As I was surfing through the C&V Sales sub-forum on December 8, 2011 I saw the intriguing thread "old british bikes" started by ftwelder. As I love English bikes more than anyone should, and having a bit of a penchant for Hercules bicycles in particular, my eyes widened as I saw not just one Hercules bicycle, but two described in the thread:
Hercules light roadster 1930's..very nasty and freeSo not only were there two bikes available, but they were free. Upon seeing the message I immediately sent a PM and upon arriving home placed a call to Frank and left a message. Early the next morning I received a PM to give him a call when I got a chance. Upon speaking to him it became apparent that there were a couple other Hercules that Frank had in his possession that he was also willing to part with, one that was only a frame. Upon clearing a weekend trip to VT with my wife, I proceeded to pack and hit the road. On Saturday morning, I went to Frank's shop and was greeted by Frank who gave me a tour of the shop and introduced me to many of his bicycles, ranging from ones he has built (Frank builds some VERY COOL BIKES!), his Italian rides, his Nashua and his Raleigh Golden Arrow (WOW!).
Hercules "hudson" (not sure) very nasty and free
In any case I was especially interested in knowing about the frame that Frank mentioned and that I spied in one of his flickr sets and that he had started a thread here on the forums a while back . Before long I had a frame in my hands, examining it and trying to figure out what it was. It had all the trademarks of a Hercules frame, but I wasn't familiar with the lugs, nor was Frank. We had a theory that it was a one-off skunkworks build, but didn't have anything to back up the theory.
It wasn't until I posted some pictures on Sunday and one of my friends on flickr (Mike Gerrish or Abaraphobia) informed me that the frame was a Kestrel! Mike lives in England and is a bit of a Hercules expert in his own right, so I knew I was on the right track with this frame. At that point, of course, I began my search to determine the year of the bicycle based on clues the frame was giving me. One of the first clues that this was no older than an early 50's machine was due to the design of the dropouts which have a "keyhole" above the axle. I then started scouring the interwebs for catalogs (here and here), posters, and pictures for other hints.
Since the frame had been repainted, the original color was not immediately apparent. The paint on the fork offered up no hints, nor did the headtube. In fact, the frame had been so thoroughly cleansed of any hints that I wasn't sure I would be able to get the year of the bike as close as I would like. But then I remembered that I hadn't yet looked inside the bottom bracket. I see gold: SCORE! There are catalogues that indicate "Polychromatic Gold" as the color of 1948 and 1949 Kestrel Club range.
Now I've narrowed down the year of the bike, the work of re-creating this bike begins. I currently have a Hercules A Type 9 (1949) hub in my possession and a Bayliss Wiley "wide body" front hub as a starting point. It is certain that I'll be spending a lot of time searching the English and European eBay site for other components that will be suitable to this bike as I work through the project.
Before we get to a few pictures, I want to pass on my most sincere thanks to Frank (ftwelder) for his outstanding generosity. He is a bike geek through and through and if you ever have an opportunity to meet him face-to-face or interact with him here on the forums, you will quickly realize he is a true class act!
I present to you my new diamond in the rough:
Hercules Kestrel Frame - Late 1940's - 1 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr
Hercules Kestrel Frame - Late 1940's - 2 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr
Hercules Kestrel Frame - Late 1940's - 3 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr
Hercules Kestrel Frame - Late 1940's - 4 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr
Hercules Kestrel Frame - Late 1940's - 5 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr
Hercules Kestrel Frame - Late 1940's - 8 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr