By the turn of the twentieth century, cycle manufacturers worldwide were experiencing a downturn in sales due to over-production: there was such a good profit in the cycle trade that too many companies were now chasing the same customers. The manufacturers who had benefitted from the boom years were busy buying up other companies and preparing for the ‘new big thing’ …motor bicycles. This necessitated a rapid advancement in the evolution of bicycle gears and brakes, and the next few years saw these components develop the systems that, by 1905, became the industry standard for the following hundred years.
Sturmey-Archer three-speed gears dominated the market by 1907, and most two-speed gears became outdated (with the exception of Sunbeam’s Epicyclic Two Speed). The two-speed gear manufacturers had formed a syndicate, and a few other gear makers, such as Crabbe, were bought by individual cycle/motorcycle companies (in that case, Ariel). With most of the smaller prototype two-speed geared hubs only in existence for only two or three years, it is rare to see an example now.
John Fagan’s patent provides an interesting insight into the ‘art of inventing.’ The existing two-speed hub provided fixed in one gear and free in the other, ie by taking two things already in existence – fixed hubs and freewheel hubs – and putting them together, a new invention – a geared hub – had been created. But, although the gearing in the two hubs varied, it was obviously inefficient as one of the gears was fixed. If you read Fagan’s patent extract above, you can see that Fagan’s invention was actually a hub sprocket that allowed both gears to become freewheel.
The Fagan hub was built by Eadie; as John Fagan’s patent was essential to its existence, it required his name to be used. Soon after, his name was dropped from the casting on the hub itself, although adverts for the Eadie hub still required the words ‘using the Fagan patent.’
This is a rare example that clearly shows its name on the hub as The “Fagan” Two Speed Hub.
1901 & 1903 FAGAN HUB PATENTS