Osmonds Ltd, Birmingham, show three specimens of Osmond motor-bicycles. In these the engine is clamped to the tube from head to bracket, the outside flywheel balances the weight of the engine, so that the total weight is central; drive is by twisted raw hide belt, running over a jockey pulley on main tube of frame. The claim of Osmonds, Limited, is, not that they have produced a racing motorcycle, but that their machine is still a bicycle, with the addition of an engine capable of propelling the machine and rider at the rate of 30 miles an hour; the weight of the complete machine is only 721bs., so that the engine has not got a heavy load, and can put forth its best efforts with the least possible handicap. Although bicycle parts have been used throughout, strength has been increased where necessary, and replacements can be made with facility at bicycle prices — a good point.
All Osmond motor-bicycles are fitted with the patent ‘Radilever’ front rim brake, which can be swung from one side of the handlebar to the other, or placed in any position desired by the rider, without interfering with the adjustment of the brake. Belt pulleys are spoked into the back wheel rim; either back-pedalling hub brakes or hand-applied rim brakes are used, according to taste.
Another pattern is shown having a chain drive and a two-speed gear, the engine being in the same position as on the previous machine, driving by chain to an additional bracket, placed a few inches in advance of the usual bottom bracket; this extra bracket carries the two-speed gear, which is on the sun and planet system, giving a reduction from high to low of 25 per cent. This enables the machine to mount any hill. The price of the belt-driven machine is £45, and the chain-driver, with two-speed gear, is £50.
– Review of the Stanley Cycle Show, November, 1902
F.J Osmond was a leading racer in the 1890s. When he worked for Whitworth Cycle Co, he built bicycles that were way ahead of their time. He started his own company in 1894 and, by 1900, introduced motorcycles and cars to the company’s range. The James Cycle Co purchased Osmonds Ltd in 1911 in order to obtain Osmond’s range of two stroke motorcycles, and machines bearing the Osmond name were produced in the James factory until 1924.
1904 THE OSMOND Truss frame Road Racer
With patent back fork end and chain adjustment
Middlemore & Lamplugh Saddle
The Osmonde has many interesting design innovations. A novel feature is the brace from the lower seat tube to the chainstay bridge that creates a small diamond. (The same feature was used again in 1940 on the Sun Manx TT lightweight racer). You can read more about the dimpled bolts, hollow chainstays and unique chain adjusters in due course.
The chainwheel is a BSA ‘Y pattern’, introduced in 1899 for inch pitch chain; this is a later version for standard half inch chain. The design was superseded in 1904, when the BSA ‘X pattern’ chainwheel came into use.
This machine is a 25″ frame size, whereas the Osmond catalogue desciptions I’ve seen show 22″/24″/26″ frame options. However, customers could order any size they required for an extra 10 shillings. Unfortunately, few Osmond catalogues are available for reference, and none from around 1904. Very few Osmond bicycles have survived either.
OSMOND LIGHT MOTOR BICYCLE: F.J Osmond retired in 1900, and as the company started to develop a motorised department, serious financial problems ensued, presumably (like many other cycle firms) because of the extra investment required. The first experimental models were unreliable. They were just unstrengthend bicycles with engines fitted without additional suspension, causing frame fatigue. The market was not yet established, and there was a lot of competition. It took a few years of improving the models (building different frames rather than using bicycles) and establishing a customer base before a return on the investment could be established, and many smaller firms suffered cash flow issues as a result; it was mostly the larger companies that successfully put their new motor bicycles onto the market. The Osmond Cycle Co was restructured in 1903. It was now Osmond’s Ltd.
With all the extra features on this bicycle, this could well have been the new Osmonds Ltd flagship model. However, it’s also conceivable that the company was experimenting with extra bracing to support an engine. Their ‘Light Motor Bicycle’ was launched in 1903 (see below). But it does not seem that many were produced and the company did not advertise another motorcycle until 1911, after the factory had moved from The Tower to Sparkbrook.
The hollow chain stays have a unique back fork end and chain adjustment. The 1900 Osmond catalogue illustrates it (below), also stating that this design denotes that it’s the company’s top model …The Osmond.
You can see pictures of it with the covers removed further down the page.
F.J Osmond was a first-class bicycle builder, having built up Whitworth Cycle Co before leaving to set up his own company in 1894. It was the quality of Whitworth’s machines that catapulted them to the top of the league and, when they merged with Rudge in 1895, it was Whitworth bicycles that were used for the new Rudge-Whitworth company.
The unique feature of Osmond bicycles is the D-section back stays, lapped over the chain stays and incorporating concealed chain adjusters. I dated this Osmond by the patent date on the steering lock.
The machine itself is in excellent all round condition. It comes from a long-time collector, and is an older repaint. The original nickel has been protected – a friend who also owns one of his bikes told me that “what looks like silver paint is in fact a preservative and has protected the nickel plating really well over the years. Probably been on there for many years and has hardened off. I had to use the buffing mop on it.”
I replaced the tyres, grips and saddle, and now, after many years of hibernation, this fabulous lightweight road racer is ready to ride again.
STEERING LOCK with 1904 PATENT DATE
At first I thought this was a BSA steering lock. But the BSA one is engraved with the words ‘Smith’s patent’ (see its patent illustration below).
The Osmond steering lock is similar, but not the same. The suffix on the patent number – /04 – suggests a 1904 patent date, and I’ve used that to decide the age of this early 1900s machine.
DIMPLED STEERING HEAD BOLT & SEATPOST BOLT
Of many unique features on this machine, the dimpled bolts stand out…
HOLLOW CHAINSTAY + PATENT BACK FORK END & CHAIN ADJUSTMENT
I was intrigued by the rear end, so I took the following photos when we stripped The Osmond to service it.
OSMOND TRUSS v ROYAL ENFIELD GIRDER & PREMIER ROYAL
In the early 1900s, X frames were the latest fashion in bicycles. However, every permutation of cross tubing had soon been patented, and other cycle companies struggled to find ways to create a novel appearance of extra rigidity in order to compete. Premier added an extra tube from the top of the down tube to the back of the top tube to create their unique design for the ‘Royal’ (below) while the extra tube on the Royal Enfield ‘Girder’ went from the top of the down tube to the lower end of the seat tube (the photo under the Premier).
The ‘Girder’ also had an extra brace behind the seat tube, to the chainstay bridge, and that’s what is used on this Osmond. It did not stand out as much as their competitors, but at least it avoided all the other patents and included their machine among the various braced designs on the market.
The 1900 Osmond ‘Special Lady’s Machine’ also featured extra bracing by using a design that did not infringe on other patents (below). I do not consider that merging a loop frame with a ladies’ straight tube model was actually necessary for strength – each is strong enough in its own right. So I assume it was done so the company could enter the market created by X frames and truss frames.
By 1910, the company was presenting a proper cross frame, which they named The Imperial. It used the cross frame design patented by Charles Sangster (Components Ltd & Ariel Cycle Co)…
1900 OSMOND CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
OSMOND CYCLE CO HISTORY
F. J. Osmond was born in 1867 in Long Sutton, Lincs. He started cycle racing in 1886 and broke record after record on both the ordinary and the safety bicycle. F.J Osmond and J. H. Adams left the Whitworth Cycle Co. Ltd in 1894 to form the Osmond Cycle Co, which was located at The Tower, Bagot Street, Birmingham, Warwickshire. There was a London showroom at 171 New Bond Street in 1897-98. It also had showrooms in Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, and Newcastle on Tyne. The frames were constructed with outside liners at the head, between the tubes and the lugs, which created a somewhat odd appearance. There were also 1 in. D-section back stays, lapped over the chain stays and incorporating concealed chain adjusters.
The company offered 20 different models at the 1900 Stanley Show including Racer and Roadster tandems, Lady front and Lady back tandems, and Lady’s and Gent’s tricycles. A Dublin depot was opened in 1902 at 128 St Stephen’s Green. Prices for 1902 were substantially reduced with their best pattern coming down from £22 10s to £15 15s.
F.J’s younger brother Ernest sailed to South Africa in October, 1894, and set up a cycle agency there. After getting caught up in the Boer War, he returned to England in 1900 from Johannesburg with his Cape Colony (South African) wife Agneta Mercy.
Both brothers were patentees. F.J held fourteen patents between 1893-98. Ernest held twenty-five patents for cycle components between 1887-1908, and another eighteen for other articles between 1906-41.
F.J Osmond retired in 1900. The launch of Osmond motor bicycles in 1902 appears to have caused considerable financial difficulties. In my opinion this was because they produced them too early before this new market was fully established and did not have the capital to wait for them to take off. In 1903 a new company Osmonds Ltd was registered, which purchased the old one. No further motorcycle were advertised until 1911, when the firm was taken over by the James Cycle Co in order to obtain the line of Osmond two-stroke motorcycles. The trade mark ‘F. J. Osmond’ was then used on James second grade bicycles.
Osmond history with thanks to –
‘An Encyclopaedia of Cycle Manufacturers – The Early Years up to 1918’ by Ray Miller
‘Adjustable Spanner: History, Origins and Development to 1970’ by Ron Geesin
Whitworth Cycle Co history (featuring FJ Osmond), by Nick Bromage, thanks to News & Views, No 179, Feb 1984.