The Six-Speed Sunbeam – ‘Model A6′ – was not a popular bicycle, and Sunbeam dropped it from their catalogue in 1911, after only three years. The quote from their 1910 catalogue, reproduced below, mentions the relative weight of a Six-Speed. Because of various comments in the cycling press, we believe that the public did not take to the Six-Speed at the time because they felt it weighed more.
But bear in mind also that, in 1908-1910, gears were still a novelty: the general opinion was that a ‘real man’ should ride a bicycle without gears.
It was not until four or five years later, by which time gears were a standard feature, that Sunbeam enthusiasts reconsidered the idea of a Six-Speed, and some owners combined the two-speed epicyclic with a three-speed rear hub to re-create their own version of the Sunbeam Six-Speed …although without the special six speed gears, these later ones were actually only a ‘five-speed.’
This example is a genuine Six Speed, and one of only a few known survivors. With frame number 89927, it is also one of the first, from 1908.
1908 Golden Sunbeam Six Speed
‘Model A6’ (Genuine Six Speed)
Sunbeam 3 speed hub gear / 2 speed epicyclic gear
‘All-black’ model (no nickel)
Frame No 89927
The rare Six-Speed Golden Sunbeam is in good all round condition, with both of its gears fully functional. Though its transfer (decal) on the steering head identifies it as a Golden, it has the handlebar grips, steering head lock and steel wheels that we usually associate with a Royal; this occurred in some years of production.
The paintwork is unrestored original; though somewhat weathered, it retains its box lining and also transfers on the steering head, chaincase and top of the seat tube. The saddle is a nice Brooks Model B90 and the pedals are the usual ‘four-bar’ rubber type that are standard on an early Sunbeam. The Six-Speed is ready to ride.
The external differences of a genuine Six-Speed Sunbeam are easily spotted – two brazed-on lugs for the trigger mountings on the top tube, and also for the gear fittings at the top of the seat tube.
1909 SUNBEAM CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
At the top of the photo below you can see that the steering lock is engaged while it rests against a rock.