1896-1898 Humber Standard-Grade Special Light Roadster (American Export Model)

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With an excellent chairman, and a sound board of directors, the business of the company went forward to success, whilst Mr. Humber saw that only the best work was put into the machines whether they were ‘Beestons of Beeston’ or second grade Humbers of Wolverhampton, or were turned out of the Coventry Works as wholesale orders for firms who had no manufactory of their own. Thus it was that by combined talent and perseverance, conscientiousness and business ability backed up by capital, the Humber Cycles have become and remain among the first of the day.

The Life of Thomas Humber, compiled by P.B. Hamilton, 1894

1896-1898 Humber Standard Special Roadster

Export Model

23″ Frame

28″ Wheels with Coaster Brake


The frame number, front brake and handlebar of this Humber suggest 1896 manufacture, though it has an 1898 model name ‘Standard Special’ and a coaster brake. It was presumably unsold at the time and when sold a few years later fitted with a free-wheel hub and coaster brake. Humber was a trade supplier of components as well as cycles and also had many export agencies; so surviving Humbers often have a variety of parts that do not show up in the catalogues of the time. I most often see these variations in French Humbers.

This example was restored in the 1980s. The paint is now faded and the rear mudguard is a bit battered, but you can still read the original transfers. The Humber is an excellent touring machine and is ready to ride or display.


Humber’s Beeston factory produced machines fit for a King. They were some of the best quality bicycles available in Great Britain, and therefore the world. Cycle makers also established additional factories to make secondary lines that they could sell more cheaply without compromising their top brands. Humber had factories at Wolverhampton and Coventry for this purpose. Humber transfers reveal which factory produced the Humber in question, as well as the model name. This Humber ‘Standard’ was still a top quality machine, but did not include the more expensive Beeston options such as duplex front forks and duplex chain stays. With the Beeston priced at £23 and this ‘Special Standard’ at £13 this made a difference of £10, an enormous saving.

Humbers manufactured at international locations still sported the original British Humber headstock transfers. Not only was a British manufacturer’s badge essential for successful sales abroad, with the different Humber factories producing different ‘classes’ of machine, it was important for all to see the relevant model.

It has a front lamp bracket fitted to the nearside front fork, whereas a British bicycle would have one fitted to the offside.

As you can see in the 1898 catalogue below, Humber factories were situated in:

Westborough, Mass, USA (it was previously The White Cycle Co); Moscow, Russia; Lisbon, Portugal; Copenhagen, Denmark; Malma, Sweden.

The American factory was in operation until 1903.






These pages from the 1898 Humber catalogue illustrate the Coventry made Light Roadster, above, and the more expensive Beeston and Wolverhampton made machines, below.