WAFFENRAD HISTORY I
THE ORIGINS OF WAFFENRAD
Waffenrad – meaning literally weapon wheel – is an Austrian license version of an English „Swift” bicycle from Coventry. It is a product for civilians and is not be confused with a military vehicle of such sort.
The original expression „Waffenrad” comes from the center of production: „Oesterreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft” (Austrian Weapons Manufacturer Society). To maintain their permission to build also in times of peace, they produce bicycles for civilians, using meanwhile their experience in weapon construction from the late 19. century onwards.
The word Waffenrad represents the quality of domestic factories, just like the Steyr Waffenrad bikes do. The quality and durability of Steyr's bike is legendary and is still considered a synonym for any old, strong, black color bicycles, regardless of the manufacturer's name.
The name "Waffenrad" is often misunderstood as a bicycle equipped with firearms. In reality the manufacturer, Austria Waffenfabriks Gesellschaft (ÖWG) produced bicycles for the civilian circles because the firearm market has decreased. Just as the BSA and Royal Enfield companies in England, FN and Sarolea in Belgium or Husqvarna in Sweden.
The start of the company began when Josef Werndl took over the family business of component makers for small firearms in 1855. Together with his brother named Franz Werndl, Josef founded a company called Josef und Franz Werndl & Comp. The company produces firearms and sawmills at the time. The company was inaugurated on April 16, 1864 in Steyr, Austria.
Josef and Franz Werndl land a hit in production soon! In addition to developing the company, they develope the Werndl Model 1867 rifle. In the development of these firearms, these two brothers took a talented engineer named Ferdinand Mannlicher. As a result, they became the leading light firearm producer in Europe. This will boosts the production capacity of bicycles in Austria immensely! But the introduction of safety bicycles only follows later in the 1890s.