It’s a bit of a tragedy that, in the evolutionary march towards efficiency, strange beasts like this rotary-powered Hercules W-2000 have become extinct. These days, with very few exceptions, we’ve got singles for durability and economy, parallel twins for commuters and the occasional nostalgia trip, v-twins for character, triples for torque and performance, and fours for pure efficiency and speed. With regards to sporting machines, we’re almost entirely limited to v-twins, triples, and fours.
While that seems like a pretty wide variety of configurations, it’s nothing like what was available in the 60’s and 70’s: we had two-stroke twins and triples in air-or liquid-cooled varieties, square fours, turbos, straight sixes, and even the occasional rotary thrown into the mix. At first blush, the Wankel rotary seems like an ideal fit for a motorcycle: the design provides incredible smoothness without the need to resort to balance shafts, and few moving parts for ease of manufacture and reliability. Rotary engines are very compact, and make excellent power for a given “displacement”, although it is difficult to compare relative displacements with reciprocating engines, and that actually helped doom the W-2000 from the start…
Today, thanks to Mazda’s RX-7, RX-8, and various shrieking racecars, the rotary has become associated with performance machines. But the Hercules W-2000 was really more a high-end commuter bike, like the modern-day equivalent of a Toyota Prius, only much cooler. With a six-speed gearbox and glassy-smooth power delivery, it was comfortable and reasonably quick. Lubrication was added, early two-stroke style, by adding oil to the fuel in the tank, although later “Injection” models had a separate oil tank.
Unfortunately, that hard-to-quantify engine led to insurance companies to classify the W-2000 as a much larger machine than Hercules had expected, meaning that it was effectively priced out of competition. That, combined with notoriously short-lived apex seals common to early rotaries and relatively modest performance, condemned the Hercules to obscurity. Sales were very limited, although the technical specifications make them of interest to the kind of nerdy enthusiasts who also covet hydro-pneumatic Citroëns.
From the original eBay listing: 1975 Hercules W-2000 for Sale
Get bidding on your chance to own a piece of motorcycle history!
This would be a great piece for the museum.
We purchased this bike from the original shop that owned it.
It has never been titled but it DOES come with a statement of origin.
It is in very nice shape, with the exception of some deterioration on the grips and the rear luggage strap.
There are some minor cosmetic issues here and there.
A little clean up will go a long way!
We recommend a complete service before running.
Put a bow on this bike and you will be a hero!
There are 4 days left on the auction and bidding is up to $6,600. With just one mile on the clock, this is the one to have if you’re only planning on displaying it… Which might be the best way to enjoy this curiosity: reviews suggest that W-2000’s are perfectly competent motorcycles, but ultimately more of a technological footnote than a practical motorcycling solution: Wankel engines look good on paper, but rotaries have increased cooling requirements and reduced reliability that cancel out the advantages inherent in having fewer moving parts.
And while it’s a shame for enthusiasts that there are fewer choices today than there were in the era of classic motorcycles, keep in mind that these engines died off for a variety of very practical reasons: two-strokes are inherently dirty and not particularly practical as day-to-day machines, sixes are big, heavy, and expensive to produce and maintain. Turbos add unnecessary complexity, and square fours have cooling problems not found in more common inline-fours. Luckily funky little bikes are still out there for enthusiasts who want them!