1903 Sunbeam ‘Royal FB’ Gents Roadster

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1903 Sunbeam ‘Royal FB’ 25″ Gents Roadster

With Two-Speed Chainwheel Gear

Frame Number 62701

(Now sold)

This old Royal Sunbeam is another rare survivor. Post-1914 models are surprisingly common, but there are very few early Edwardian examples such as this still in existence.

This one spent the past ten years in my friend Ben’s lounge while he searched for various parts to complete its restoration.

I eventually managed to persuade him to part with it (thanks again, Ben), and Tony and I completed its restoration just in time for me to use it on the 2011 Benson Run (below).





A major change for 1903 was Sunbeam’s introduction of the two-speed chainwheel gear, with direct drive on the low gear and about 25% increase to the high gear.


The name ‘Royal FB’ denotes that this Sunbeam has the company’s patent foot brake apparatus fitted. This is Sunbeam’s version of the coaster brake, and it works very efficiently once you get used to it. The important thing to remember is that every time it’s applied (by back-pedalling) you must coast for a few seconds to free it off before pedalling forward again.

Below, you can see the various brake options available for 1902 and 1903. (1903 models were the same as 1902 except for the addition of the new two-speed chainwheel gear).


This machine was returned to the Sunbeam factory in the 1920s for renovation. It was fitted with ‘modern’ mudguards, ie with an extension on the front. It bears the John Marston transfer on the seat tube (above) to show it was restored and repainted by the Company: ‘This was usually for well-loved cycles at the owner’s request, the firm’s catalogues cautioning against ordering the service without careful thought, since a complete rebuild might cost as much as a new bicycle. During the process, worn or damaged parts were replaced by current components. Early-pattern hubs and mudguards originally without a front extension are known to have been updated, as well as wheels and gears.’ *


This Victorian lift is one of Brighton’s best-kept secrets. The lift and the shelter were inaugurated in 1890 as the focal point of the Madeira Terrace Development: ‘A unique example of Victorian engineering, the lift has continued to be an effective and convenient conveyance, especially for those unable to easily travel those steep steps down to the beach.’

Originally the lift was powered by water pressure but this was superseded by an electro-mechanical lifting mechanism introduced in 1930. Unfortunately it has a history of mechanical breakdowns! So I was happy to see it working when took the Royal for a ride along the beach.

After ringing the bell, the lift came up from the Concorde 2 Club below and opened for me.

The Concorde staff are very friendly. Today’s attendant, Philip, did not mind stopping for an extra photo of the lift on the middle level, below.

And, finally, at ground level, the lift opens into the Club.

With its enviable position on the seafront, Concorde2 is the city’s leading nightclub. You can see the front of the Club below, with The Lovedub (our custom 1966 VW Roadster) parked outside.

But a modern nightclub hosting a Victorian cliff lift? …Welcome to Brighton 🙂





I’d be the first to admit that this bike may look a little over-accessorized; I prefer period ornaments to be more discreet. But accessorizing a bicycle that’s your pride and joy is one of life’s main pleasures for a cycle enthusiast, and it has become part of my tradition to kit out my Benson mount.

The Lucas Model 330 Candle Lamp works well.

Joseph Lucas Ltd manufactured cycle candle lamps between 1901 and 1912

The catalogue description claims a burning time of four hours.

The Candle Lamp is retained by a padlock, both for security and also to pull the lamp upright so it does not foul on the camera case below it when the handlebars are turned.

This accessory craze started with my need to carry a camera while on a ride. The 1903 Kodak Bulls-Eye camera case on the front is ideal for this purpose.

My dog-scaring gun mounted next to it, however, may have been useful in 1903 …but 108 years later is a little superfluous.

The front carrier is also a Lucas item.

The catalogue describes it as a ‘Cycloe Carrier No 10’ (bottom right in the illustration below)

The Sunbeam FB rear foot brake mechanism complicates the mounting of a rear carrier, so a front carrier is particularly appropriate for this model.

As you can see below, we used strips of leather inside the carrier clamps to avoid damaging the paint on the headstock.

The final accessory is a cigarette pouch known as a Martin Silent Tool Bag.


The Lucas business was founded in Birmingham in 1872 by Joseph Lucas, trading with his son Harry Lucas as Joseph Lucas & Son, for the manufacture of pressed metal goods, including ship, coach and carriage lamps. Later, the firm developed the manufacture of oil lamps, bells and other items for supply to the expanding cycle industry which was concentrated mainly in the West Midlands. In 1897 a public company, Joseph Lucas Ltd, was formed with a nominal share capital of £225,000 to take over the Lucas business. Supply by the company to the motor industry of non-electrical goods began about 1902, and was followed a few years later by the company’s entry into the electrical field with the manufacture of car batteries and dynamos, and lighting sets for sale to car owners. Expansion in the manufacture of electrical equipment followed the company’s acquisition in 1914, for the sum of £9,000, of the share capital and business of Thomson-Bennett Ltd, which made magnetos. From this early take-over of the Thomson-Bennett magneto business stemmed the paramount interest of Lucas in the supply of electrical equipment for the motor industry. During the 1914-18 war, the company was engaged principally in the manufacture of shells, fuses and electrical equipment for aircraft and military vehicles. In this period it also began the manufacture of starter motors which had by then been developed in America.

To Read more about Sunbeam Bicycles

at the Sunbeam Bicycle Museum


* Sunbeam Cyclces: The Story from the Catalogues, 1887-1957, by John Pinkerton & Derek Roberts. Page 487.