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
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
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
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