The barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan …
Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Look’d one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away
– The Passing of Arthur, Alfred Lord Tennyson
As the 20th century dawned, the bicycle industry geared up for a new era in personal transportation …one that no longer featured daily battles between bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles. The new opponent, as was soon to become apparent, was the motor car.
This transition, from 19th century roads and the ‘silence’ of cycling …to twentieth century beast-like ‘motor bicycles’ and ‘motor carriages’ spluttering and rattling and belching smoke is mirrored in Sunbeam’s advertising.
Until 1902, the glorious Sunbeam catalogue covers invited us to enter a world of Victorian fantasy, with fairies and warriors and, in 1902, a knight bathed in a luscious sunbeam. With the Victorian era now ended by reign as well as century, is this a final reminder of Tennyson’s Arthurian journeys?
If so, this last glance at that spectacular age reassured customers that Sunbeam’s Victorian ideals were there to help them as they started their journey through the new, fantastic, unknown century ahead.
SUNBEAM COLOUR CATALOGUE COVERS
Observe the colour Sunbeam covers below, as Victorian fairies give way to 1910’s totally functional image of a bloke in cap riding a bike.
1901 Sunbeam Gent’s ‘Design OK’
Frame No 46303
With Back-pedal Band Brake
Seabrook Revolving Double Dome Chime Bell
N.A.B. Spring Saddle Pillar
H.G. Turner Bespoke Cycle Carrier Luggage
Sunbeam’s ‘OK’ model was introduced in 1901 to provide a lower-priced alternative to the Golden Sunbeam. The ‘OK’ was the company’s cheapest offering at 10 guineas against 18 guineas for the top-of-the-range Golden.
This is my oldest Gent’s Sunbeam. Compare it to the complete and functional 1901 Ladies Sunbeam Royal on the next page, as well as the 1900 Lady’s Golden Sunbeam.
Interesting features are 28″ beaded edge wheels and foot-operated contracting band brake (which made its debut in 1901).
You can see its ‘before’ photo above. The 1901 ‘Design O.K’ in the illustration has no chaincase, whereas mine does.
It has now been semi-restored, ie I’ve found parts to get it on the road, Tony has rebuilt the wheels, and Geoff has manufactured the missing parts for the back-pedal band brake mechanism. At the moment it retains the BSA 3-Speed hub and trigger that were fitted when I bought it; I may change this.
N.A.B SPRING BALL SADDLE PILLAR
Reliance Works Co Ltd, Southampton
1899 BESPOKE H.G TURNER CYCLE CARRIER LUGGAGE
H.G Turner, Eldon Grove, Manchester
SUNBEAM PATENT BACK-PEDAL CONTRACTING BAND BRAKE
BSA THREE-SPEED GEARS
Images with thanks to SUNBEAM CYCLES: The Story from the Catalogues 1887-1957, by John Pinkerton & Derek Roberts; Pinkerton Press. Available through the V-CC