1903 Rover Meteor No 2 Gents & 1910 Lady’s Rover Bicycle

1903 Rover Meteor Number 2 Gents Bicycle

(Now both sold)

Don’t you think this 1903 Rover bicycle looks surprisingly modern?

Not a lot has changed in 100 years of bicycle design and manufacture.

According to A History of Rover Cycles, the style of badge found on this Meteor Rover No 2 was introduced for the 1901 Meteor models and, by 1904, the Meteor No 1 and No 2 range had been discontinued.

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I’ve restored the Rover Meteor Gents bike mechanically, and it’s enjoyable to ride.

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1910 Lady’s Rover Bicycle

This 1910 Lady’s Rover is in superb original condition. Even the lining on the paint is intact.

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The Lady is ready to ride. It’s pictured above outside my friend Tony’s house.

It’s interesting that there are probably more vintage lady’s bicycles to be found in good original condition than gent’s models. Although women were delighted that bicycles offered the freedom of independent personal transport, having purchased one, often they did not use them regularly.

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The Heritage Motor Centre museum in Gaydon, Warwickshire has a Rover Ladies bicycle whose age was authenticated by John Pinkerton as 1909. They very kindly sent me pictures of it to compare:

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Pair of Rovers

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The 1903 Gents Rover and 1910 Ladies Rover have been living happily in my shed for a while now.

I was hoping that if I didn’t disturb them we might at least end up with a baby Rover bicycle. But nothing yet.

Maybe it’s that inhibited early Edwardian era they come from that’s to blame? Or perhaps I forgot to formally introduce them? More likely they’re just too shy to get intimate in front of the gossipy Sunbeams they share the shed with.

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ROVER’S MILESTONE SUMMARY

  • The first appearance of the Rover name was on a tricycle in 1884.
  • The Rover Safety bicycle – launched in 1885 – was the first rear-wheel driven cycle and pioneered the future of cycle design that continues to this day.
  • The Imperial Rover cycle proved itself the best in the world by winning every race in the 1908 Olympic Games.
  • In Poland and Slovakia, the name for bicycle is ‘Ro’er or Rover’.
  • In 1888 Starley began working on an electric car, and heralded in a 1903 issue of The Autocar as ‘we believe, the first motor machine made in Coventry’.
  • The 1st Rover prototype 8hp was completed on July 1 1904.
  • Rover’s 8 hp went on-sale on December 1 1904 and featured a novel backbone chassis construction, uniquely including the rear axle and became Britain’s best selling car (before the arrival of the Longbridge built Austin Seven).
  • Over 400,000 cycles and 100,000 motor cycles carried the Rover name between 1896-1924.

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Bicycle design today has not changed much since the introduction of the Rover Safety Bicycle in 1885.

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The year 1885 is a landmark year in the history of bicycles, and it is generally held that this was the first bicycle of this design, even though cycles with similar features had been around since 1878.

The new ‘Patent Rover Safety Bicycle’ made its public debut between 18th January and 3rd February 1885, at the Stanley Show, in a marquee erected near Blackfriars Bridge.

At that time bicycle models were somewhat dangerous penny-farthings and high-wheel tricycles. The Safety Bicycle was lower and more stable, so for the first time the public did not require specialized skills to ride one.

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The Rover Safety Cycle

In 1870 James Starley produced the “Ariel” High Wheeler (aka “Ordinary” or “Penny Farthing”). Later versions had front wheel sizes of up to 5 feet.

In 1877 James Starley patented a differential gear to allow his tricycles to corner properly; probably the first for a bicycle but the principle was not new.

The inventor of the safety bicycle was claimed to be Harry John Lawson: his lever safety bicycle of 1876 is exhibited at the Coventry Transport Museum and his patent was registered on 30 September 1879.Lawson had been instructed by a relative to make his bicycles safer and this he set out to do. Harry Lawson also claimed that he invented the first petrol powered motorcycle and also patented that on June 25th 1880. He also claimed to have been responsible for the repeal of the act that insisted on all motor vehicles being preceded by a man with a red flag. There is no doubt that Lawson wanted to totally control both the cycle and motor vehicle market but he was later sentenced to a years hard labour for fraud. He was undoubtedly at the forefront and one of the pioneers of motor transport but it seems he was also prone to exaggeration and sharp practice at times.

However, the Rover was the first safety bicycle in production. John Kemp Starley, its designer, and his partner William Sutton started The Rover Cycle Company Ltd. in 1877. The Meteor Works were set up in Coventry to produce the machines. The factory was named after the Swift Comet of 1883.

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1904: The First Rover Car

While cycles had already achieved more or less their optimum design specifications 1903, cars, of course, were still very much in their infancy. In 1904 the Rover Cycle Co brought out their first car, below.

“In our reports of the trials of small motor cars recently held by the Automobile Club, reference was made to the vehicle which has been constructed by the Rover Cycle Company Limited, Coventry, from the designs of Mr E.W Lewis.

We are now enabled to place before our readers several illustrations showing the novel form of construction adopted…

…The engine is of the vertical single cylinder water-cooled pattern with mechanically-operated exhaust and inlet valves. The cylinder is 4 ½ in diameter by 5in stroke, and it is claimed that 8 brake horse power can be developed at a speed of 900 revolutions, while the engine is capable of acceleration up to 1500 revolutions.”

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Published on September 7, 2008 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  

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