1915 Robin Hood Girder-Frame Roadster
Three-Speed Sturmey Archer ‘FX’ hub
Concealed Roller Lever Brakes
Brooks B12 Saddle
This Robin Hood was professionally restored 25 years ago, and is still in excellent condition. Though repainted, great care was taken to preserve the original Robin Hood transfers. The FX hub was rebuilt at great expense.
This is a very rare bike, and is interesting because of its similarities to the Royal Enfield Girder of the same era. As the Royal Enfield Girder was a top-selling bicycle of the day, I assume the frame was supplied by Royal Enfield to the Robin Hood Cycle Co for them to add their own badge. In my opinion, this bicycle would have been made to ‘special order’ – ie commissioned by a customer to his particular specifications. This was a common practice at the time, and smaller companies were ideally set up to do this, buying components through the trade to assemble a bike that met a customer’s unique requirements.
As this machine has a 22″ frame and 26″ wheels, it was presumably ordered by a customer who found the majority of bicycles too large to ride. With the ‘state-of-the-art’ Sturmey-Archer three speed gears, concealed roller lever brakes and girder frame, the final cost would no doubt have been as expensive as other top quality British bicycles …which were, at this time, the most expensive top quality bicycles in the world.
ROBIN HOOD & Co Ltd
Newdigate St Nottingham
The earliest Robin Hood bicycles were high-wheeled machines manufactured by John Sibert & Co., Hockley Mill Works, Nottingham and later by Sibert’s nephews Thacker & Green.
The first reference to a Robin Hood Cycle Co is 1889 and by 1891 the company had been taken over by John William Kendrick and a Mr Goulding. Kendrick was a former racing cyclist who had been a member of the Beeston Cycling Club.
The company registered address moved from Albion Street to 71 Upper Parliament Street, Nottingham in 1893 together with the announcement of a new company (but with the same name). Directors were J. W. Kendrick, W. Ellis and A. Atkey.
In 1894 some twenty models were offered. By the end of that year the company was in financial difficulty and was wound up in 1895. Cycle manufacturers Gamble, Upton & Co purchased the goodwill and title and by early 1896 had registered the ‘new’ company and were trading as a Robin Hood & Co Ltd, Newdigate Street, Nottingham. Directors were Thomas Gamble and William P. Hurst.
In the meantime J. W. Kendrick had retained the Upper Parliament Street premises and floated the Little John Co. (In exhibiting at the 1899 Stanley Show the company shared a stand with the Little John Co).
A chainless machine was offered in 1898 using the Battersby’s ‘Elect’ chainless gear which employed connecting rods to the rear wheel. This machine was priced at £21.
Evidence is available to show the company was in continual existence until after the First World War.
In 1943 an intriguing series of adverts appeared in ‘Cycling’ depicting a Robin Hood-like figure and by the autumn an announcement stated that for overseas trading reasons The Gazelle Company (part of Raleigh) had been replaced by Robin Hood Cycle Co Ltd, 177 Lenton Boulevard, Nottingham.
CONCEALED ROLLER LEVERS
1908 STANLEY CYCLE SHOW:
Stand No 83: This concern does no business with the public direct, but supplies the agent with machines to sell either with his own transfer, or under the Robin Hood name. Prices are slightly up for 1909, but when it is remembered that Brooks saddles, Dunlop tyres, and rustless spokes are fitted to all models, it will be seen that there is good reason for this. The range of models include patterns to retail from about £6 to ten guineas, according to the margin of profit with which the agent is satisfied.
1910 STANLEY CYCLE SHOW:
Stand No 73: Among the models to be exhibited on this stand will be the Standard Roadster Model A Robin flood, retailing at £8 8s. This machine is fitted with Dunlop Roadster tyres, up-turned handlebar, improved rear and front rim brakes and roller levers, ball bearing ratchet free-wheel, Brooks’ B.18 saddle, and Brampton’s lie. pitch roller chain.
The Special Roadster Model C, retailing at £10 19s. 6d., is fitted with Sturmey-Archer three-speed gear and metal detachable gear-case. Model G is a light roadster at £8 8s.. possessing wide dropped handlebar of the North Road pattern, two brakes. 75in. gear. hall-bearing ratchet free-wheel, Brampton’s chain. and is finished in black enamel w it h crimson and white lines.
To meet the ever-growing demand for a bicycle which can be ridden throughout the entire year. the Robin Hood Cycle Co. will place on the market an all-black model R, retailing at £10 19.s. 6d. This machine is fitted with special wide section mudguards with flap. a superior non-leaking detachable oil baths gear-case, Dunlop Roadster tyres, and up-turned handlebar.
It should be noticed as an important improvement that all Robin Hood machines are fitted with seat stays brazed at. the fork ends, making the frame practically in one piece.
THE MIGHTY BROOKS ‘MODEL B12’ SADDLE
This ornate lump of steel and leather is 17 1/2 inches from front to back, including 12 inches of leather, enough to accommodate even the most copious buttock.
This is the saddle that put the Great in Great Britain.
Being born seven years after the end of WW2, I grew up on Marmite. I became a vegetarian soon after leaving home at the end of the swinging sixties. Vegetarians are deficient in vitamin B12, and the best source is, of course, Marmite. So, to preserve this Brooks Gent’s B12 saddle, I rub in copious amounts of Marmite. That’s probably why it has grown so large.
Marmite Food Co was established in 1902, and its recipe owed its existence to the German chemist Justus Freiherr von Liebig, who discovered that brewer’s yeast cells could be concentrated, bottled and eaten. In a curious twist, ‘Liebig Company Fleisch Extract’ used ‘trade cards’ to advertise their product, among which were several that featured odd scenes with bicycles. You can see one below…
And the cards that I use at the top of the Online Bicycle Museum website are also Liebig trade cards. So now you know 🙂
Here they are full-size for your enjoyment
1914 STURMEY ARCHER FX THREE-SPEED HUB
The Sturmey Archer FX hub was made in 1914 only, so nowadays it’s a rare hub. According to Tony Hadland’s The Sturmey-Archer Story:
By 1913 Sturmey-Archer’s three-speed hub production reached 100,000 per annum. In 1914 20,000 Raleigh bikes were factory-fitted with Sturmey-Archer gears – over one third of Bowden’s total production. In the same year the company bought the Armstrong-Triplex Three Speed Company from the New Hudson Cycle Company for £6000.
However, it seems that Sturmey-Archer produced relatively few three-speeds during the war. In 1914 the Type X was abandoned in favour of the type A …thus the machinery previously used solely for the type X would have been liberated for Sturmey-Archer’s contribution to the war effort.
PS The internet is a powerful tool of misinformation. I do not wish to alter history. The Brooks Gent’s B12 saddle is a rare saddle, and many enthusiasts search in vain to find one. However, contrary to what you read above, this B12 did not start out as a small juvenile saddle, growing as a result of me adding Marmite. That was a joke.