This turn-of-the-century New Hudson is graced with a fascinating handlebar set, featuring a combination of brake levers – inverted for the rear and thumb lever for the front – that was only used by the cycle trade for a few years until the use of roller levers was standardised across the industry. This typifies an evolutionary bridge in cycle design between the old safety bike ‘dinosaurs’ and the new machines that, essentially remained unchanged from 1903 to the present day.
In the 1890s, with bicycles still a novelty, eager riders were willing to tolerate various inconveniences such as a lack of brakes. But, by 1898, freewheel hubs came into general usage so riders could no longer stop their bicycles using their fixed wheels. Every company now had to add a front brake, which was, at first, a ‘paddle brake’ which pressed directly onto the front wheel.
Unfortunately for the cycle trade, the end of the 19th century coincided with the end of the first boom in cycle sales and production. It was left to the larger, more successful manufacturers to develop new braking systems for bicycles. Of course, most of these companies had their eyes on the new engines being developed for bicycles – ‘motor bicycles’ as they were known – so developing an efficient braking system was of paramount importance. Within just a few years, cycle brakes evolved into the systems that are essentially still in use today.
In 1900, the major manufacturers introduced, for the first time, inverted lever brakes with either a rod linkage or Bowden cable to the rear wheel. For the 1900 and 1901 season, bicycles from the top companies used an inverted lever on the left side for the rear brake – officially described as a ‘Hand Applied’ (Inverted Lever) Rear Rim Brake – combined with a pull-up ‘thumb lever’ on the right for the front brake. Some front brakes were of the older paddle style, but innovative companies now introduced the latest brake invention …a front rim brake.
The ‘Thumb Lever Front Rim Brake’ on this bicycle was a short-lived innovation as, by 1902, roller levers were generally in use in the cycle trade.
1901 New Hudson ‘Royal’ Ladies
28″ / 26″ Wheels
Hand Applied’ (Inverted Lever) Rear Rim Brake
Thumb Lever Front Rim Brake
Middlemore & Lampugh Lady’s Saddle
This beautiful – and very rare – machine was previously owned by the New Hudson marque specialist, and has been dry-stored since the late 1970s awaiting further restoration. It is fully functional as it is. Completing its restoration would require a set of mudguards and the rear wheel, currently a 28″, should be replaced with a 26″. New tyres should also be fitted before it is used regularly. Some of the original paintwork and lining still exists, but other parts have been painted over to prevent further rust. So cosmetically it can be left in its unrestored state or repainted.
I do not have a 1901 catalogue, only the 1900 issue which does not illustrate this handlebar/ brake combination.