Rudge had been the landlord of the Tiger's Head
public house in Wolverhampton. His close friend
was Henry Clarke, who started a wagon wheel
building business and then ran the Cogent Cycle
Co. Daniel was interested in racing, and with
Henry's help he began to build his own racing
machines at 19 Church Street, Wolverhampton,
which included an improved form of wheel bearing.
Many people wanted his bicycles, and in 1870
he started building and selling racing machines.
He made many improvements to his bicycles and
they soon became the best racing machines that
were available at the time.
He started to take part in the
races that were held in the grounds of the Molineux
Hotel, Wolverhampton. He won the very first
cycle race to be held there in 1869, and was
very successful. He started producing high wheelers
in 1874 and, for a short while in the late 1870's,
Dan was producing Humber bicycles for Marriott
and Cooper after they had parted company with
Humber, although they had the use of the name.
In 1878 he was awarded a gold medal for his
exhibit at the London Cycle Show. Dan Rudge
died on 26 June 1880, having formed the Rudge
business, and his widow continued to run it
until November 1880 when it was sold to George
Woodcock and amalgamated with the bankrupt business
of Haynes & Jefferis to form the Tangent
Woodcock had also purchased the
assets of the collapsed Haynes & Jefferis
firm in 1879 and relocated the combined business
to Ariel Works, Trafalgar Street, Coventry in
1880 having taken over the business of the Tangent
and Coventry Tricycle Company. In 1885 the business
was transferred into a private limited company
called D. Rudge & Co. Ltd. It became the
Rudge Cycle Co Ltd, Coventry, on 21 October,
1887, a public company with capital of £200,000.
Walter Philips was the renowned works manager
and Lawson, H. J., the sales manager. Stoddard
& Lovering of Boston, Mass. were the US
Maker of the Ariel, Emperor, Mechanic's,
Rudge's Swiftsure and Tangent high wheelers.
The No.2 Ordinary was one of the best known
competitive machines of its era which pioneered
adjustable ball races on wheels and pedals.
Other competitive features pioneered by the
company were hollow backbones and lighter tangentially
Although Rudge took over manufacture
of the Coventry Rotary from Starley & Sutton
from 1885, the name Coventry Rotary was retained
through to 1892 in Rudge catalogues, when production
ceased. The Triplet Tandem Quadricycle Direct
Steering Roadster was produced from 1888.
The Royal Crescent tricycle was
made for about three years from 1886. It was
introduced in Roadster, Ladies and Racer forms.
Also the Royal Crescent tandem tricycle. A Parcels
Carrier and Parcels Express were made before
1892 as well as the Roadsculler and Triplet.
The Rudge cross-frame safety was patented in
1887 and sold as the Rocket. By 1889 the company
was making safety bicycles with diamond pattern
frames but with halved tubes for lightness named
the Bicyclette. The company produced the Déesse
brand for sale in France. In 1894 it built the
Giraffe safety, along with Starley, J. K. &
Co., under licence from Humber & Co. Ltd.
In May 1891 George Woodcock died.
This coincided with a reduction in trade. The
company was rescued by the Whitworth Cycle Co.
in 1894 to form Rudge Whitworth Ltd.
A little-known fact (that ties
in with the history of Cyclemaster) is that
after Rudge Whitworth fell on hard times in
the Great Depression, the music company EMI
bought the Rudge name. EMI produced bicycles
under the Rudge name from 1935 until 1943 when
they sold the name to Raleigh.
In 1938 EMI centralized production
in Hayes: Rudge's Coventry factory closed and
re-opened next to EMI. 1939 saw the prestigious
Rudge name associated for the first time with
a motorized bicycle - the 98cc Rudge Autocycle.
It was short-lived though: the Rudge factory
was taken over by EMI for the manufacture of
radar equipment during the War, and the remaining
autocycles were passed on to the Norman company.
Ulster Grand Prix
In 1929 Graham Walker won the
Ulster Grand Prix averaging over 80 mph. This
prompted the release of the Rudge Ulster, as
well as a JAP engined 250 cc and parallel 4
valve 350 cc. The Ulster was one of their most
1930s Isle of Man TT victories
Rudge bikes finished first, second
and third at the 1930 Junior TT using prototype
radial 350 cc 4 valve engines. They also took
first and second in the Senior TT. The road
bike engines were changed to dry sump lubrication.
The JAP 250 and the parallel four valve 350
cc ended production in this year.
In 1931 Rudge released its first
250 cc and 350 cc road machines with the radial
valve layout. TT Replicas were available in
350 cc and 500 cc. The parallel valve 500 cc
was also available in Special and Ulster models,
the Ulster now having a 100 mph guarantee. First
and second were taken in the 1931 Lightweight
TT, and in 1932, second and third.
A radial head 500 cc was produced for 1932 only.
A 250 cc TT Replica was built, and the road
bikes were fitted with proper oil bath primary
chains, and a stand that could be operated "with
just one finger".
With the depression biting, 1933
was the last year of production for dirt track
bikes, and the TT Replicas. The Ulster 500 cc
was fitted with a "semi-radial" (parallel
valves with radial ports) cast iron head. For
1934 the Ulster had its head cast in aluminium
bronze, and a radial 4 valve 250 cc Sports was
released. Rudge motorcycles took the first three
places in the
1934 Lightweight TT.
A two valve 250 cc was produced
in 1935, and in 1936 the last of the radial
4 valve 250 cc model were produced, while round
tube forks were introduced on other models.
In 1937 the valve gear became fully enclosed
on the 500 cc models, but finances were bad
and Rudge was bought by EMI, and production
was interrupted, being moved to Hayes, Hillingdon
A 250 cc 2 valve Sports was released
in 1938, and for early 1939 the Ulster had an
RR50 aluminium cylinder head. Production ceased
in December 1939 in order to convert to radar
production for the war effort.
Today, the Rudge is a sought after