There can be confusion regarding the dating of Rover bicycles, because new information came to light since the ‘A History of Rover Cycles’ book was published in the 1998. Nevertheless, the age of early machines such as this can be ascertained easily enough by the wording on their head badges. The company became The Rover Cycle Co Ltd in 1896, fitting this headbadge from that year onwards. It changed to The Rover Co Ltd on 25th October 1905, so this machine would have been made earlier than that date.
Prior to this time, Rover handlebars had inverted brake levers; the company offered the new roller brake levers from 1905 or 1906 onwards. You can see that they are the same as fitted to the 1899 Ladies’ Rover illustrated above. (The catalogue description changed from Ladies Rover to Lady’s Rover in 1905).
The price in 1905 was ten guineas (£10 10/-), equivalent to around £1100 today.
1905 The Lady’s Rover
Having recently been mechanically overhauled, this Lady’s Rover is in good condition throughout and ready to ride. It was repainted at some time during its life, but retains its box lining on the front forks.
PRE-1905 ROVER CATALOGUE EXTRACT
Steering head lock open (above) and locked (below)
Below: Two distinguishing features of Rover cycles that are easy to spot are the unique style of bridge between the two tubes of the loopframe, and the Rover chainwheel.
Rover was a leading cycle manufacturer in the early years of the 20th century, and started motorcycle production in 1902. Between 1903 and 1924 they made over 10,000 motorcycles. The company temporarily stopped production of the Rover Motor-Bicycle in 1904 to focus on the introduction of their new Rover 8hp automobile.
1904: THE FIRST ROVER CAR
Bicycles had already achieved more or less their optimum design specifications by the beginning of the twentieth century. But cars, of course, were only just beginning. In 1904 the Rover Cycle Co brought out their first motor car.
Bicycles truly paved the way for the automobile. Road construction was already in full swing, and mass-production already employed by the cycle manufacturers who turned to car production. By the end of the decade the roads were full of cars, lorries and buses and cyclists had to fight road congestion.
‘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.’
PHOTO LOCATION: Bishopstone, East Sussex. The 8th century church in the background is believed to be the oldest in the county. Its front porch features a sundial, inscribed ‘Eadric, the King of Kent in 685’ (photo below from 1912)