Indian owned bike manufacturer Hero Cycles is breathing fresh life into one of Britain’s most famous bike brands – Viking.
Hero Cycles, the world’s biggest bicycle manufacturer by volume, is following fellow Indian companies by buying up much loved British manufacturing power brands such as Royal Enfield and Jaguar Land Rover. Hero Cycles bought the 110-year-old Viking brand when it purchased Manchester based bike distributor Avocet Cycles in 2015. Now this month after a near 40-year absence the first range of bespoke British designed Viking bikes is rolling into cycle shops across the UK.
Sreeram Venkateswaran Avocet CEO with new Viking Bikes outside Hero Cycles Global Design Centre Manchester
Avocet CEO Sreeram Venkateswaran said following decades of ownership changes and neglect Viking is back with a range of bikes ‘fit to wear the badge’. “When Hero Cycles bought Avocet we wanted to make an impact on the UK market,” he said. “Viking is a brand which fires the imagination and captures our ambitions. Viking has heritage, it has passion and in its glory days it was one of the finest bike manufacturers in the world with one of the best racing teams in Britain. We have invested more than £2million in moving our Global Design Centre from India to Manchester so we can embrace brands like Viking and recalibrate them, restoring the quality they were famed for. Our new range of Viking bikes is the first designed in the UK for 40 years. We believe the new Viking range of bikes can really connect with people, particularly families looking for a well-designed bike in the £250 to £1500 price range.”
Viking shot to fame in Britain after the war from its manufacturing base in Wolverhampton. With production reaching a peak of 20,000 bikes a year in the 1960s Viking was firmly positioned as one of the country’s leading bike makers. The company cemented its position by forming its own road racing team which became hugely successful riding its Master Series SS and Severn Valley lightweight racer bikes with notable victories in the Tour of Britain in the 1950s. Viking later further diversified into children’s bikes which eventually made up three quarters of its trade. The company ceased trading in 1967 and went through ownership changes and disappeared entirely from the 1980s until Avocet bought the trademark in 2002. (see notes to editors 1)
Mr. Venkateswaran said, “The new Viking bike will see the return of the classic Viking logo (see attached picture) with minimal retro graphics for a contemporary urban look. The bike frames further include a badge naming Viking’s tour of Britain wins in 1951, 1955, 1958 and 1959 (see attached picture). The new Viking range will include city, touring and road bikes.”
“The Viking bikes will be one of the most competitive in the range,” he said. “The new Viking bikes have a full Shimano group set, they are lighter, and have a tighter rear triangle enabling better power transfer. The Viking range are more responsive and better for cornering and have a great lively performance which is suited to families of all ages.”
Mr. Venkateswaran said the Viking range is a key part of Hero’s new Insync range of bikes launched in the UK in May 2018. “As well as Viking Hero has taken the brands of Riddick, Ryedale and DeNovo and totally redesigned the range to operate under the new Insync masterbrand which is very much aimed at the family and leisure market. Cyclists can expect to see lots of design innovations and improvements as the Insync brand grows. We see the Insync range as giving similar health benefits more like yoga, relaxing the body and mind and bringing oneself in sync with the surroundings. Recent reports suggest that cycling in older age can, for example, strengthen the immune system (see notes to editors 2). Insync aims to build a cycling culture that encourages happiness and health.”
Viking bikes will be available to the public to try at no charge at this year’s StreetVelodrome tour, a free to attend bike event hitting Wigan July 12-15 and London August 14-16. Professional riders and members of the public will take part in the races with famous riders like BMX world champion Shanaze Reade and freestyle rider Patrick Robinson offering tutorials for families.
For more details, and to take part in the Street Velodrome tour, visit: http://www.streetvelodrome.co.uk/.
The Viking bikes and Insync bike range is available to buy online: www.insyncbikes.com and from all good Independent bike dealers.
Notes to editors
1. Viking background
See also http://classicvikingcycles.com/
The Viking Cycle Company was formed in 1908 by Alfred Victor Davies.
Before the turn of the 20th century he worked as a railway clerk in North Wales and was transferred to Wolverhampton.
He started earning extra money in his spare time by mending bicycles. The railway company found out about his repair business and he was told that he had to give it up immediately or leave the railway. He decided to continue with the business and so he left his job.
Sometime later a building was acquired in Princess Alley to house the works. Around this time Viking started making frames and so changed a bicycle assembler to a bicycle manufacturer.
Alfred Davies retired just before the Second World War and was succeeded as Managing Director by his son, Reg Davies. He built the business up from a small undertaking in the 1930’s to a large scale manufacturing concern, producing around 20,000 cycles a year at its peak.
After the war with production rising the company decided to form its own road racing team.
Bob Thom joined the company as a player-manager for Viking’s first lightweight cycle team and Reg Davies designed a couple of lightweight machines.
The Viking road racers were introduced in 1948.
Viking’s first cycling team also included Ben Whitmore and Bill Allen and Bob led the team to victory in the B.L.R.C championship in 1948, 1949 and 1951. Another team member Ian Steele, won what was perhaps their most important triumph when he came first in the first Tour of Britain in 1951.
Viking’s name soon became synonymous with racing because of the team’s many successes. Viking had 1,250 bicycle dealers throughout the country supplying club type machines and became one of the premier names in the business.
In May 1955 it was decided to separate the manufacturing side of the company from the retail outlet.
The bicycles were designed by Reg Davies, who was an experienced club rider and so had the necessary experience to design a good racing machine. Production continued to increase, reaching a peak in 1963 when 20,000 machines were produced with a workforce of around 70.
In the mid 1960’s the club-market started to fall but there was an up-and-coming market for children’s cycles. Reg Davies responded brilliantly to this by designing a children’s machine with a unique frame. As children grow rapidly it was commonplace to buy several different sized machines for a child from the age of 5 to the age of 10.
Reg solved this problem by designing a juvenile machine in which the frame grew with the rider. This was achieved by using telescopic rear stays and a telescopic seat tube. The idea was very successful and this market soon accounted for three quarters of the company’s turnover.
However, with club cycling then in decline the company closed in 1967. It was later bought by two Americans, who established Viking Cycles, a bicycle assembler in Derry. This encountered financial problems and in 1981 Merseyside County Council considered buying the brand and opening a company to be headed by the bicycle racer and designer Frank Clements. In 2001 the Viking Cycles brand was bought by Avocet Sports, which primarily then used the brand on pre-designed bikes made in the Far East.
Hero Cycles Limited
Hero Cycles Limited was founded in India in 1956. It is the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world by volume producing 19,000 cycles per day and 5.2million per year. This represents one out of every 20 of the world’s bicycles. Hero Cycles has manufacturing units in Ludhiana (Punjab), Bihta (Bihar) & Ghaziabad (UP). It is part of the Hero Motors Company which has revenues of $400million and $1.2billion in assets employing circa 8,000 staff.
The company exports to more than 70 countries through a network of circa 250 suppliers and 2800 dealerships. Its bike range includes road bikes, hybrid bikes, children’s bikes, electric-bikes, mountain bikes, BMX and roadster models. Hero in India also manufactures automobile components like chassis for cars, safety components and transmission for motorcycles.
In August 2015, it acquired British brand Avocet Sports with 51pc stake targeting high-end bicycle market in Europe and now has full ownership. In 2015, it also acquired Firefox Bikes – India’s largest premium bicycle brand with an established presence Pan-India through a network of 160 outlets. In 2016, it acquired a majority stake in Sri Lanka’s leading bicycle manufacturer BSH Ventures, further boosting its manufacturing capacity. As part of major expansion plans across Europe it launched the £2million Hero Cycles Global Design Centre (HGD) in Manchester, UK, in January 2017. The design hub is led by creative minds from across the world including innovators from India, Taiwan and Denmark.
Hero Cycles is ISO 9001 & ISO14001 Certified from BVC of UK and recognized by the R&D department by the Govt. of India.