American Character Bikes: Rollfast Hopalong Cassidy, Shelby Donald Duck, Huffman Dial-Your-Ride

1936 Monark Silver King Flocycle Model No. M037

1936 Monark Silver King Flocycle Model No. M037

THE FINEST BICYCLE IN THE WORLD

Made for Those Who Demand the Best

It’s brand new! There’s never been a bike like it before! It has a spring, like an automobile – and a flexible frame that acts like a second spring. When you ride over bumps, the rear wheel rocks up and down on the spring – the frame flexes. They absorb the jar – the shock – you don’t get it – it’s like a Floating Ride.

I love the early years of cycling, particularly the 1890s, before cars pushed bicycles off the road. The innovations of the final decade of Queen Victoria’s rule shaped the world we know today. By the beginning of the Edwardian era, the bicycle had evolved into a design that remained unchanged for the following 50 years. Except in America.

While the rest of the world used bicycles as everyday transport, in the USA the automobile was a much more practical means of transportation. By the 1920s, American bicycles were marketed at teenagers rather than adults, with most models adopting the appearance of a miniature motorcycle, known as the ‘motobike.’ In the 1930s, the ‘art deco’ style and streamlining became the fashion for the latest products; automobile designers were soon working for cycle manufacturers in order to create new, different bicycles that might catch the public imagination. This was the era of American World Fairs, in Chicago in 1933 and New York in 1939. In 1932, Schwinn instantly turned all 1920s 28″ wooden-wheeled ‘motobikes’ into dinosaurs by introducing a new generation of balloon-tyred 26″ metal-wheeled bicycles. Every company followed suit. Now all vehicles – trains, cars, motorcycles, bicycles – had to combine the latest technological advances with the newest styles in order to outdate and supersede the previous year’s fashion and create a lust in the public purse.

The 1936 Monark Silver King Flocycle had many competitors: Elgin, Mercury, Shelby and many more companies were creating expensive iconic bicycles to help keep sales flowing. But this combination of new and stylish features created such a totally different bicycle that it surely stands out as the ultimate American balloon-tyred bicycle. An automobile-style leaf spring and flexible frame, polished aluminium frame without any paint, 24″ wheels to create a low wheelbase… hot-rodders ever since have been working to the same sort of criteria to create one-off dynamic designs that stand out from the crowd. And the key component not mentioned above? – beauty.



SPRING SUSPENSION

Twin upper bars originating in the head, extending back full frame length, curving down and anchoring at rear axle afford a knee-action type spring suspension.

Tempered spring leaves have been built into the lower rear fork, giving a cantilever spring action.

These two separate spring features assure a ‘floating ride’ eliminating road shock to the rider.


HEAD LIGHT

A combination battery operated headlight and horn of exclusive design, fully streamlined.

Red and green jewelled reflectors on the sides – made especially for Silver King bicycles.

Battery case holds four standard and flashlight batteries.

All wiring concealed.

CHAIN GUARD

A revolutionary type of chain guard fastened to the sprocket eliminates rattles.

Absolutely prevents clothing from catching in chain and sprocket.

FRONT FORK

One piece reinforced front fork with Aluminium Alloy Tubular Truss Rods, proper castor design to ensure easy steering.

WHEELS & TYRES

Twenty-four inch wheels, each with thirty-six spokes full tangent and non-rusting.

Rims, straight side steel chrome plated.

Straight white side double tube balloon tyres 24 x 2.125


HANDLE BAR

Made of heat treated rustless hexagonal aluminium alloy and polished to a mirror finish.

Forward extension stem of new and exclusive design also of heat treated aluminium alloy.

Extra long, black rubber finger notch grips.

BUILT-IN SPEEDOMETER

A Clipper speedometer is built right in the handlebar stem with the connecting cables running through

the hollow aluminium truss rods to eliminate rattle and and present a finished piece of workmanship.

An exclusive SILVER KING patented feature.

Built-in automobile-type spring connects rear fork and pedal sprocket.

As you cross uneven surfaces, the spring – not you – absorbs the shock.

It’s a Floating Ride!


FLOCYCLE PATENTS: EARL E. PEASE, 1938

MUD GUARDS

Special design polished stainless steel with double braces front and rear.

Front guard has extra long forward extension in common with modern streamlining.

Cross section of guard is ample to protect rider from mud and dirt.

Front guard fitted with splasher.

TROXEL TOOL-BOX SADDLE


OTHER MONARK SILVER KING MODELS

1936 MONARK SILVER KING FLOCYCLE v 1979 RALEIGH SUPERBE ALL-CHROME BOSS-BIKE

In true thirties streamline tradition, the Silver King Flocycle sits low on the ground thanks to its 24″ wheels. Compare the All-Chrome Raleigh Superbe with 28″ wheels.

All other 24″ wheeled bikes would be too small for an adult. However, the frame on the Silver King is so large that it feels like you’re riding a normal 26″ wheel machine.

The comparison between these two bikes is interesting because (apart from its all-chrome finish) the 1979 Raleigh Superbe is identical in style to the Raleigh Superbe of the 1920s, while the futuristic features of the Silver King Flocycle are so innovative that they would not be out of place on a bicycle built in the 21st century.

This bicycle was restored by my friend Dan Cleveringa around five years ago. We were discussing iconic bicycles, and in particular the challenges faced by collectors who only collect early machines when presented with the opportunity to buy an iconic bike made many years later. We used this bike as an example; Dan had sold it to focus on his early machines, and I was trying to decide, hypothetically, whether, given the cost of it, I would buy it or instead put the money toward an 1890s bicycle. I’d just sold some of my treasures, and was looking for an interesting bike as compensation. I considered this the most beautiful design I’d ever seen, and was regretting that Dan no longer had it. Coincidentally, one week later the bike came up for sale and I made that decision right away. Here’s what Dan had to say about it:

The seat is called the Troxel tool-box seat.. Very cool . I had it professionally re-done.. The frame is not chrome it is polished aluminum and will need to be re-polished every one or two years or the aluminum begins to oxidize . especially the castings,, the frame tubes are regular aluminum but the rear swing arm – neck & crank areas are castings and a lot more porous. The longer that you neglect it the harder it is to bring back to the condition that it is in right now.. I just did a quick polish on it about 6 months ago with metal polishing compound like for polishing silverware, and you do this by hand with a soft cloth.. plan on about a 4 to 5 hour project.. This bike is rideable – just make sure that the tires are pumped up to about 40 pounds of pressure and the person riding it is less than 200 pounds.. It’s well restored- yet all original because there is no re-paint. Enjoy.. Dan



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