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Hercules 3 speed 195x

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Hercules 3 speed 195x

Old 03-18-13, 07:21 PM
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Hercules 3 speed 195x

I just picked up my dad's old bike today. It's a Hercules 3 speed from the 1950's. Anyone have one? Anything special to know about them? Any good info sources on them?
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Old 03-18-13, 07:22 PM
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I had one. Good solid runabout. I gave it away, a move I now regret.
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Old 03-18-13, 07:28 PM
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Got pictures? I have a 50's Hercules Skyliner... single speed freewheel rod brakes.

Depending on how early in the 50's it could be a Birmingham Herc or a Raleigh built Herc.

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Old 03-18-13, 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by LDB View Post
I just picked up my dad's old bike today. It's a Hercules 3 speed from the 1950's. Anyone have one? Anything special to know about them? Any good info sources on them?
I am quite familiar with them... Pictures would be a good starting point and then ask some some specific questions. The parts on a Hercules used the standard 24tpi instead of the Raleigh non-standard 26tpi, so replacement parts are actually not that difficult to locate. If you can supply pictures of the rear dropouts and the type of rear hub, that'll usually provide enough information to estimate the year of the bike within a year or so. Also, does the badge say Nottingham or Birmingham? If it's Nottingham it would likely be early-1960's or later. Birmingham will indicate around 1960 or earlier.

I have around 7-8 Birmingham Hercules ranging from 1946 to 1960 and several Raleigh built Hercules. I like the Birmingham Hercules better than the Raleigh built ones as Raleigh made them a lower-priced product after the purchase and it shows in the overall quality of the bikes. Below are a couple of the numerous Hercules I have.


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 10 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr


1956 Hercules Royal Prince - The Evolution - 5 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr
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Old 03-18-13, 09:56 PM
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I'm taking it to my LBS tomorrow to get checked out. When I get it back home I'll take a photo or two. It is somewhat similar in style to the second photo although not nearly as nice. My dad's widow told me today he redid the tires and tubes and maybe the brakes about 5-6 years ago. The cables are all original. It's red and white and that's the original paint as far as I know. My first memory of the bike is 1960-1961 so it's that old or a little older. Thanks for the input so far.
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Old 03-18-13, 10:10 PM
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You've probably seen this already but just in case;
http://sheldonbrown.com/english-3.html
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Old 03-19-13, 04:01 AM
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Originally Posted by LDB View Post
I'm taking it to my LBS tomorrow to get checked out. When I get it back home I'll take a photo or two. It is somewhat similar in style to the second photo although not nearly as nice. My dad's widow told me today he redid the tires and tubes and maybe the brakes about 5-6 years ago. The cables are all original. It's red and white and that's the original paint as far as I know. My first memory of the bike is 1960-1961 so it's that old or a little older. Thanks for the input so far.
Now you have my interest... my Skyliner is red and white with gold lined lugs. Can't wait to see the pictures!

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Old 03-19-13, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
Now you have my interest... my Skyliner is red and white with gold lined lugs. Can't wait to see the pictures!

Aaron
Me too. Aaron have you ever taken any pictures of the Skyliner?
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Old 03-19-13, 08:28 AM
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Perhaps a little more like this one?


Hercules Lion - 2 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr
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Old 03-19-13, 02:27 PM
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Here's a photo as I dropped it off at the LBS to have it gone through. They said it originally would have had gumwall tires so they're going to put a set of those on it to make it look more original.
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Old 03-19-13, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by LDB View Post
Here's a photo as I dropped it off at the LBS to have it gone through. They said it originally would have had gumwall tires so they're going to put a set of those on it to make it look more original.
The bike looks to be in pretty good condition and, at least from what I can see of the dropouts is a mid- to late-50's bike. It's definitely a made in Birmingham model. What's more intriguing to me are the "cutaway" lugs instead of the oval windowed lugs that were used on them at that time. Can you please provide:

1) a picture of the headbadge,
2) a picture of the seattube graphics,
3) closeup pictures of the rear dropouts,
4) a picture of the headtube lugs and
5) let us know or take a picture of the stamping on the hub. If the hub is not a Sturmey Archer, it should be a Hercules B Type x where x is a digit.

I'm definitely intrigued with this bike.

Last edited by photogravity; 03-19-13 at 03:31 PM.
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Old 03-19-13, 03:02 PM
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You've got a 50's Birmingham Hercules there, a nice little 3 speed. It predates gumwalls so if you want originality, see if they have some blackwalls instead. I think it looks better but it's your bike.

A little suggestion for you. You're on a list of bike nuts who collectively have probably forgot more about old bikes than most LBS's will ever know. So when the next bike comes along, post some detailed pics before you drop it off at the shop. Or just grab a (proper) wrench and start taking it apart for a light cleaning, maybe an adjustment or two. Collecting, fixing and restoring bikes like this is fun and rewarding. If your LBS is like most other shops, the bike will still require a closer look-see and possible overhaul.

(what PG said too)
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Old 03-19-13, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh View Post
Me too. Aaron have you ever taken any pictures of the Skyliner?
Not really, it is getting closer to front of the line...

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Old 03-20-13, 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by photogravity View Post
The bike looks to be in pretty good condition and, at least from what I can see of the dropouts is a mid- to late-50's bike. It's definitely a made in Birmingham model. What's more intriguing to me are the "cutaway" lugs instead of the oval windowed lugs that were used on them at that time. Can you please provide:

1) a picture of the headbadge,
2) a picture of the seattube graphics,
3) closeup pictures of the rear dropouts,
4) a picture of the headtube lugs and
5) let us know or take a picture of the stamping on the hub. If the hub is not a Sturmey Archer, it should be a Hercules B Type x where x is a digit.

I'm definitely intrigued with this bike.
The headbadge is nice. The seattube graphics have been damaged quite a bit. I meant to look at the hub before I left it but didn't. I will take a few more pics when I get it back. I'm going to call them today and tell them to go with blackwall tires.
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Old 03-20-13, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by LDB View Post
The headbadge is nice. The seattube graphics have been damaged quite a bit. I meant to look at the hub before I left it but didn't. I will take a few more pics when I get it back. I'm going to call them today and tell them to go with blackwall tires.
I'm really looking forward to getting more information and seeing some better pictures of this bike. Sorry if I seem bossy with this, but there are not many of these old Hercules that show up on the forum here and since I've been engrossed in them for a good while now, perhaps I get a bit over-enthused.

Regarding the tires, black probably are correct for this bike. The red Hercules Lion is from 1951 and have what appear to be the original Dunlop tires still on the bike. Certainly the tires are not any newer than the early- to mid-1960's which is when they ceased production of bicycle tires.
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Old 03-20-13, 07:10 AM
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Here is a Hercules 3 speed from the mid to late 50's that a neighbor put out on the curb to give away. I took and restored it. The headbadge says "Birmingham." Strangely, there is no date on the rear hub or anywhere else on the bike. However, I determined that the bike was made between 1956 and 1960. I looked at a website that indicated that the model of Sturmey Archer shifter on the handlebar was made after 1956 and I knew all Hercules were made in Nottingham after 1960.

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Old 03-20-13, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by robert schlatte View Post
Here is a Hercules 3 speed from the mid to late 50's that a neighbor put out on the curb to give away. I took and restored it. The headbadge says "Birmingham." Strangely, there is no date on the rear hub or anywhere else on the bike. However, I determined that the bike was made between 1956 and 1960. I looked at a website that indicated that the model of Sturmey Archer shifter on the handlebar was made after 1956 and I knew all Hercules were made in Nottingham after 1960.

I'd be hesitant to base everything on the shifter. Is it possible the hub says something like "Hercules 3 Speed" or "B 6"?
I've seen a couple of Hercules with shifters that have been replaced by Sh*m*n* versions. I haven't seen one of those conversions that worked. A Sturmey shifter ought to work just fine, though.

Incidentally, there are two in the Dayton OH craigslist for $30 each. I *think* the woman's is mid 50's and the gent's is maybe 1960?
I thought pretty hard about them, but have enough stuff at the moment.

The position of the eyelets on the rear dropouts is a pretty reliable clue for Birmingham vs Nottingham Hercules, IMO. The gent's version I referenced above still has the "H" cutout chainring, but the eyelet position appears to be Raleigh Nottingham. The position in your picture is above and forward of the rear axle (rather than behind the rear axle), which is pre-Raleigh.

I may have some facts wrong here, and welcome any corrections.

Last edited by Howard; 03-20-13 at 07:28 AM.
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Old 03-20-13, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by robert schlatte View Post
Here is a Hercules 3 speed from the mid to late 50's that a neighbor put out on the curb to give away. I took and restored it. The headbadge says "Birmingham." Strangely, there is no date on the rear hub or anywhere else on the bike. However, I determined that the bike was made between 1956 and 1960. I looked at a website that indicated that the model of Sturmey Archer shifter on the handlebar was made after 1956 and I knew all Hercules were made in Nottingham after 1960.
That looks like a nice Hercules, for sure. I'm pretty sure you have a mid- to late-1950's model. They didn't use the vertical Hercules on the seattube until around 1955 based on the bicycles in my collection. I have Hercules up to 1952 and then nothing until 1955.

Do you have additional pictures that show better details of the bicycle? If you do, that would be nice to see.
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Old 03-20-13, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Howard View Post
I'd be hesitant to base everything on the shifter. Is it possible the hub says something like "Hercules 3 Speed" or "B 6"?
I've seen a couple of Hercules with shifters that have been replaced by Sh*m*n* versions. I haven't seen one of those conversions that worked. A Sturmey shifter ought to work just fine, though.

Incidentally, there are two in the Dayton OH craigslist for $30 each. I *think* the woman's is mid 50's and the gent's is maybe 1960?
I thought pretty hard about them, but have enough stuff at the moment.

The position of the eyelets on the rear dropouts is a pretty reliable clue for Birmingham vs Nottingham Hercules, IMO. The gent's version I referenced above still has the "H" cutout chainring, but the eyelet position appears to be Raleigh Nottingham. The position in your picture is above and forward of the rear axle (rather than behind the rear axle), which is pre-Raleigh.

I may have some facts wrong here, and welcome any corrections.
Howard, you are on the right track. There were two different series of the Hercules 3-speed hub: the A Type which was made between 1942 or 1943 until 1951 or 1952 and the B Type which was made from 1952 or 1953 until they ceased production. The newest Hercules hub I have spotted is a B Type 6 which would correspond to 1956. There is one exception to this in that when Sturmey-Archer introduced the SW hub, Hercules re-branded some of those and they are marked as Hercules SW. You are correct that SA shifters work without any problems with Hercules A and B Type hubs. I do not have experience with SA or Hercules SW hubs.

[EDIT: The correct dates for the A Type hub are 1942 to 1951 and the B Type hub starting in 1952. Dating the B Type start for production to 1952 instead of 1953 is based on an early 1952 CTC Gazette that mentions the B Type hub.]

Your mention of the dropouts is correct regarding telling the difference between Birmingham and Nottingham built bicycles. There is also a difference between Hercules dropouts too. Through the early-1950's there was a "keyhole" on the dropout above the axle, but in the mid-1950's the design changed and they eliminated the "keyhole" from the dropout. If you reference the pictures below, you can see the difference between the dropouts which will assist in determining the age of Hercules bicycles.

Up to early 1950's dropout. This style dropout is what is on Hercules in my collection ranging from 1946-1952. As mentioned above, I do not have a 1953 or 1954 Hercules to reference.

Hercules Lion - 36 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr

Mid-1950's and later dropout which was used until Hercules production was merged with Raleigh. The first year I have seen this dropout is 1955, but it could have been a little earlier since, as mentioned above, I don't have a 1953 or 1954 Hercules.

1959 Hercules Hawthorne Project - 40 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr

Last edited by photogravity; 03-26-13 at 04:03 PM. Reason: Clarification to Hercules Hub production
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Old 03-20-13, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by photogravity View Post
That looks like a nice Hercules, for sure. I'm pretty sure you have a mid- to late-1950's model. They didn't use the vertical Hercules on the seattube until around 1955 based on the bicycles in my collection. I have Hercules up to 1952 and then nothing until 1955.

Do you have additional pictures that show better details of the bicycle? If you do, that would be nice to see.

These are all the pics I have. They don't show more detail. I sold the bike probably a year and a half ago.



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Old 03-26-13, 09:39 AM
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Here's a few more photos. The downtube is bad because my dad mounted a footrest there and a seat on the top tube for me when I was really small.
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Old 03-26-13, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by LDB View Post
Here's a few more photos. The downtube is bad because my dad mounted a footrest there and a seat on the top tube for me when I was really small.
LDB, quite nice! The flaws you mention just add character to the bicycle and show it was used instead of being a garage queen. Based on what I know of Hercules, that's a mid-1950's bike at the earliest. What are the stampings on the hub? It should be Hercules B Type x where x is a single digit.

The paint on that bicycle is in excellent condition for its age. I only wish the paint on my Hercules Lion was as nice as on yours.
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Old 03-26-13, 10:11 AM
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That cleaned up nicely! The paint and chrome on these 1950s British bikes is enduring stuff.

The area where the decal and paint are worn away seems to be painted black! Is there usually a black coat of finish paint under the topcoat? Were all frames painted black in that era, then overpainted as needed?
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Old 03-26-13, 10:14 AM
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I'm afraid my eyesight isn't good enough to make out what's on the hub. I hadn't thought about it but maybe if I turn the bike upside down it will be a better angle where I can read it. I was born in 57 and suspect the bike is just about that vintage also or maybe a year or two newer.

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Old 03-26-13, 12:31 PM
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Bikes: 1949 Hercules Kestrel, 1950 Norman Rapide, 1970 Schwinn Collegiate, 1972 Peugeot UE-8, 1976 Raleigh Sports, 1977 Raleigh Sports, 1977 Jack Taylor Tandem, 1984 Davidson Tandem, 2010 Bilenky "BQ" 650B Constructeur Tandem, 2011 Linus Mixte

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Originally Posted by FlatTop View Post
That cleaned up nicely! The paint and chrome on these 1950s British bikes is enduring stuff.

The area where the decal and paint are worn away seems to be painted black! Is there usually a black coat of finish paint under the topcoat? Were all frames painted black in that era, then overpainted as needed?
Based on the old bikes I've seen of that era, it appears that was the case. They dipped them in the and then painted over them. It isn't the case all the time with these, but was pretty common.
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