1912 Imperial Triumph ‘No 12b’ Light Roadster

In this age of cheap labour it should not be lost sight of that TRIUMPHS are produced solely by male mechanics and skilled ones at that. It stands to reason that when skilled men are supplanted by cheap labour, the quality of the finished article must suffer accordingly.

– Extract from 1914 Triumph sales brochure

The mass enlistment of the cycle industry labour force in 1914 necessitated the recruitment of unskilled workers, many of whom were women. But apparently this was already an issue before the outbreak of war, with many companies recruiting cheaper labour to reduce costs. Triumph’s workshop manager refused to employ female staff, and the 1914 Triumph catalogue reflected his opinion on that issue.

Triumph bicycles featured unique components throughout. They were among the most expensive bicycles in the world. So every part was made in the Triumph factory to prevent the manufacture of counterfeit machines. The quality of a Triumph was unequalled: the top-of-the-range Triumph Imperial was on a par with a Golden Sunbeam, but was a lighter machine.

Triumph’s band brake was a market leader. Other companies that had introduced them at the turn of the century (eg Sunbeam, Humber, Quadrant) discontinued them a few years later. But Triumph was still offering their band brake as an option in the late 1920s.

1912 Imperial Triumph ‘No 12b’ Light Roadster

with band Brake

25″ Frame

28″ Wheels (40 spoke rear; 36 spoke front)

Frame No 204852

 (Now sold)


With its inverted levers, band brake and other distinctive Triumph features, the lines of this Imperial Triumph evoke its larger motorcycle brother. Its design stands out in a crowd and oozes character.Only the Imperial and Royal Triumphs featured the band brake and eccentric chain adjustment in the bottom bracket. The Imperial had a band brake fitted as standard, while it was an optional extra on the Royal. It’s not 100% certain which one this is: the Royal usually had a chaincase fitted, so this could be a Royal without a chaincase and band brake fitted as a paid extra. The ‘Model 12’ Imperial is a light roadster without chaincase as in this example. (The ‘b’ suffix on the model number reveals its frame size – 25″).Whereas British bicycles had a wheel/hub spoke configuration of 40 rear and 32 front (European was 36 front and rear), Triumph uniquely had 40 rear and 36 front. As you can see, this Triumph has the correct front wheel. The front wheel has been respoked. If required, I’ll have the rear wheel rebuilt too for its new owner. The mudguards are Triumph’s unique ridged pattern. The handlebar grips and front brake rubbers have been replaced and the band brake has been serviced.  Its condition is best described as ‘oily rag’ ie original unrestored rather than bright and shiny. Being a superbly made strong lightweight machine, a Triumph is as suitable for daily use now as when it was built 105 years ago.