Durkopp was a well-established German cycle manufacturer. They brought out their new chainless (‘kardan’) bicycle in 1913, and Rover used the gear system under license for their own chainless bicycle which made its debut in 1913, at a competitive sales price of 10 guineas.
Pioneers of the cycle industry, Rover introduced their first automobile in 1904. Demand for cars and motorcycles increased steadily, and the motorised side of Rover’s business gradually took over from bicycles. In 1912, they sold their cycle business to Charles Sangster of Components Ltd. (Rover bought back their cycle business in 1922 and ran it for a further four years before giving up cycle production completely). Rover’s relationship with Component’s Ltd stretched back at least as far as 1901, as the cross frame illustrated in the 1901 Rover catalogue used Charles Sangster’s patent (above).
Quadrant and Humber had sold chainless bicycles in Britain around the turn of the century. Quadrant’s chainless used the Lloyd’s cross-roller system. Humber supplied frames to the French firm Metropole in 1897 for Metropole’s chainless ‘Acatene’ bicycle – which was also sold as the ‘Humber Chainless’ in Britain.
By 1913, Components Ltd had been supplying frames and parts to the cycle trade worldwide for twenty years. Perhaps, as Humber had done sixteen years earlier with Metropole, Sangster landed a contract to supply chainless frames to Durkopp? If the frames were built in the newly-acquired Rover Cycle Co factory, it would have been logical for Rover to offer a version too. Unfortunately, events conspired against the Chainless Rover – because Germany and Britain went to war the following year. As a result, the ‘Chainless Rover Roadster’ only appeared in the company’s 1913 and 1914 catalogues.
1913/1914 Chainless Rover Roadster
Coaster Hub Brake
You see this rare Chainless Rover just as I bought it, with an ‘H’ lamp bracket and missing the brazed-on pump fittings illustrated in the catalogue. It came from an auction in Somerset, where it had been described by a previous owner as a 1902 Rover chainless prototype. As Durkopp didn’t introduce their shaft-driven gear until 1913 on the face of it that seems unlikely. But maybe the previous owner reconstructed it to represent such a prototype? – chainless bicycles would have been a more viable proposition in 1902, and production of the bevel gear system was notoriously difficult, which could have delayed it.
THE DURKOPP KARDAN (SHAFT-DRIVE) BICYCLE
Below you can see a 1932 Durkopp chainless bicycle I bought and sold in 2015 (the seller’s photos).
1914 ROVER CATALOGUE EXTRACTS