1904 Royal Enfield ‘Girder’ Lightweight Roadster (Fagan 2-Speed Hub)


From 1898 all models were known as ‘Royal Enfield’. The motto ‘Made like a gun’ was used to describe the machines. Models for 1898 were supplied with R. W. Smith’s Patent Disc-adjusting bracket and Enfield Lever Pattern brake. The Light Roadster for 1898 weighed 30 lb. Albert Eadie retired that year.

 For 1899 there were rubber inserts in the head tube to absorb vibration. Also introduced was eccentric bracket chain adjustment and eccentric discs let into the rear fork ends to allow chain adjustment. The band brake was promoted, especially on lady’s models. In 1901 the steering lock was changed from bolt-through to head clip and the lady’s models switched from plunger to pull-up stirrup front brake.

 At the 1899 Stanley Show the Rucker and Philpott flexible spring frame was shown and adopted by Enfield. The spring frame ‘Flexible’ was heavily re-designed and offered for 1901. It was built with compression stays of flat steel, the seat stays being divided and connected to the saddle lug by two flat steel scroll springs. Front fork blades were made from two flat steel springs, placed with broader surfaces parallel to the wheel hub. The longer blade is at the rear, curled near the lower end, to which the spindle is attached.

 It didn’t work and was re-designed and re-introduced in 1902. Main features were fork blades made to two flat springs curving down from the fork crown, the longer one carrying the front spindle, and the shorter one in front, bearing down at a point about 5″ above the spindle. There was a similar arrangement at the back, plus sprung bars and seat pillar. It was withdrawn by 1904 following the introduction of the ‘Girder’. There were two types of ‘Girder’ frame: the ‘Modele Riche’, offered first, with brake mechanisms hidden in the fork head and silver badge, with the Duplex added for 1907 and continuing as top of the range until the late 1920’s; and another with a single bracing strut on lower-range lightweight frames. The chainwheel on the ‘Girder’ is distinctive in having six, pear-shaped cut outs.

 For 1903 there was a new patent drum hub brake; the plated fork crown was replaced with boxed crown (although plated crown with flexible forks continued to be available on special order until c1912); waisted seat stays replaced straight; and inverted brake levers were adopted. At the 1903 Show the Fagan 2-speed hub was introduced for 1904 and fitted as standard on the ‘Modele Riche’. A coaster brake was now fitted to the ‘Royal Enfield’ and ‘Model B’. The company was now trading from Hunts End, Birmingham, and recived some publicity for fulfilling an order for 72 cycles destined for the 1st Volunteer Battalion of Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

 In 1905 the models on offer were the ‘Modele Riche’ at £16 16s., including two-speed gear and painted black with gold lining; the ‘Royal Enfield’ at £12 12s., painted black and lined in gold and white, with black and gold on wheel rim centres; the ‘Model A’ at £10 10s. lined in crimson and bronze, with crimson and black wheel centers; the ‘Model B’ at £8 8s., and lined with green and white. Enfield offered the two-speed hub, made under the Fagan patents.

By the turn of the twentieth century, cycle manufacturers worldwide were experiencing a downturn in sales due to over-production: there was such a good profit in the cycle trade that too many companies were now chasing the same customers. The manufacturers who had benefitted from the boom years were busy buying up other companies and preparing for the ‘new big thing’ …motor bicycles. This necessitated a rapid advancement in the evolution of bicycle gears and brakes, and the next few years saw these components develop the systems that, by 1905, became the industry standard for the following hundred years.

Sturmey-Archer three-speed gears dominated the market by 1907, and most two-speed gears became outdated (with the exception of Sunbeam’s Epicyclic Two Speed). The two-speed gear manufacturers had formed a syndicate, and a few other gear makers, such as Crabbe, were bought by individual cycle/motorcycle companies (in that case, Ariel). With most of the smaller prototype two-speed geared hubs only in existence for only two or three years, it is rare to see an example now.

John Fagan’s patent provides an interesting insight into the ‘art of inventing.’ The existing two-speed hub provided fixed in one gear and free in the other, ie by taking two things already in existence – fixed hubs and freewheel hubs – and putting them together, a new invention – a geared hub – had been created. But, although the gearing in the two hubs varied, it was obviously inefficient as one of the gears was fixed. If you read Fagan’s patent extract above, you can see that Fagan’s invention was actually a hub sprocket that allowed both gears to become freewheel.

The Fagan hub was built by Eadie; as John Fagan’s patent was essential to its existence, it required his name to be used. Soon after, his name was dropped from the casting on the hub itself, although adverts for the Eadie hub still required the words ‘using the Fagan patent.’

This is a rare example that clearly shows its name on the hub as The “Fagan” Two Speed Hub.




 1904 Royal Enfield ‘Girder’ Lightweight Roadster

with Fagan 2-Speed Hub

Frame number 089773

26″ Frame

28″ Wheels



This Royal Enfield Girder is a rare early example; the rear mudguard and the chainwheel were taken from a similar age lady’s Royal Enfield as they were missing when my friend Ray built the machine in 2004. The difference is that the rear mudguard has holes in it for fitting a skirt guard, and the chainwheel is slightly smaller than on a gent’s model.

It is nevertheless a marvellous machine, its headbadge being an early Royal Enfield one that’s rarely seen. And, of course, its main feature is the Fagan Two-Speed hub with unique Fagan gear trigger. It’s interesting riding the bike and changing gear knowing that its mechanism was the predecessor of all subsequent cycle gears.


















































 1901 & 1903 FAGAN HUB PATENTS