A small history of Bicycles in SWEDEN

  by Åke Stenqvist ©

There are a number of manufacturer that have made armybikes that was given names like: Nordstjernan(ca1900-1928), 
Husqvarna(ca 1900 -1950's), 
Hermes(ca1930's-1960) ( see pictureprofile ) and 
Monark(ca1940-1970's). 

Since Sweden have had some trouble in finding bicycleparts in first and second world war, most of the parts had to be made in Sweden. At least it was so from 1920´s until the end of 1970´s. The Armybike have to be made so different parts can be replaced with pieces from older or newer bikes. Most of the older bikes is therefore often a mix of parts from different bikes, allways painted in green so no part can shine in the dark, exept the lampsglas for safety on roads. All this mix of parts makes it hard to find out how old the bike is, but there are allways a framenumber that can give us some clue. 
 

Nyman
(http://hem.passagen.se/
cykhist/cyklarh.htm )

Anders Nyman opens 1873 a medical Instrumentmanufacturin on the street Dragarbrunnsgatan 25 in Uppsala.  From around 1880 he begin to repair bikes. During 1888 he made his first bike, a highwheel, sadly Anders died the year after, only 49 years old. His widow took over and continue with the company until 1893 when the firm were passed on to their sons Adolf Fredrik Nyman and Janne Nyman. 

The brothers expand to a new shop at Dragarbrunnsgatan 28 and reconstructed the company to A. F. & J. Nymans instrumentmakeri och velocipedfabrik. Only 10 velocipedes was made during 1893 – 1894 and these was given the name Hermes. Allready 1895 they bought a new shop where they also sold imported bikes. Members of the highweel society got 10% discount on repairs from A.F. Nyman on Dragarbrunnsgatan 25 & 30. During 1896 they made around 100 velocipedes. 

Nymans was now growing with the bikes rising popularity and had 48 employees in 1898. They want to expand and needed money so they reconstrukted it again and went to the stockmarket in 1899 and renamed it to Aktiebolaget Nymans verkstäder (AB NV).1900 the real factorymanufacturing of bikes started where they made ca 500/year around the century. Every year more bikes was made in 1905 they made around 2.500 bikes and 500 bikes as parts for other to make by themselves. 

In 25 maj 1910 fire struk the shop at Dragarbrunnsgatan 10 in the middle of the season. The company made at this time their own bikes, tyres, tubes. They also made repairations, painting, nickleplate and sold bikeparts. After the fire they concentrated their business to bikemanufacturing and sold the bikeparts, inventory and the rented lokals to their competitor, Frame-manufacurer Josef Eriksson who had a manufacturing on the same street. Between 1910 to 1920 the production of bikes expand, up to around 24 000/year the last year. Allready in 1919 NV opened their first branch office in Malmoe.
During the 1920's NV lost their main figures. Adolf Fredrik died in 14/6 1921 and his brother Janne died the 20/7 1923. Still the company continue the success.

A manufacurer in Stockholm, Crescentmanufacturer A. Lindblad, had in 1929 negotiate of a joint venture and in 1931 a deal was settled between the companies where the produktionen quickly went to Uppsala the same year. With Lindblad the NV got the agency of Torpedohubs from Fichtel & Sachs AG (Torpedo). Lindblad continue as a salesorganisation and the bikes were made in Uppsala by NV. A part of the advertisement was the participation in racingevents and roadraces was popular attractions where NV now served two teams, the Red Hermes-racers and the Yellow Crescent-racers. 
(Crescentpictures http://hem.passagen.se/cykhist/cyklarc1.htm )

The capacity was huge and NV took over the manufacturing1933 of Vega-manufacturer Östergötlands Velocipedfabrik in Linköping. To preserve the different bikes identity NV carefully used different parts on the details as frameornament and crankwheel among others. Even the popular mascot on the front mudguard in the 1930's was different. Hermes had the wellknown head of the Greek god Hermes in profile with his wing-helmet as a mascot. Crescent and Drott had their "Lady sitting in the crescent moon" in profile and Vega got an indian head with feathers and all as a mascot.

During the 1930's the times were good and NV reached 1 million bikes in 1938. In 1939 NV took over the bikemanufacturing from Stockholm-manufacturer Wiklunds Velocipedfabrik 
(See bicycleadv. / racer http://hem.passagen.se/cykhist/cyklarvykort.htm ) with their renown Nordstjernan-bikes(North star). Exept the competitions the branch offices was importent windows to the public and was at this time 12 in different larger citys in Sweden; as Malmoe, Stockholm, Gothenborg, Linkoeping, Karlstad, Oerebro, Vaesteraas, Sundsvall, Lulea, Falun and Umea. 

The companies that had been bought and joined to NV worked earlier as free salesorganisation, but become a closer part to the main company in 1941. The differrent profiles become weeker and a smaller part in the marketing from now on.  Expansion and bigger salesfigurers was a result of the need for fuel-free transportation, and even if there was a need for material, the number of employee rose to 3 times bigger, 1 300 people worked in Uppsala. The german hub-manufacturer Fichtel & Sachs AG was engaged in german warindustry and become a target for the allied troops, that in the end of the war did serious dammage to the factory. Because of the trouble to get the hubs a separate company, AB Torpedo NV, was created for a licenced manufacturing of theese hubs between 1947 to the beginning of 1950's.

The closer bonds between the 4 companies was marketed in 1/6 1947 when the company changed it's name to Nymanbolagen AB with a new logo, a shield divided in 4 squares red/yellow to symolize the 4 brands Hermes, Cresent, Vega and Nordstjernan. Also with the letter N in a central possition. The racers connected to the different brands had to get used to Nymanbolagens concentrations in Crescent as the racerbike. Harry Snell become a year later world champion on a Crescent 1948. Soon after that the first "Världsmästarcykeln" (Worldchampionbicycle) was born (a bike most of the swedes remembers today since Crescent used it still in the 1970's). Allreade 1948 a new and very small company joined the 4 when Aktiebolaget Velocipedaffären Viktor become a part of Nymanbolagen. They sold the brand Hinden with parts from Nymanbolagen.

Around 1950 Nymanbolagen had 1 600 employees and manufactured almost 1 bike/minute during the beginning of the 1950's. The production was 150 000 bikes, 15 000 motorbikes and bikeparts to a 100 000 more bikes. The good times was shown in the catalog with a large number of accessories and different gears. One of theese new accessories was Nymodyn, a dynamo integrated with the front hub together with the front hubbrake. Something Shimano manufatured today, but the idea is older. Sturmey-Archer manufactured a Dymohub allready in 1936.

The 1 juli 1952 Swedish law was changed and a motor on a bike without drivers licence was permitted and started a new era, the moped. Nymanbolagen and their competitors sold so many of theese popular mopeds that the bikesales was shrinking. Also the competition in motorbikes had effect on the bikes where most companies offered a cool bike with speedwaylook. 

The expansion never stoped so 1956 another manufacturer joined Nymanbolagen, M. Berlin & Co with their brand Apollo. From 1959 the news of a decal called pepita was given to Crescent and are still a part connected to the brand Cresent.

The biggest competitor, the manufacturer Monark, was allready a huge stockholder when the plans of a fusion was announsed and the deal was set in 14/6 1960 and the fusion happened allready the 1/9 same year. The joined companies now got 5 000 employees and president was the Monark-boss Tage Warborn.

Monark-Crescent AB become the new name of the company where the manufacturing of bikes was concentrated to Monark's hometown Varberg. A deal was made with Husqvarna in 1/9 1961 where Husqvarna exchanged the bike-, hub- and mopedmanufacturing with Monarks chainsawmanufacturing. The date 12/3 1963 was a sad day, it was the date the last bike was manufactured by Nymanbolaget in Uppsala. Allmost 10 years later the manufacturing of the bicycle Fram moved to Helsingborg and since then the nickname "Cykelsala" only lives in our memory.
 

Husqvarna:
(http://hem.passagen.se/
cykhist/cyklarh2.htm)

Husqvarna is one of the oldest companies in Sweden and the factory was founded 1697. As a specialist in iron and steelproducts they manufactured a number of different products during the past 300 years. Sometime in the beginning they got the name Husqvarna vapenfabrik (Husqvarna weaponfactory). Around 1850-80 and forwards other ithems like sewingmachines become their backbone, but also cooking ithems, stowes, and other iron products that could be needed in a complete home. 
In 1897 they slowly started a production of bicycles. Rather quickly they become popular since Husqvarna allways manufactured quality products. Soon the need was bigger than they could deliver so the manufacturing of bicycles took larger and larger space in the crowded factory. Allready in 1905 they speek of themselves as the biggest manufacturer of bicycles among the norther countries. They allready had a good salesorganisation spread in every capital city in the north, so the bikes were sold even outside Sweden. The bicycles together with the sewingmachines become the new backbone. 

Husqvarna was making bikes for the general public and didn't focus on the racingscene. So year after year they were growing and followed the fashion of the time. They also manufacured bikes for other brands and serve them with their own special identity as special ornaments, chainwheels, chainguards and so on. One of the bigger was the brand "Gripen" (i don't know the english word of the fairytalefigure; eaglehead, lions body with wings, and claws.) that was actually manufacured by husqvarna but sold by another "manufacturer".

As every big manufacturer they give their bikes a wellknown and recogniseable design and allways tried to improve. Even the smaller details was well done and of high quality. Between the 1910-40's Husqvarna followed the fashion. As most manufacturers they too made motorcycles before 1910, often with foreign motors. In the 1920's the manufaturer Rex (Helsingborg) was successful with their motorcycles in competition, while Husqvarna started their breakthrough around 1928 and was since then ranked high in motorcycletalks until the middle of 1950's. Back to their bikes. 

In the end of the 1940's they created their own tool-kit holder a the "new" material called Plastic (not as strong as steel :), and an ergonomical pedal they called Ortopedal (see homepage). As the time was, they too manufacured bicycles as the "Light series" with aluminum chainguards, mudguards, bagageholder and sometimes rims.

When the swedish law was changed and a motor on a bike without drivers licence was permitted Husqvarna made their own moped. It was a good product but (young-)people find Husqvarna to un-cool, and a real failiur was the moped version of the popular motorcycle called Silverpilen(Silverarrow) with a speedwaylook. Totaly obsolete motor and with a leather "chain" drive( belt ). In the end of the 1950's they had lost all progress to Nymanbolagen with their popular Crescent mopeds. Back to bikes again.

Allmost all manufacurers had their sales droped from the late 1950's and the progress in being the best manufacurer of bikes was not so interesting anymore. The family car was the latest thing. Even though bikes still was widely used, there were too big manufacturing capacity. When Husqvarna got an offer by Monark (Monark-Crescentbolagen) in 1961 they accepted to exchange manufacturingithems where Husqvarna exchanged the bike-, hub- and mopedmanufacturing and got Monarks chainsawmanufacturing. Monark tried to make Husqvarnabicycles with Monark quality (not so high quality as you might understand), but people now find Crescent more attractive. Crescent was still manufactured in Uppsala by the old Nymanbolagen a couple of years(2) as you had been reading about.

When the sales of Husqvarna droped the interest in Monark-Crescentbolagen of preserving the name Husqvarna was so low that they stopped making the bike. The manufacturing of Novohubs proceeded for some year untill 1967(?) but also the hub was becomming obsolete.

Husqvarna was the real winner since they still today is known for their high quality chainsaw's around the world. But today not many of theese products are made in Sweden anymore.

Husqvarna was not only known for a good quality but also for modern, different and exceptionally good paintjobs. Hermes was a long time the Rolls Royce of the bikes but in the 1950's Crescent became the main bicycle and Hermes dissapeared when Monark created the company Monark-Crescent bolagen. In the 1980's a bike with Hermes-decals appeared, but it was actually a Monark with another name. 

With the loss of two big manufacuter there were only Monark left to manufacture the militarybicycle. When the Swedish Army find themselves with too many old green bicycles they sold it to the general public who bought them, unknowing that it's almost impossible to repair the hub. Exept that the hub is of good quality, the breaks need constanty replacement. Since no such parts had been manufactured after 1968 there is allmost no-one to find anymore. I've seen one new in a box during my 15 years in the business. There are only a few militarybikes that have Torpedohubs whitch you can find if you are lucky, extreemely lucky. Theese Torpedo-parts is easy to find. 

After the Army sold everyone, the public need for this militarybikes was still high. So someone clever started to sell Chinamade armybikes that later got the name Kronan which is a nickname for the military in Sweden. The first years they were nothing else than trash, but year after year they have become better and more expensive. But still, they are far away from the real thing. 

I hope you can read my quick-translation and Swenglish so you know more about Swedish bicyclehistory. 

Åke Stenqvist ©

Bicyclerepairer and a member of the Bicyclehistoric club in Sweden.  

Back to the SWEDEN page

Het verzamelen van alle gegevens op deze site hebben mij veel moeite, tijd en geld gekost. Als u iets van deze site wilt gebruiken is het de gewoonte om daar toestemming voor te vragen. Copyright on all pages.

Collecting this information took me a long time and a lot of energy. When you want to use some, please ask. Always place the name and link of the Condorclub Holland.