1911 New Imperial ‘Girplex’ X Frame


The X Frame Patent War of the early 1900s was hotly contested.

Frame builders had to create designs that were sufficiently different from previously patented designs, primarily those of Raleigh, Referee, Centaur, Elswick and Hortop. The latter two used entwined narrow tubes, Elswick for the down tube and Hortop for the top tube and cross tube.

In the early years of the cycle industry, the patent business was as lucrative as selling bicycles, though it had one major disadvantage – a patent holder needed to be prepared to take action against infringements, which could be expensive. Small time inventors were not usually in a position to finance litigation, so they generally sold their patents to cycle companies or investors.
New Imperial appear to have copied F.J Hortop’s patent (illustration above) and adapted it for their Girplex, though it was Philip Renouf who sued New Imperial for using his design. Renouf won his case and New Imperial bought his patent as a result.
The Online Bicycle Museum’s collection includes what appears to be the sole surviving Hortop X Frame, which you can compare via the link at the bottom of the page. The machine presented here is one of the few surviving New Imperial Girplex X Frames. It is restored and in superb all round condition and ready to ride.

1911 New Imperial ‘Girplex’ X Frame

Eadie 2 speed gear with coaster brake

26″ Frame

28″ Wheels

Mansfield Eclipse No 60 saddle

(now sold)
































Imperial Works, Lower Loveday St, Birmingham

New Imperial is better known for its motorcycles than its bicycles. The company appears to have started in 1887 as the Imperial Cycle Co, making cycle fittings. Its address in 1895 was 87A Jamaica Row, when it was managed by John Henry Rouse. Norman Duckwood Downes was the manager in 1903 when the company was located at Hack St and, subsequently, Bromley St. Birmingham.

Around 1901 there were ten ‘Imperial’ models, four ‘Peerage’ models plus a gents cushion tyre model and one made with BSA or Eadie fittings. The first motorcycle was introduced in 1901, a bicycle fitted with a handlebar-mounted engine belt-driven to the front wheel. It was not successful. The main focus was on cycle production, but the company still experimented with motorcycles. The model reviewed below is believed to have been introduced in 1905.



By 1906 the company had moved to an extensive new factory at Imperial Works in Lower Loveday St.

As you can see from the memorandum below, the Imperial Cycle Co was liquidated in December 1907, with the assets purchased by the New Imperial Cycle Co, this company name having been registered in 1908.

The Imperial name was used by many manufacturers for particular models of bicycle, some of the better known examples being Rover, Triumph, Ames & Frost, and there were other companies with the same company name Imperial Cycle Co, one in Coventry and another in America.

Thanks to David, of the New Imperial Owners Club, for the following articles…