Inside the factory illustrated opposite, no common bicycles are made – this can hardly be said of any other large cycle factory.
Yet IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to make common bicycles in the same factory, where of necessity they pass through the same hands of the SAME workmen, the SAME processes, and the SAME supervision.
Experienced cyclists regard with suspicion many so-called ‘best quality’ bicycles on this account – They consider them to be merely the common quality with a few extra fittings, a little extra finish, and a good deal extra profit.
Sunbeams alone are free from this suspicion, for this list will demonstrate that the lowest-priced Sunbeam Bicycle is sold at £12 12/- nett.
– Sunbeam Sales Catalogue, 1915
The All-Black Sunbeams (Golden or Royal), with painted rather than plated parts, were the most expensive Sunbeams on offer.
This All-Black 3-Speed Royal Sunbeam for Gentleman was £15 4/- 6d.
Compare Sunbeam’s top-of-the-range All-Black Golden Sunbeam for Gentlemen with epicyclic gears, at 16 guineas (£16 16/-), the company’s most expensive machine. (See an All-Black Golden on the next page).
The Golden only had two gears. Sunbeam maintained that their patent epicyclic two-speed system was the equal of a Sturmey-Archer or BSA Three-speed. They were right! Nevertheless, by 1913, with Sturmey-Archer’s extensive advertising for its three speed gears, the public was at last sold on the idea of gears, and Sunbeam was obliged to offer an in-house three-speed option. (Actually, Sunbeam’s own hub gear is a BSA gear with the BSA name removed).
These Sunbeams were some of the most expensive bicycles in the world. To compare other upmarket three-speed British bikes from 1913, a top-of-the-range Elswick was 15 guineas, Raleigh Superbe X-Frame 15 guineas, Beeston Humber £15 12/- 6d, Ariel (without gears) £15, Dursley-Pedersen £12 7/- 6d, Triumph 10 guineas, Royal Enfield Duplex Girder £9 17/- 6d, BSA £9 15/- and Rudge-Whitworth £9 12/- 7d. Centaur had gone out of business by 1913, but their 1909 Resilient was 17 guineas and their 1911 Lightweight £9 15/-.
1914 All-Black Royal Sunbeam for Gentlemen
Sunbeam Three-Speed Gear
Frame No 129646
This All-Black Royal is in first class condition. It has been restored mechanically, but the cosmetics are original and very well preserved. The transfers on the headstock and chaincase are visible, and every part on the bike is original apart from one missing handlebar grip.
This machine recently surfaced from long-term storage, and last week I had it serviced. The wheels and chain were removed, and new tyres, tubes and (original new-old-stock) brake rubbers fitted. The saddle is an imposing Lycett Imperial Model 36/2 with a slight tear to one side of the leather, but nevertheless very usable. The three-speed gear functions well and, like all Sunbeams, this All-Black Royal is a pleasure to ride.
1915 SUNBEAM CATALOGUE
Above, the head-lock is open; below, the head-lock is fixed.
LYCETT IMPERIAL MODEL 36/2 GENT’S SADDLE
THE ROYAL SUNBEAM
This catalogue entry is for the Royal Sunbeam, rather than the All-Black Royal Sunbeam