1901 Ladies Royal Sunbeam

1901 Royal Sunbeam Ladies

with Freewheel Little Oil Bath

Frame No 50191

Roller Lever Front Brake & ‘Hand Applied’ (Inverted Lever) Rear Rim Brake

The photo showing its original ‘Royal Sunbeam’ transfer is taken at an odd angle, from above the front mudguard.

Below, you can see front wheel lock; it flips up into the recess to hold the front wheel straight while parked. If you’ve used it while the bike’s standing, it’s a good idea to make sure this is disengaged when you ride off 🙂

This bike’s feature is the unusual brake set-up, as seen below.



This bike has the interesting contrast of brakes and brake levers that seem to have been optional around this time.

1. The front brake is operated by a Roller Lever (on the offside or right hand handlebar). According to the book ‘Sunbeam Cycles’ ‘Marstons and J. Morgan patented a brake lever in 1900 of the type known today as a roller lever.’ It is not known if this was offered in the 1901 catalogue, as a 1901 catalogue is not available. The Thumb Lever type of front brake was offered in 1902, as featured in the catalogue page below: ‘The front brake with a thumb lever was used on the light and cheap machines but a pull-up pattern front brake had been introduced and would soon become the standard fitment.’

2.The rear brake is operated by an Inverted Lever (on the nearside or left hand handlebar). The Ladies Model HRH had an option for Thumb Lever Front Brake combined with ‘Hand Applied’ Rear Band Brake. ‘Hand Applied’ means that it is operated with an inverted lever on the left hand handlebar, which replaced the back-pedal rim brake. According the catalogue page below, this was ‘fitted on our designs O.K and H.R.H. and also, when preferred, on the Royal Sunbeams.’

3. Instead of a Band Brake on the rear, it’s fitted with a cable-operated Rim Brake (see page below).

This combination of Sunbeam brakes and levers appears to be contemporary with the first few years of the 20th century. Sunbeams were one of the top British bicycle and cycle component manufacturers of the time, and these new innovations in brake design would have been available by special order should a customer wish to take advantage of them.








The Sunbeam book shows that the frame number 41925 was issued in 1901 and frame number 51649 was issued in 1902. This bike is numbered 50191.


Brooks’ Patent Ladies’ Saddles

From the 1901 Brooks catalogue…





Events of 1901

On 2nd February 1901, Queen Victoria died. Great Britain was engaged in the Boer War. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid held up a train in Wagner, Montana, and escaped with $40,000. Australia declared independence. The first production car named as a Sunbeam was introduced in 1901, after a partnership with Maxwell Maberly-Smith. The design was unusual with seats on either side of a belt-drive powered by a single-cylinder 3 hp engine. (Despite some early experiments with motorized bicycles, Sunbeam did not start making motorcycles until 1912).

When this Ladies Royal Sunbeam was first ridden, roads were still dominated by horses. The speed limit for cars – ‘horseless carriages’ – was 14mph. They were the last few years of ‘motoring innocence.’ But, since its debut at the beginning of the twentieth century, bicycle design has hardly changed. It’s pictured below with an American GT Dyno Mooneyes Cruiser built in 1999, at the close of the century.



A band brake is aesthetically pleasing. But this set-up is much more practical for regular use.


Published on December 3, 2009 at 1:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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