1915 Golden Sunbeam for Gentlemen ‘6 Speed’ Model A1
The following question from one of the most respected cycle dealers in England contains interesting information on the relative weights of cycles:-
“As you are aware, I am one of the largest retailers of Sunbeam Cycles, and find that, once they are known, cyclists willingly pay double the price for them as compared with other bicycles. My competitors – seeing the trade slipping out of their hands – seek objections to Sunbeams, so they suggest that they are heavy; indeed, they not only suggest, but persistently affirm that the Golden Sunbeam, with its Little Oil Bath gear case, is so heavy that its well-known easy running powers are nullified by its excessive weight!
Now I have means of ascertaining the weight of the principal Roadster Bicycles, and, feeling that Sunbeams were being unfairly treated, I have weighed six of the best known makes. In each case the weight of their Three-Speed Roadster exceeds that of the Sunbeam Three-Speed with the Little Oil Bath.
In some instances the Sunbeam was as much as 5lbs lighter – IN NO CASE was it less than 3lbs.
I trust this will dispose of the superstition that Sunbeam Bicycles are heavy and will give them their proper place as the lightest of Roadster Cycles.”
The Editor of the CTC Gazette writes –
“The Six-Speed Sunbeam – equipped for riding – actually scaled precisely the same as my wife’s Pedersen, which strikes everyone as a particularly light lady’s mount.”
– 1910 Sunbeam catalogue
The Six-Speed Sunbeam – ‘Model A6’ – was not a popular bicycle, and Sunbeam dropped it from their catalogue in 1911, after only three years. The quote from their 1910 catalogue, reproduced above, mentions the relative weight of the Six-Speed. Because of various comments in the cycling press, we believe that the public did not take to the Six-Speed at the time because they felt it weighed more. But bear in mind also that, in 1908-1910, gears were still a novelty: the general opinion was that a man should ride a bicycle without gears.
It was not until four or five years later, by which time gears were a standard feature, that riders reconsidered the idea of a Six-Speed, and combined the two-speed epicyclic with a three-speed rear hub to re-create a Sunbeam Six-Speed.
However… a ‘re-created six-speed’ of this type was not a true six-speed – two of the gears co-incided, so it would more accurately be described as a five-speed. Although the 1910 Sunbeam catalogue description below suggests that merely combining the two gears was sufficient to give six speeds, the 1908 catalogue extract at the top of this page shows a different rear hub was used in order to give six separate gears.
The bicycle featured here is not a true Model A6 – which was only manufactured between 1908 and 1910 and is now extremely rare – but a standard Model A1 Golden Sunbeam with a combination of two-speed and three-speed gears, as used in 1915.
The Sunbeam marque specialist only knows of three original Model A6 Six-Speed Sunbeams – two of them are featured on this website. I’m loathe to rename this bicycle a ‘five-speed’ as it was still known as a ‘six-speed’ at the time, so I have differentiated from the 1908-1910 ‘Model A6’ by describing it as a ‘Six-Speed Model A1.’
1915 Golden Sunbeam for Gentlemen ‘6 Speed’
with Two-Speed Epicyclic & Sunbeam Rear Hub Three-Speed
28″ Wheels – Aluminium ‘Roman’ Rims
Restored Brooks ‘Model B49’ Saddle (Made exclusively by Brooks for the Golden Sunbeam)
This beautiful Golden Sunbeam for Gentlemen retains some of its original transfers and most of its original box lining. With aluminium Roman Rims and the correct specification for Sunbeam’s top-of-the-range model of 1915, it is of historic significance in its own right as a 1915 version of the earlier discontinued six-speed configuration. The BSA three-speed gear was listed as available from 1913, so the BSA gear trigger on this machine is appropriate.
John Marston Ltd stopped production of civilian machines nationally on 31st December 1915 to concentrate on war work, so this was one of the last pre-WW1 Sunbeams. In 1916, John Marston relinquished daily control of the factory, so 1915 is actually the final model year with the original company set-up. John Marston died in 1918, as did his wife Ellen, and son Roland who had succeeded him in the business on his retirement. The company was sold soon after.
This bicycle features a very rare saddle, being a Brooks ‘Model B49.’ It was not sold directly by Brooks, but supplied exclusively to John Marston Ltd for the Golden Sunbeam. The leather top was restored by our country’s top saddle builder, Tony Colegrave.
This Golden Sunbeam has been restored mechanically, with rebuilt wheels and new tyres and tubes. I took these photos while riding it around Ovingdean, East Sussex.
GOLDEN SUNBEAM PATENT HEADLOCK
The headlock locks the front wheel of the bicycle so that it could not be turned. The milled screw at the top could be removed for security. In those days, thieves rode away on bikes they stole, rather than load them into a van!
1915 SUNBEAM CATALOGUE
GOLDEN SUNBEAM OUTFIT HANDLES & TOOLS
1915 SUNBEAM CATALOGUE
BROOKS ‘MODEL B49’ SADDLE:
SUPPLIED EXCLUSIVELY TO JOHN MARSTON LTD
FOR FITTING TO THE GOLDEN SUNBEAM
1915 SUNBEAM CATALOGUE