Such was the reputation of their machines and their popularity with the public, by the turn-of-the-century, Humber were turning out between 7000 and 9000 bicycles and tricycles a year. Still a few years away before the automobile took over the roads, a large gents’ tricycle such as this was the king of the road when it came to personal transportation.
This top-of-the-range Gents Light Roadster Tricycle had the added advantage of a removable crossbar so that a woman can also ride it if she so wishes. Although, without its crossbar, it would then become, by definition, a feamle model, the design remains distinctively male, its large frame set off by the vertical seat-tube.
It has a Lady’s centrally located mounting plate (photo above), for stepping onto it from the side, and step plates either side of the rear axle (below) for gentlemen to mount from the rear.
My personal preference is for Gent’s bikes, no doubt because I’m a bloke, but also because they’re large, imposing machines: a crossbar gives a tricycle a more dynamic appearance. This Beeston is now more of a ‘fixed convertible’ – it was returned to the factory some ten years after manufacture to be fitted with a three-speed gear. With the trigger mounted on top of it, the crossbar is therefore bolted firmly into place.
1901 Beeston Humber No 27 Convertible Tricycle
Humber-Cordner 3 speed gear & Band Brake
It’s easy to tell a Humber is a Beeston model once you’re close enough to see the duplex front forks. They were a Centaur patent, used on that company’s machines from 1897, and introduced by Humber for the 1898 season. According to the 1900 catalogue, ‘It consists of two tubes at either side, starting from two points at the fork crown and converging to one at the front wheel axle, giving the machine increased strength and making it doubly safe at this most vital part. Every tube of the machine is now of round section, which is admittedly the best. This is particularly suitable for use with rim brakes.’ The tricycle fork is a heavy duty version of that used on the Beeston bicycles.
1900 HUMBER CATALOGUE
SPECIFICATION for TRICYCLES
CORDNER 3-SPEED GEAR
the Humber-Cordner three speed gear WAS introduced in 1906.
BEESTON HUMBER MOTORIZED TRICYCLE
with De Dion Bouton engine
Toward the end of the 19th century, Humber was arguably the market leader in tricycles. An indicator of such status was that the Beeston tricycle had already been adapted to accept an engine. As stated in the 1900 catalogue, the company had been fitting engines to their tricycles and quadricycles successfully for two years (as a result of the tie up between Humber and the French companies Clement, Gladiator, Metropole and De Dion).
The motorized Beeston Humber was Great Britain’s first successful ‘automobile’ and you can still see examples in action at the annual London-Brighton Pioneer Run. Below is an 1899 Beeston Tricycle photographed at Tattenham Corner in the 14th Pioneer Run of 1950.
As you can see below – and as was common in those earliest days of motoring – the motorized version is remarkably similar to the pedal-operated tricycle.
The brake levers on this tricycle have opposite functions to later machines: the right hand lever operates the rear brake, and the inverted left lever is for the front brake. There was no industry standardisation until the introduction of rod brakes and roller levers around 1905.
The basket at the rear opens up to reveal a child carrier. This was a popular style of child carrier at this time. Bronko Cycle Accessories illustrate on in their booklet:
Bronko’s ‘Rambler’ Child Carrier was priced at 10/- 6d. As you can see, they are normally fitted to the front, but I found that mine was more secure fitted to the rear of this tricycle.