Wankel-engined Hercules W2000
Wankel-engined Hercules W2000

Hercules was a brand of bicycle and motorcycle manufactured in Germany.

The Hercules Company was founded in 1886[1] to produce bicycles[2] by Carl Marschütz in Nuremberg, Germany[3] and began producing motorcycles in 1904. It was merged with Zweirad Union after being purchased by ZF Sachs in 1963.[4]

In the 1950s and 1960s Sachs was the largest European fabricator of two-stroke motorcycle engines.[5] Many of these engines were used in the Hercules line of small motorcycles, scooters and mopeds.

In 1974 Hercules became the first company to offer a Wankel-engined motorcycle for sale to the general public. A prototype was first shown in 1970 at the West Cologne Autumn Motorcycle Show to a mixed reception and the production bike was sold as a Hercules product except in the United Kingdom, where it was marketed as a DKW motorcycle. The W-2000 had a single-rotor air-cooled engine of 294cc displacement that produced 23 hp, later increased to 32 hp. Cooling was by a large fan placed in front of the engine (and the slipstream breeze while riding) and engine lubrication was by manually adding oil to the fuel in the tank.[6]

In 1976 Hercules launched the W-2000 Injection in which engine lubrication was from a separate oil tank via a pump. It had 18-inch wheels, a front disc brake and a rear drum brake. According to a March 1976 review in Cycle World, the handling was good but the bike's low ground clearance limited its cornering ability. That review also declared the W-2000 to be a daily commuting bike, not a sport motorcycle.[6]

Hercules introduced a rotary-powered dirt bike (the KC-30 GS Enduro) in May 1975, but the model failed to sell due to its high price ($2,900).[6]

The Fichtel & Sachs single-rotor engine of 300 cc swept-volume as used in the Hercules – the only commercially available engine at the time – was used as a basis by BSA's project engineer David Garside in the early 1970s when designing a twin-rotor motorcycle engine of 588 cc, which reached production as the "Norton Classic".[7]

Production of motorcycles ceased in 1996.

Partial product line

Hercules S125 of 1938-1943
Hercules S125 of 1938-1943


  1. ^ Deutsche Autos. Motorbuch Verlag.
  2. ^ "1939 Herrenrad Hercules (Fahrrad Werke, Nurnberg)". The Online Bicycle Museum. Archived from the original on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2016. The German Hercules bicycle is a large and powerful machine.
  3. ^ Tracy, David. "Let's Have A Close Look At The Hercules W-2000: The World's First Rotary Motorcycle". Jalopnik. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  4. ^ "History". Sachs Bikes. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009.
  5. ^ "Hercules Motorcycles". Cybermotorcycle.com. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Williams, Greg (2 February 2012). "Hercules W-2000: The First Rotary-Powered Motorcycle". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  7. ^ Robinson, John (December 1974). "NVT's Wankel: Interview with David Garside". Motorcycle Mechanics. pp. 41–43. After five years of research and rather touchy secrecy, Triumph suddenly announced their very own version of a rotary engine to the Press and put one on show at Cologne". Garside: "We started with the only commercially available engine, the Fichtel and Sachs, which gave about 20hp. So our first thought was to double the rotors to get around 40hp and then by development...we've got it up to target. On the test bench we've even had 80hp running with open exhausts.
  8. ^ "Hercules". Cybermotorcycles.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2009.