1910 Lea-Francis Men’s Cycle (with Lea Francis 3 speed gear)

Lea Francis bicycles were among the most expensive in the world.

In this era, three cross frames – the Raleigh X frame and the Centaur Featherweight and Resilient – had higher price tags than a Lea-Francis. So the Lea Francis was the most expensive diamond frame bicycle in the world.

Superb build quality is a given; the bonus is the fine details, each of them a Lea-Francis patented innovation, and all can be found on the bicycle featured here.

1. Introduced in 1900, ‘Trip motion’ enables you to step on or off the bicycle from the pedal without it turning, as the left side crank is locked into position.

2. The Lea Francis three-speed gear is recognisable by the two oilers on top of the hub. The gear trigger is a unique design, and is fitted with an ivory knob.

3. A small removable lid covers the top of the front brake linkage. Concealed roller lever brakes were a Lea-Francis patent, subsequently offered, under license, as an option for 1910/1911 Raleighs. The front brake rod is integral to the steering head, and the brake fittings are a unique design. Removing the lid mentioned above provides access to the front brake linkage.

4. Though most cycle makers adopted full front mudguards in 1908, Lea-Francis retained the old ‘abbreviated’ version. Their concession to modernity was to fit, as an option, a mudguard extension. Curiously, it attaches to the bottom of the integral brake rod – when the brake is pulled on, the mudguard tip rises with it.

5. Rear lights became compulsory for bicycles, and R.H Lea’s patent Reflex Road Light was the most stylish rear cycle light available. A heavy duty version was made for motorcycles.

6. Like the Golden Sunbeam, the Lea Francis grip caps are removable. Inside the right-hand celluloid grip is a glass tube which would contain a length of rubber for puncture repairs. The left-hand grip would normally contain an oiler, but the oiler with this machine is slightly too big; it’s the same design as the Royal Sunbeam oiler, so instead it is fitted inside the open end of the seat post.

7. The cast aluminium rear luggage carrier, Lea Francis patent number 542764, was introduced as an option in 1909.

8. The aluminium pedal design, with sixteen rubber studded treads, was patented by Lea Francis in 1908 and known as the ‘Leaf’ pedal. Not only did the name relate to LEA Francis, it is also in the shape of a leaf. These pedals were the most exclusive available at the time, and were also fitted to Dursley Pedersens.

9. In addition, the machine is fitted with a period Lucas bell and a Dunlop inflator pump engraved ‘Greens Stores Ltd, Ashton, Hyde & Stalybridge’.

1910 Lea-Francis Men’s Cycle

Lea Francis 3-speed gear 

Lea Francis gear trigger with ivory knob

Lea Francis patent oval aluminium pedals (as fitted to the Dursley Pedersen)

Concealed Roller Lever Brakes

Trip Motion

Bluemels grips with removable caps for Puncture kit & Oiler. (Oiler situated in the seat post)

Lea Francis patent aluminium rear carrier rack & ‘Reflex Road Light’ rear lamp

Lea Francis mudguard extension

Dunlop narrow inflator pump

24″ Frame

28″ Wheels (Aluminium ‘Roman’ Rims)

Frame No 22843

(Now sold)

The long list of interesting features to be found on this Lea Francis is probably unique among all the machines featured at The Museum. Any one of those innovations on a bicycle would set it apart from the crowd. My favourites are: 1. The front brake whose linkage passes through the steering head – it’s connected to the removable mudguard extension, which lifts it up every time the brake is applied. 2. The LEAF aluminium pedals. 3. The gear trigger with ivory knob. 4. The Bluemels grips with removable caps.

The paintwork is original and unrestored. The transfers (decals) on the steering head and the rear mudguard have all but disappeared, with only remnants remaining. Everything is in good order, and I’ve had an enjoyable ride on  it, though I need to adjust the front brake.















The front brake linkage travels through the steering head. A small removable lid covers the top of it.

Comparing the photo above and below, you can see that when I press the brake lever (below) the linkage rises to apply the brake to the rim.




Lea Francis patented this special design, a ‘Leaf’ pedal, which was made for them by Brampton. They were also an option on Dursley Pedersen machines. Observe that the pedal name LEAF relates to LEA Francis, as well as being in the shape of a leaf.











ABOVE: steering lock disengaged.

BELOW: steering lock facing forward and engaged, preventing the handlebar from turning


The handlebar grips on the 1910 Lea Francis are similar to those on a Golden Sunbeam – they unscrew for fitting an oiler and puncture kit. It was missing its oiler and the only one I had available fits into the seat post, so I fitted it there, as on a Royal Sunbeam.
























































Richard Henry Lea (b. 23 February 1858) had formerly worked at Singer & Co. for seven years as their works manager, while Graham Inglesby Francis was an engineer with wide commercial experience. He’d been general manager of the Auto Machinery Co., involved in the production of ball bearings. Their partnership was formed in August 1895 and they first exhibited at the 1895 Stanley Cycle Show, offering the ‘Lea’ cycle.

The clear intention from the outset was to achieve the highest standard of cycle design and production. They initially had premises at Day’s Lane, Coventry, but, shortly after, purchased works at Lower Ford Street, Coventry. A London showroom at the corner of Dover Street and 69a Piccadilly was opened as a means of advertising to the wealthy. A limited company was formed on 21 May 1896 with £20,000 capital. Directors were Lea and Francis with F. S. Matthews who was also the London manager. Matthews had formerly been general manager of the Sparkbrook Manufacturing Co. Ltd and then had been with the Premier Cycle Co. The company secretary was John Rudd, the General Manager was F. A. Griffin and the first works manager was James Stone.

A seahorse trademark was used from 1899 although one with dividers was registered on 28 August 1896. Machines at the 1896 Cycle Show were finished in black with red wheel rims, which became the standard colour for many years. There was a new disc hub for 1897 and the repair kit and oil can were included in the handlebar ends. A tyre pump spring-clip was patented as well as a gearcase with celluloid covers. An improved steering lock and foot rests were offered for 1898.

Advertisements for 1899 presented the name as ‘Lea-Francis’ for the first time. The well-known ‘trip motion’ device was introduced in 1900. This was a large pawl fitted to a brazed lug behind the bracket. It engaged with a ratchet on the left crank when the pedals were turned backwards. Its use was for dismounting as it held the pedal firm about 2 in. below the chainstay.

For 1901 a new pattern of freewheel was designed. This ran on a ball race of its own to take chain-load from the rear wheel bearings. There were four models in 1901, priced from £22 10s. to £25 10s. Weights were from 32 to 34 lbs. For 1902 the brake rods and levers were concealed within the handlebars. Prices for bicycles were reduced to £20 in 1905. A two-speed hub gear was introduced in 1906, designed by F. A. Griffin, the company manager. The high gear was direct drive and the lower gear offered a 24% reduction. A Fagan two-speed or Sturmey-Archer three-speed were also available. The Lea and Francis gear in 1908 was made into a three-speed but after a short while Sturmey Archer gears were fitted.

Although the term ‘Leaf’ was first applied in the telegraphic address for 1899 it was only used in advertisements in 1905. The London showroom was closed in 1906, having been run by Francis’ brother following the emigration of F. S. Matthews. The nominal capital of the company was icreased to £40,040 in 1906 of which £17,510 was paid up.

Marcus Nash, a retired army officer, joined the board in 1908 and invested £10,000.
R. H. Lea patented a ‘Reflex’ rear red reflector in 1908 (patents 1908/22,087 and 25,217). The Reflex Road Light Co. was formed to produce the reflector; it was later taken over by Components Ltd. The machines incorporated many refinements including an aluminium pedal with sixteen rubber studded treads (later made under licence by Brampton), rear reflector, and ivory gear lever and handlebar end plugs (all 1908), front or rear cast aluminium carriers (from 1909). Finish now was still plain black, unlined, except for the rims which were lined with red. The rims were enamelled Roman rims. The company lived up to its reputation for producing very high quality machines. Cycling magazine in 1909 described them as ‘the Apotheosis of Luxury in Cycling’. For 1910 the gear change lever was on the handlebars. Prices were £17 for a single-speed up to eighteen guineas for the three-speed. Those prices reduced to £14 18s. and sixteen guineas for 1911. A light roadster, with single gear was offered for 1911. Four machines were displayed at the Olympia Cycle Show 1912, for the 1913 season. There were ‘Tourist’ and ‘Light Roadster’ models for both sexes, all priced at sixteen guineas, with a ‘Winter’ model at £15 10s. It seems that cycle production ceased in 1914.

[Extracted from Ray Miller’s superlative book – ‘An Encyclopaedia of Cycle Manufacturers – The Early Years up to 1918’]