In 1914, the Golden Sunbeam for Ladies was priced at 16 guineas, roughly the equivalent of £1700 today. Ever conscious that their bicycles were among the most expensive on the market, the company mentioned the issue in their adverts (above).
Compare top of the range ladies’ models from other ‘quality’ cycle manufacturers in 1914:
A BSA Lady’s Roadster with three-speed gears was £10.
An Imperial Triumph Lady’s was around 12 guineas.
Rudge-Whitworth offered their ‘No 2 Aero-Special Lady’s Featherweight’ with an optional three-speed coaster brake for £13 3/- 9d.
Premier’s top of the range Lady’s Royal was offered at 14 guineas.
The Sparkbrook Grand Ladys’ Roadster would set you back 14 guineas.
A three-speed Beeston Humber for Ladies was advertised at £15 12/- 6d.
I don’t have the 1914 catalogue, but a 1916 Modele Superbe Raleigh X Frame was priced at 16 guineas, or a No 12 loop frame style with Tricoaster 14 guineas.
Though I do not have comparative sales figures for the various upmarket manufacturers, to reveal which ladies’ bicycles were the market leaders at the time, it is significant – and a testament to their quality of manufacture – that more Ladies’ Sunbeams have survived into the 21st century than any other marque. So Sunbeam’s claim in the last line of the advert would appear to be true:
Is it worth while? Well, the Sunbeam is miles an hour faster than ordinary bicycles, far easier to propel, costs nothing for repairs, practically needs no cleaning, lasts a lifetime.
The original owner of this All Black Golden Sunbeam used it during World War One for volunteer work and shopping. After she stopped riding it, her treasured Sunbeam was carefully preserved by her family over many decades. As you can see below, in an extract from my book on the history of military bicycles during World War One, the lamp retains its ‘black out’ lens, a legal requirement during the war.
1914 All Black Golden Sunbeam for Ladies
2 Speed Epicyclic Gear
Brooks Leather B35 Saddle
WW1 ‘Black out’ lamp
Frame No 129961
With a shortage of cars and motorcycles – all required for the war effort – ladies’ bicycles became sought-after during World War One. As well as buying new bicycles, the new female workforce, many of whom made munitions in factories around the country, purchased second-hand machines, forcing up their prices.
1914 SUNBEAM CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
BROOKS ‘MODEL B35’ LADY’S SADDLE
(PATENT DATE 1907)
SUNBEAM PATENT STEERING LOCK
ABOVE: Steering lock open so the bicycle can be ridden.
BELOW: Steering lock operational, so it can be parked leaning without the handlebar turning to make it fall over.
CYCLING MAGAZINE, 1st January, 1914