1904 Dennis Bros ‘Speed King’ Light Roadster
Truss frame (strut from the back of the seat tube down to the rear fork bridge)
Osmond’s patent back fork end and chain adjustment
Middlemore & Lamplugh Saddle
Frame No 12007
The Dennis Speed King 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. A license for this feature was purchased by the Rover Cycle Co (though apparently they didn’t use it) and the same feature was seen again in 1940 on the Sun Manx TT lightweight racer.
The chainwheel is a BSA ‘Y pattern’, introduced in 1899 for inch pitch chain; this version uses standard half inch chain. The design was superseded in 1904, when the BSA ‘X pattern’ chainwheel came into use. I bought this machine from Les Bowerman, who explained:
Though it appears to be an 1899 model, I dated this machine as 1904 by the patent date on the steering lock. I assume that it was kept in stock and built up some years after manufacture.
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.
This very rare bicycle is in excellent all round condition and is a pleasure to ride.
The hollow chain stays on the Dennis have a unique back fork end and chain adjustment, which is an improved version of the Osmond’s D-section back stays, lapped over the chain stays and incorporating concealed chain adjusters. The 1900 Osmond catalogue illustrates it below.
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).
This 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 Dennis to service it.
TRUSS & CROSS FRAMES
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 Royal Enfield ‘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.
DENNIS: 100 YEARS OF INNOVATION
THE OTHER SURVIVING DESMOND BICYCLE #13068