1912 Golden Sunbeam Six Speed ‘Model A6’


My friend Bob worked for Bonhams, a company that often auctions vintage bike collections as a result of the death of the collector. Some years ago he asked what would happen to my collection when that time came. Despite the morbidity, it’s a valid question since my collection represents both my pension fund and life insurance policy. Nevertheless, I would not be going the Bonhams route. Consequently I asked him whether he would choose me to auction his own collection if similar circumstances transpired. (I did already sell his prototype Mochet Velocar). A degree of friendly rivalry exists between all collectors, and I duly received the following email from Bob:

‘Colin, You may have seen the item in today’s online Daily Mail about a dead biker being buried, on his Harley and in a glass coffin. I announced to my wife that I would opt to go like that, on a Velocar. But she remarked that it would be pointless – since I would instantly be dug up by Colin.’

 This rare 6-Speed Golden Sunbeam comes from Bob’s collection and, below, you can read the circumstances of its acquisition.

The Six-Speed Sunbeam – ‘Model A6′ – was not a popular bicycle, and Sunbeam dropped it from their catalogue in 1911, after only three years. The quote from their 1910 catalogue, reproduced above, mentions the relative weight of a Six-Speed. Because of various comments in the cycling press, we believe that the public did not take to the Six-Speed at the time because they felt it weighed more.

But bear in mind also that, in 1908-1910, gears were still a novelty: the general opinion was that a ‘real man’ should ride a bicycle without gears.

It was not until four or five years later, by which time gears were a standard feature, that Sunbeam enthusiasts reconsidered the idea of a Six-Speed, and some owners combined the two-speed epicyclic with a three-speed rear hub to re-create their own version of the Sunbeam Six-Speed …although without the special six speed gears, these later ones were actually only a ‘five-speed.’

This example is a real Six Speed, and one of few known survivors. The external differences are easily spotted: two brazed-on lugs for the trigger mountings on the top tube, and also for the gear fittings at the top of the seat tube.

sunbeam six speed


Six Speed Sunbeam logo

1912 Golden Sunbeam Six Speed

‘Model A6’ (ie Genuine Six Speed)

23″ Frame

28″ Wheels

Frame No 117748

(Now sold)
oldbike museum
In 2013, I visited my friend Bob in the Midlands with a variety of vintage bicycles in my van, having picked them up earlier in the day from Hereford.
While showing me around his (wonderful) collection, Bob eventually opened his shed door to reveal this very rare Sunbeam Six Speed.
My reaction was predictable. Any fellow enthusiast would respond similarly. First my mouth opened in surprise. I’m not a biologist – in my teenage years, I scived off my biology lessons in school to play with my Lambretta, secretly parked behind bushes just outside the school grounds – so I’m not sure of the correct scientific definition. But, while I stood rooted to the spot, various hormones in my body changed gear, my mouth opened automatically, and I observed the words ‘Bob, if you ever decide to sell that…’ passing my lips and heading in his direction.
Unfortunately the answer was not in my favour.
However, just before I left, Bob asked me to let him know if I ever came across a Copenhagen Pedersen, as he fancied one. I’d been reading my astrology over breakfast in the Hereford B&B that morning and it told me that this week I’d be lucky. Jupiter was presumably conjucting over this part of Staffordshire – because I opened my van doors to reveal a Copenhagen Pedersen among the bikes I’d purchased in Herefore. It was duly exchanged for the Six Speed Sunbeam.
The above photo shows how the Sunbeam Six-Speed looked when I bought it. The rear chaincase quadrant and the gear assembly were in boxes.
1912 Sunbeam 6-Speed 05
A year later, thanks to Doug Pinkerton buying the remains of a Gent’s Sunbeam for me at an auction to provide the necessary two-speed gear parts, and many hours spent on it by Tony, the ‘Sunbeam Doctor’, this historic Six-Speed Sunbeam was rideable with operational gears.

1912 Sunbeam 6-Speed 06

Above and below: close ups of the external identifying features of a Six Speed Model A6.

1912 Sunbeam 6-Speed 62










This is the second pattern Sunbeam three speed gear