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Lambert - Viscount Bicycle History

Lambert Models 

The Lambert was born in 1972, but seems to have had roots in Viking Cycle after that company was sold to American investors in 1967. The product of an aerospace company, Lamberts were midrange cycles made out of “aerospace” tubing. This isn’t saying much as the industry that gave us airplanes used a wide variety and quality of steel. But the bikes were made with some integrity and the "seamless" frame was lightweight. The cast aluminum fork on the other hand is now referred to as the Death Fork. More on that later.

According to www.classicrendezvous.com, the Marriot family had something to do with the financing for Lambert. The first bikes were reportedly lugged frames made at the Viking Cycles factory in Wolverhampton, England (It may be that Viking was sold in 1967 to the same American investors that eventually started Lambert in 1972. Either way, Viking was reportedly moved to Northern Ireland and survived into the 1980s.

In any case, Lambert continued to turn out lugged frames in 1973. Check out this 1973 ad at classicrendezvous.com that lists Viking Cycles as part of the International “Lambert” Group of Companies and then a very odd Lambert of England (USA) Inc label.

This young ambitious company sought to make an affordable, but relatively high-end bike right out of the gate. They made or commissioned their own components (rather than picking up the standard offerings from Campagnolo or Shimano or whoever). It was a lofty attempt and the kind of effort that very few established manufacturers undertook at the time. It is generally accepted that Lambert was attempting to offer a higher quality product (rather than higher profit margins) by producing everything in house. This was a biker’s bike company. It was probably the company’s downfall.

The bike was covered in untested components. Time revealed problems. The unthreaded bottom brackets were prone to failure, and by failure, I mean that the spindle had a tendency to snap in two (personal account). The center sleeve of the handlebars was riveted on and often worked itself loose after many miles. The rear derailleur just couldn’t handle the job and was discontinued. Then there was the Death Fork.

The Death Fork was cast aluminum. Bridgestone used cast aluminum lugs on some of the Kabuki models (Submariner and SSD), but because the aluminum had no give in it, Bridgestone had to use a special seat post with an expander wedge built into it. The aluminum lug could not be made to close on and then release the seat post. Attach a regular seat post clamp and the lug was more likely to break than give. Same with Lambert’s cast aluminum Death Fork. The average raked fork bends and bounces a little with the road. After metal fatigue set in, the Lambert fork simply snapped.

In the mean time, Lambert struggled along. According to Sheldonbrown.com, in 1975 or 76 the company was purchased by Trusty and the Lambert became the Viscount. This did little to improve the aerospace industry’s bicycle. Not much changed until Yamaha came along to pump some money into the company in 1978 or so. After immediately recalling the aluminum forks and replacing them with a chromed steel Tange fork, Yamaha set about trying to improve margins by replacing the in-house manufactured components with more off-the-shelf stuff. Lambert/Viscount seems to have limped along for seven years under Yamaha and then just faded away.

All in all, the Lambert and the Viscount were pretty decent bikes. They don’t have any major cycling victories to shout about, but they were nothing to scoff at either. Despite a few problematic components, the company was built and operated with a cyclist’s integrity. If you have a vintage Lambert, ride the heck out of it, but get the fork replaced immediately (don’t chuck the old fork, it is a bit of a collector piece now).

Sources:
www.classicrendezvous.com

sheldonbrown.com

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