Our view of the past is very selective. Our understanding of vintage bicycles is greatly helped by browsing through the sales catalogues the manufacturers published. However, these catalogues also limit our views. Because the models they illustrate are only examples of what the customer could buy. In reality, a customer could be as picky as he wished, stipulating frame size and fittings to his liking without any objection from the factory. ‘The customer is king!’ is a phrase that comes to mind.
This example is a case in point. According to the 1926 catalogue, the frame size of the Gentlemen’s All Black Special Sunbeam was 22″ or 24″. (The female equivalent was offered in 21″ and 23″ frame size). Obviously Mr Bigwood, of Schubert Rd, London, who purchased this machine, preferred a 23″ frame, and opted for sports handlebars with twin pull up brake levers. The lightweight road racer style of bicycle was becoming increasingly popular through the 1920s, and Sunbeam didn’t offer one. So a Sunbeam enthusiast would design his own.
1926 All Black ‘Special Sunbeam’
Two-Speed Epicyclic Gears
Frame No 150373
This exceptionally well-preserved All Black Special Sunbeam has a fabulous set of handlebars and brake levers, making it both sporty and distinctive. I spent a year trying to buy it from my pal Robert, visiting him in Hackney, East London, to discuss it over lunch …but returning without it as he then decided he liked it too much. I learned a long time ago to be patient in such matters, and eventually he agreed to sell it to me.
‘Beautifully enamelled in black’ according to Sunbeam’s own description, the top quality original paint and transfers (decals) are weathered, but good. The only non-original item is a later Brooks saddle. I’ve taken the machine on several local rides, and can report that it provides a smooth, fast ride with easy gear changes. What else would you expect from a Sunbeam?
1926 SUNBEAM CATALOGUE
THE SPECIAL SUNBEAM
BATES FARM BLUEBELL WALK
Arlington, E Sussex
We dream of The Bluebell Walk all through the winter. This is one of our ‘serene’ places, though it is only open for a month or so each year. This year, due to the weather, the bluebells were more than two weeks late.
Luckily, Nature compensated with the best display of wood anemones I’ve encountered. Bicycles are not allowed in the woods. But John kindly allowed me to bring in some of the museum bikes for photoshoots.
On 8th May, 2015, the ARLINGTON BLUEBELL WALK website published the above update. So, as soon as the sun is out, we’ll return to enjoy our annual bluebell experience. It’s only open until 13th May, so if you fancy a visit, you’d better hurry up!
Meanwhile, you can share the serenity of this marvellous location in the short video below…