…Well worthy are ‘Gladiators’ to take their place by the side of Humber and Clement cycles. Wonderful, indeed, has been the rise of the Societe Francaise des Cycles Galdiator. In 1891 this now famous mark was the property of MM J. Aucoc and Darracq, the last named of whom is a familiar figure at all the race meetings. The renown obtained by the Gladiator Company is very largely due to the persistent efforts and great engineering and mechanical skill of M. Darracq, who has brought triplets, quadruplets, and quintuplets to the highest point of perfection. Hardly had the Gladiator Company completed two years of existence ere it was compelled to increase its plant and the number of its hands in proportion, while at its manufactory at Nantes, it was simultaneously producing the excellent ‘Phebus’ machine.
– The Illustrated London News, 10th October, 1896
Taking its name from Phoebus, the Greek God who drove the sun across the heavens each day, Phebus motor vehicles were built between 1899 and 1903 by Noe Boyer & Cie in the Parisian suburb of Suresnes. Initially Phebus offered tricycles fitted with various proprietary engines, one of which was ridden by Charles Jarrott at a breakneck speed of 39mph at Crystal Palace Velodrome. The great French rider Beconnais also won the prestigious Coupe des Motocycles de l’ACF in 1899 on a Phebus bicyclette, covering 100km in 1hr 46mins.
Although best known for its early motorised tricycles and subsequent automobiles, Phebus was also a well-respected cycle manufacturer. The company started producing bicycles in Nantes in 1889. An 1895 page in ‘Le Veloce-Sport’ asked:
‘Why have GLADIATOR and PHEBUS merged?’ And answered: ‘In order to make things better and cheaper.’
As the result of a further merger between French Humber, Gladiator and Clement, they relocated to an enormous factory at Suresnes, Paris, in 1898.
The Belle Epoque posters of Cycles Phebus are now far more plentiful than their cycles. This machine is a very rare survivor.
1899 Bicyclette Phebus
28 x 1 1/2″ Tyres
1897 PHEBUS CATALOGUE