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Ride Impressions - 1949 Hercules Kestrel

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Ride Impressions - 1949 Hercules Kestrel

Old 06-29-12, 05:34 PM
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Ride Impressions - 1949 Hercules Kestrel

About a month back, other than a few minor details, I completed building my 1949 Hercules Kestrel. When I finally went to take the bike for a ride, it was with great disappointment that I discovered the Hercules A Type 9 hub was not operating properly. While the hub worked just fine in 3rd gear, 1st and 2nd would skip constantly, to the point where the bicycle was unable to be ridden as it was. Nonetheless, I decided to take it to Cirque to show some of the guys there and with hopes of getting some input on what may be wrong with the hub. As it turns out Harvey Sachs, a bit of an Sturmey Archer aficionado, offered to help repair the hub since it appeared to be nearly the same as a Sturmey AW. In any case, the hub got repaired a couple weekends ago thanks to Harvey, but I've been too busy to take it for a ride other than one that confirmed it was working properly. Finally, today I was able to take the Hercules Kestrel on her maiden voyage. So what was it like?

Based on the 15 mile ride I took, I can say that the bike seems to be pretty lively and light on its feet, not as lively as the Norman Rapide, but far livelier than a Raleigh Sports or run of the mill Hercules light roadster. Also, one thing that was especially pleasing to me was that the bike can be ridden with no hands far easier than any other bike in my collection. This bike has very relaxed geometry, with 70.5 headtube and 70.5 seattube, so that most likely accounts for the ease of riding without hands and the ability to easily hold a line as you're riding. The ride quality seemed to be pretty supple, but given the big 38-590 tires, that was a given. I'd like to take it for a longer ride with some hills and curves to give it a more meaningful "road test" once I change the gearing, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

What I can say, as of now, is that used in a context where a gravel path or unpaved surface is in the mix, the Hercules Kestrel is a natural and is a nicer riding bike that I would have thought given its humble pedigree. I suppose Hercules did their homework on these bikes as they needed something to compete with the Raleigh Lenton line of bicycles or they would find themselves behind the curve in the high-stakes bicycle world of the Post-WWII era.

At this point, I still have a few odds and ends to do to the bike: swap out the brake calipers, change the rear cog, wrap the handlebar, affix a headbadge and adjust the rear fenderline, but it is essentially complete and in ride-ready condition at this time.


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 1 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 2 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 4 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 5 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 6 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 7 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 8 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 9 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr


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


Hercules Kestrel - First Ride - C&O Canal Towpath - 11 by Sallad Rialb, on Flickr

Last edited by photogravity; 06-29-12 at 07:31 PM.
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Old 06-29-12, 05:41 PM
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I'm glad to hear it!

What do you think of that handlebar, at this point?

Is that an 18T cog on the hub? Be sure to change that before you mess with the fender adjustment.
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Old 06-29-12, 06:46 PM
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Gorgeous. Love it!
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Old 06-29-12, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by rhm
I'm glad to hear it!

What do you think of that handlebar, at this point?

Is that an 18T cog on the hub? Be sure to change that before you mess with the fender adjustment.
I actually like the handlebar quite a bit. It's more comfortable than I thought it would be and I really like the way it looks on the bicycle.

Yes, the cog is an 18t. It will get either a 21t, 22t or 24t cog as a replacement. I need to run the gear calculator to see where each combination puts me before I decide on the final gear. I typically like to have a pretty low 1st gear for climbing hills here in Brunswick with 3rd gear as my cruising gear and around 70 gear inches, so whichever puts me in the ballpark is what will go on it.
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Old 06-29-12, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by minisystem
Gorgeous. Love it!
Thanks minisystem. I'm glad to have finally been able to take it for a ride. It was well overdue for one!
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Old 06-29-12, 07:21 PM
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That's quite a handsome bicycle you have there.

I've been mulling a similar build "theme" for some time.

I'll probably use a classic American builder, but that's neither here or there.

Yours is super classy and I'd wager fun to ride.

Very nice work.
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Old 06-29-12, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by gomango
That's quite a handsome bicycle you have there.

I've been mulling a similar build "theme" for some time.

I'll probably use a classic American builder, but that's neither here or there.

Yours is super classy and I'd wager fun to ride.

Very nice work.
Thanks Grady. So far the bike appears to be a pretty nice ride. I have to admit that it would be great to see you on something other than Italian steel once in a while but I digress. Once I get proper gearing a road ride will be in order so I can see how well it handles on faster rides. One thing I forgot to mention in my post is that the frame is Reynolds 531 straight gauge. It's not exotic and isn't as light as the butted tubes, but definitely makes for a decent riding bicycle.
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Old 06-29-12, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by photogravity
Thanks Grady. So far the bike appears to be a pretty nice ride. I have to admit that it would be great to see you on something other than Italian steel once in a while but I digress. Once I get proper gearing a road ride will be in order so I can see how well it handles on faster rides. One thing I forgot to mention in my post is that the frame is Reynolds 531 straight gauge. It's not exotic and isn't as light as the butted tubes, but definitely makes for a decent riding bicycle.
You cut me to the quick!

I have a couple of bicycles made in the USA.

Sloar is helping me with a painting project on a Reynolds 653 frame.

It will be the only Reynolds tube set in the stable.

The horrors!
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Old 06-29-12, 08:27 PM
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Sweet Ride...
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Old 06-29-12, 09:17 PM
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What a beauty! Great news about restoring the hub.
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Old 06-29-12, 09:49 PM
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Spiffy-looking machine, Dallas!
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Old 06-29-12, 09:57 PM
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If you happen to see Jane Marple while riding it, tell her I says hi. Oh, wait, wrong color. It needs to be black.

A utility bike for old roads. Nice! And beautiful yet.
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Old 06-29-12, 10:28 PM
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It's a beautiful bike, and the setting is perfect.
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Old 06-30-12, 03:01 AM
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Now you have it perfect!
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Old 06-30-12, 05:05 PM
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Very nice to see it come together. The frame repaint was splendid. But looks so nice as a whole. Congrats on your restoration, looks like such a fun ride.
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