viking cycles were built in Northern Ireland and a detailed history will be added soon.

1950s freewheels

One of the problems in putting a 1950s lightweight back on the road is finding suitable multispeed freewheels. Many of the more modern 5 speed freewheels have a greater range of teeth on the sprockets which period 1950s rear gear mechs did not have to contend with. These two freewheels were part of a stock of old parts bought last year. One is an Italian Everest 4 speed block, and the other a French Simplex 5 speed block. In stripping these down, the rear two sprockets screw off from the rear of the freewheel body on both blocks. More modern blocks such as Regina or Maeda Suntour all come off the freewheel body in one direction. Both the freewheel blocks illustrated are close ratio, as well as possessing sprockets of a larger size, i.e. more teeth, so making usable gearing for relaxed riding over undulating terrain much more possible with a suitably sized chainring.

 Tommy Graham 

                                                              Tommy Graham

This is a lightweight frame built by a local frame builder in the 1950s in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim.  The frame is built from Accles & Pollock  tubing and lugs are Nervex Professional.

Louis McCormick holds the shield his grand father James McCormick
won in the four mile cycle sprint race on 20th June 1885 in Belfast.
Having been in Canada for almost one hundred years it was just one of the many trophies won by this great wheelman of the past. This shield was sponsored by Rudge cycles in England

1931 catalogue

1931 catalogue





The excerpts are from the BSA publicity material catalogue that was
issued to BSA dealers in February 1953 for the coronation of Queen
Elizabeth II. The catalogue featured various banners, photographs and
bunting which the dealer could use to decorate his shop.

Northern Ireland built Vikings

1936 BSA
1938 DAWES
1938 DAWES

                                                    1938 DAWES


VCC Club member Keith Campbell with a folding Empire roadster he bought this week. Keith rode the Empire on the Northern Ireland section Maghera Lanes ride and is happy to add this unusual machine to his collection.


                                              1934 HERCULES

                              World War 1 Irish Cyclist Companies

Army Cyclist units had been established as part of some British Army Territorial units around  the turn of the 20th Century. Bicycle troops were envisaged to be used in a cavalry role as the bicycle was relatively cheap and did not require the same manpower, care and feeding as a horse but could deploy the same number of rifles. In 1908 legislation was passed in London which created the British Army Territorial Force, however Ireland was excluded from the legislation and treated the same as other colonies and dominions.  Territorial Army units in Ireland were considered Special Reserve. The Army Cyclist Corps was set up in November 1914 to regularize the various 'new army' Divisional Cyclist Companies which were foremed.  The Territorial Force Cyclist Battalions were excluded and did not come under the Army Cyclist Corps as they were home service battalions.

Ireland was in the grip of the home rule crisis and on the verge of civil war in 1914. There were two private armies in existence, the smaller but better armed 'Ulster Volunteer Force' who were against home rule for Ireland and the larger but less well equipped 'Irish National Volunteers' who wanted home rule. The declaration of war in August 1914 averted Irish civil war but the bloodshed would move from 'the old sod' to Gallipoli and the fields of Flanders and the Somme. Both Sir Edward Carson, leader of the U.V.F and John Redmond, leader of the 'Irish National Volunteers', offered the service of their respective private armies for home defence in Ireland to the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, to free up regular army units for service overseas. Lord Kitchener turned the offers down flat as he did not want two army units with political overtones and although born in Ireland, was not well disposed to his fellow countrymen.  Kitchener did shift his position by agreeing to raise and recruit the 10th (Irish) Division as part of his first army, known as K1. The order was given on 21st August 1914 to raise the 10th (Irish) Division.  The Division  was organized into of 3 infantry brigades, with supporting artillery, supporting Royal Engineers and Royal Army Medical Corps companies, Divisional Pioneer and Trench Mortar companies and a Divisional Cyclist Company. As the realization dawned that the British Army was far too small to wage war on the European continent, more troops would be required. John Redmond was prevailed upon to urge the Irish National Volunteers to enlist in the 16th (Irish) Division for service abroad, as home rule had received Royal assent in July 1914 but the implementation was to be held back for 12 months or until the end of the war, whichever was the shorter.  Sir Edward Carson succeeded in getting Lord Kitchener to agree to another Irish Division formed mainly of elements of his U.V.F.  This became the 36th (Ulster) Division. Both the 16th (Irish) Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division formed a Divisional Cyclist Company.  The 10th (Irish) Division was the first formed and following initial training, moved to England in 1915 before being embarked for Gallipoli.  The 10th (Irish) Division was split up, with some units fighting at Anzac Cove whilst the rest of the division fought at Sulva Bay.  The 10th Divisional Cyclist Company saw action at Sulva Bay.

With the opening of the German offensive at Verdun in 1916 and the quickly mounting casualty figure for the defending British and French armies, it became apparent that some reorganisation of units would be required to provide enough infantry for the planned Somme offensive. Both the cavalry and Army Cyclist Corps carried out a reorganisation reducing the number of units and releasing men for service in the infantry.  Most Divisional Cyclist Companies were disbanded during April/May/June 1916, usually half the unit being released for service in the infantry and the remainder transferred to a Cyclist Battalion attached to an Army Corps. The battalions were made up of three companies, each company formed from troops from a Divisional Cyclist Company.  The 10th Divisional Cyclist Company was not disbanded until 7th December 1916.   The slaughter of the Battle of the Somme and the unchanged policy of slaughter pursued by Haig in the battles of 1917 left the British Army short of manpower in the spring on 1918.  This necessitated further reorganisation of units and the 1st Battalion of the North Irish Horse a Special Reserve cavalry unit was dismounted, and around half the troops forming the 5th Cyclist Battalion (North Irish Horse) in February 1918.  They replaced the V Corps Cyclist Battalion which was disbanded, only one officer and 24 men being transferred into the 5th Cyclist Battalion which remained in existence to the end of the conflict in November 1918.

The Army Cyclist Corps deliberately targeted cyclists in it's advertising:-  “ A trip for cyclists is being organised on an extensive scale.  Most cyclists at one time or another have had a longing to tour on the Continent; their wish may now be fulfilled.  There is no need for anyone to say that his income will not permit of his joining this tour, as, owing to the generosity of the Government, the N.C.U. can arrange for it to be taken absolutely free of charge, the Government even supplying cycles and clothing of a suitable character, and paying all the expenses of the trip.  For the souvenir hunter the excursion will be unrivalled, as mementoes in the shape of shells, German lead, etc., may be obtained without any effort.  This offer only applies,  for the present, to cyclists between the ages of 19 and 40. Ladies need not apply.”

Many Irish cycling clubs disappeared for ever in the summer of 1914, Old Mossley in County Antrim being an example.  It would be the early 1920s in some areas before organized cycling would take place again. 

The 5th Cyclist Battalion (North Irish Horse) were equipped with the standard General Service MkIV bicycle made by BSA or a folding bicycle made by the same company.  The MkIV had a 24 inch frame, coaster hub, front brake, pump, frame colour could be either green or black, Lucas 'Silver King' paraffin lamps front and back, leather toolbox and repair kit on crossbar, and bell.  Front kit carrier held the issue greatcoat rolled inside a rubberised groundsheet and covered mess tin on top. The rear carrier held a large pack and issue helmet. The Lee-Enfield MkIII SMLE service rifle was carried sights downward and held by special clips for the butt and fore end. The rider was expected to wear 1908 infantry Field Service Marching Order pattern webbing, with gas mask in canvas case worn on the chest and carry bayonet, entrenching tool and water canteen.

                                              1918 BSA CATALOGUE 

                                                      1937 Saxon


The Moulton concept featured small wheels and a unique new frameset which gave great handling due to a low centre of gravity, enabling loads to be carried safely. Rubber suspension was used, front and rear. This frame was also unisex enabling dealers to carry less stock. The designer Alex Moulton wanted to prove to the market that his bicycle could be used with little modification for many purposes, from shopping to racing and the speedsix was launched in 1965.
Only available in two colours (light blue or yellow) the racer hit the market with much publicity including competition prizes and magazine tests. The Moulton speedsix was advertised as “dressed for travel”...”stripped for action” and certainly made a very attractive proposition backed up by works racing experience. The spec featured removeable rear tail/rack section, alloy 17” rims with new Dunlop HP tyres, six speed block and Cyclo P2 derailleur at a rakish angle. The rider could tighten up the rear suspension friction dampers and had the comfort of a special Middlemores saddle and GB maes bars, and the 60T chainring enabled good ratios. Many of the parts were sourced from Ron Kitching. Production ended in 66' although the works were ready to launch the S speed, with 531 tubing, to the professionals, and the Raleigh take over in 1967 ended this promising avenue in cycle racing history.

                                              Speed Six Photo by Ken

Ken Butterfield
Moulton Enthusiast

                                                     1935 Miller advert

                                               1937 Lucas Advert


The late Tommy Smyth from Bellaghy
A member of Kings Moss between 1939 and 1955 gained many club successes on this bike His undisputed golden-era extends though the 1953 to 1955 seasons when he gained Northern Irish and Irish 10, 25, 50, 100 mile and 12 hour honours.
His most celebrated achievements however took place on this tandem, partnered by Paddy McNeilly. The pair set a variety of records including Belfast-Enniskillen, Belfast-Londonderry-Belfast and the most-famous of all;Mizen Head (Co. Cork) to Fair Head (Co. Antrim), covering 389 miles in 19h 23mins

                                       1953 Elswick

 Early July was the weekend of the Ballymena Steam and Vintage Rally, an event held every July in Ballymena, County Antrim. The event is held over Friday and Saturday. It had rained hard most of Friday, but I decided to take a chance and go regardless of the weather. I arrived and it was raining but I went in anyway as I like looking around the trade stands and plundering through the junk. I went to the first stall to shelter as the rain was getting heavy and as I stood there looking around the stall for the third time my eyes fell on a bundle of what looked like roadster mudguards, some still wrapped in paper. I removed my wet and steamed up glasses, cleaned them and put them on, and yes, they were mudguards. I could not believe my eyes: seven pairs of new 28 inch roadster mudguards in good condition considering their age; lovely shiny black with red and gold pin strips along with a little rust. I tried to contain my excitement and I called the stall holder over. He knew what he had and how to charge for them, so wanted an arm and leg for them. However, after I explained I wanted them all, he settled for just a leg! He was a little reluctant to tell me where they had come from, but I explained to him I was a member of the V-CC and a vintage bicycle collector – not a rival dealer, so he told me.
            He said he was away down south across the border some years back and bought the contents of a warehouse that had been closed for a long time, and it had lots of new old stock vintage car parts in it – he mainly dealt in auto jumble. A large quantity of old vintage bicycle parts was also in it so he bought that too. He said he had tons of the stuff – bicycle frames, chains, mudguards etc, and had been selling it over the years at events like this. I said I was interested and arranged to come up to his storage sheds one evening later that week.
            On arrival I was shown to a large shed and told that the bicycle parts were piled up in the corner and would be very hard to reach. It certainly was, but after squeezing past a bright red mint Austin 7 convertible, that formerly belonged to Lord Antrim, a vintage motorbike and some forecourt petrol pumps, I was getting close. I stood on a large pile of NOS moped chain about 3 feet high and peered over another petrol pump, and there was ‘Shangri-La’; the entire corner of the shed was stacked high with vintage NOS bicycle parts. I could get no closer, there were about eight frames hooked over the corner of shelving, still with some paper wrapped around them, two or three more partially assembled on the floor, a pile of roadster mudguards about six or eight feet high, a pile of 26 and 28 inch rims, and boxes and boxes full of other parts.
            After getting my breath back I spoke to the owner and asked about better access to the bicycle parts. He explained that he was unwell and unable to move all the stuff in the way, but suggested I come back in a day or two and bring help with me. We could clear a path and pull all the stuff onto the floor and make an offer for what we wanted. I agreed to this plan. On getting home I sent emails out to a few local V-CC members to see if any were interested in coming along in a joint venture, as the more that was purchased the better deal we could get. Luckily, fellow member Chris Aspinwall, our BSA ME, lives not too far away and was interested, so we arranged to meet up just outside Ballyclare the next day and drive over to the store in Larne.
            On arrival we cleared a path to the pile and started to clear it out. Unfortunately there wasn’t as much as I had been led to believe, however, when we finished we still got a fair pile between us that included: about 50 Coventry chains, some 40 spoke hubs, 30 or so 28″ roadster mudguards and stays, boxes of spindles and cones, assorted rod brake parts, including about 8 gross of the little draw bar bolts, that’s the little bolt the rod from the brake goes thru then you tighten the nut. Sturmey Archer parts, spokes, pedal rubbers, handlebar grips and lots and lots more. The parts we got were only a fraction of what was there as storage conditions were less than ideal, with a large leak above pouring water over the parts for years, so most of it was destroyed including boxes of vintage brake cables. We worked out a price and paid the man, then divided the spoils between our cars before heading home.
            The icing on the cake was the NOS 1952 partly assembled Elswick roadster with a transfer on the top of the seat tube that stated, ‘This Bicycle has been assembled in Eire’. This was very interesting, and news to me, as I was unaware that Elswick’s were assembled in Ireland. I contacted Nigel Land, ME for Elswick-Hopper to inform him of the find, and this is what he said:
            “Elswick-Hopper exported many bicycles ‘Completely Knocked Down’ to avoid, or reduce, import taxes. The Republic was a major customer through a couple of dealers, but to find one NOS after 57 years is amazing. The frame number, D115, tells us it was made in early 1952, or late 1951, depending on when the letter changed – I have not yet been able to establish whether it changed for the new model season in November, or at year end. From an undated catalogue, but probably 1952, there were two export models – an HB, with hub brakes, and an EA, with a full chain case. Yours is clearly an EA. After the war, once material was again available, there was something of a bicycle export boom. It lasted into 1952, when boom, once more, turned to bust.”
            The machine was incomplete, missing wheels, handlebars and saddle and needed a complete rebuild. I was looking forward to the task and when I started the rebuild I decided to place a photographic record of it on flickr.

                                                  As found


                                                    Complete bicycle

Keith Campbell

                                          UNKNOWN ROADSTER

                      Can anyone help me identify this 27" framed roadster.
                     28" wheels
                     coaster brake
                     black with green box lining with no Transfers shown