This style of Beeston Humber Gents’ tricycle – i.e. with a parallel top tube rather than an upsloping top tube – was introduced by the company in 1896, and named the Model 11. Modifications in 1899 included a shorter seat post, optional front rim brake, and the new design of Beeston front fork which incorporated a duplex pattern to make Beeston machines instantly recognisable.
1901 Beeston Humber Light Roadster Tricycle
(Frame style and specification of the 1898 Model No 11)
with Humber Patent Double Action Band Brake to Main Axle
and Villiers 3-speed Gear
‘Size B’ (26″ Frame)
26 x 1 3/4″ Wheels
Frame No 81152
WIDTH (Axle): 33″
WIDTH (Handlebar): 18″
The Beeston Humber Light Roadster Tricycle is in excellent all-round condition and ready to ride. It has a fixed top tube and Humber ‘First Grade’ style front fork: though the frame number #81152 suggests 1901 manufacture, both of these specifications are shown in the 1898 Beeston Humber Roadster Tricycle catalogue illustration below, though not in the 1900 or 1901 catalogues.
Humber manufactured a larger batch of tricycle frames than were sold at the time. Tricycles sold in far fewer numbers than bicycles – a tricycle was two to three times more expensive than a bicycle – and cycle makers rarely updated the tricycle illustrations in their catalogues. In my opinion, Humber over-produced for several years and used up their tricycle stock later. By 1905, a tricycle no longer appeared in the Humber catalogue: two models of motor-bicycle and five styles of automobile had taken its place, though the tricycle was still available to order.
The Villiers 3-speed gear was introduced in 1905. Humber invited owners of Humber tricycles to send their machines back to the factory for gear upgrades. Although the band brake was fitted as standard, the 1901 catalogue prices a front rim brake at an extra £1.
If you compare this machine with the illustration below, you can see it has a high frame, designated by Humber as ‘Size B’ which means that it’s a 26″ frame (measured from the centre of the crank diagonally to the top of the seat tube) with longer pedal cranks (8″) and pedals to match. Other fittings include 18″ flat handlebars and a dedicated tricycle rear carrier rack with a picnic basket in the style of the Drew & Sons fold-out picnic basket.
I also have an option to buy a c1898 front end for it that converts the tricycle into a quadricycle forecar (see photo). This was a popular conversion when these tricycles were motorised (with a de Dion engine). It’s a lightweight fitting, so would work unmotorised too, and I’m still deciding whether to sell the tricycle or keep it and add the passenger-carrying option.
This tricycle was previously owned by a collector of Victorian steam engines and early commercial vehicles, and was kept in dry storage from the 1960s until last year when it was purchased by my friend John, who recommissioned it. John has ridden it in many vintage cycle events. I’ve also ridden it and found it very enjoyable to ride. You can see its video at the bottom of the page.
1901 HUMBER CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
RIDING THE BEESTON HUMBER TRICYCLE
Because a gentlemen’s tricycle has a crossbar and can’t be leaned over from the side like a bicycle, mounting is accomplished via the step plates on the rear axle. As you step onto the axle, it’s important to grab the handlebar and apply the brake. If the right pedal is in the optimum position you can mount, apply brake, slide onto the saddle and move off in a flowing movement.