The following question from one of the most respected cycle dealers in England contains interesting information on the relative weights of cycles:-
“As you are aware, I am one of the largest retailers of Sunbeam Cycles, and find that, once they are known, cyclists willingly pay double the price for them as compared with other bicycles. My competitors – seeing the trade slipping out of their hands – seek objections to Sunbeams, so they suggest that they are heavy; indeed, they not only suggest, but persistently affirm that the Golden Sunbeam, with its Little Oil Bath gear case, is so heavy that its well-known easy running powers are nullified by its excessive weight!
Now I have means of ascertaining the weight of the principal Roadster Bicycles, and, feeling that Sunbeams were being unfairly treated, I have weighed six of the best known makes. In each case the weight of their Three-Speed Roadster exceeds that of the Sunbeam Three-Speed with the Little Oil Bath. In some instances the Sunbeam was as much as 5lbs lighter – IN NO CASE was it less than 3lbs.
– 1910 Sunbeam catalogue
The Six-Speed Sunbeam – ‘Model A6’ – was not a popular bicycle in its day, and Sunbeam dropped it from their catalogue in 1911, after only three years. Gears were still a novelty at that time – the general opinion was that a man should ride a bicycle without gears – and at 19 guineas it was a very expensive bicycle.
It was not until four or five years later, by which time gears were a standard feature, that riders reconsidered the idea of a Six-Speed, and Sunbeam owners started to combine the two-speed epicyclic with a three-speed rear hub to re-create a Sunbeam Six-Speed.
However… a ‘re-created six-speed’ of this type was not a true six-speed. Although the 1910 Sunbeam catalogue description above suggests that merely combining the two gears was sufficient to give six speeds, two of the gears co-incided, so it would more accurately be described as a five-speed.
The bicycle featured here is not a true Model A6, which was only manufactured between 1908 and 1910 and is now extremely rare (I think there are less than half a dozen survivors). It’s a 1918 All-black Golden Sunbeam (Model A1 ) with 2 speed gear in the bottom bracket plus a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gear in the rear hub. They were still known as ‘six speeds’ at the time, so I’ve described it as a ‘Six-Speed Model A1.’
1916 Golden Sunbeam for Gentlemen ‘6 Speed’ Model A1
2-Speed epicyclic gear plus Sturmey-Archer ‘Model K7’ 3-speed gear in the rear hub
Frame No 133595
Sunbeam 4-bar pedals
Sunbeam rear carrier
Powell & Hammer ‘Red Comet’ rear reflector
‘Clayrite’ inflator pump
Brooks Model B73 saddle
This Golden Sunbeam for Gentlemen is a 1916 version of the earlier discontinued six-speed configuration. As you can see from the illustration below the correct gear 3-speed trigger is fitted. It has been restored cosmetically and mechanically to a high standard and fitted with rare accessories. The inflator pump is a long one (it’s hard to find one long enough for the brazed-on pump lugs on a Sunbeam). The rear carrier is a unique design only offered by Sunbeam. The 4-bar pedals were standard for Golden Sunbeams, but are hard to find on a Sunbeam nowadays because (like the rear carrier) they are usually removed and sold separately on ebay at a high price. The rear reflector is a work of art – I’ve never seen one of these before!
My inspection revelas a few minor paint chips that can be easily touched up by hand with black enamel. The overall impression is of a rare bicycle in outstanding condition, blessed with an excellent set of accessories, and in full working order and ready for service.
GOLDEN SUNBEAM OUTFIT HANDLES (GRIPS)
The grip caps on a Golden Sunbeam have the Sunbeam name on them. They unscrew to reveal a tube inside which originally included a patch for repairing the tyre
SUNBEAM REAR CARRIER
GOLDEN SUNBEAM PATENT HEADLOCK
The headlock locks the front wheel of the bicycle so that it could not be turned. The milled screw at the top could be removed for security. In those days, thieves rode away on bikes they stole, rather than load them into a van!
1915 SUNBEAM CATALOGUE