1918 Golden Sunbeam for Gentlemen (22″ Frame)

Characteristics of a gentleman: ‘A cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life.’

– John Henry Newman (1801-1890), The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry

The question is, do you have to be a ‘gentleman’ in order to buy a Golden Sunbeam for Gentlemen, one of the ultimate purchases of exquisite taste in 1918? Or does ownership confer the chivalrous title of ‘gentleman’ upon the fortunate recipient of such a machine?


1918 Golden Sunbeam for Gentlemen

Two-speed Epicyclic Gear

22″ Frame (the rarest frame size)

28″ Wheels – Aluminium ‘Roman’ Rims 

Original Unrestored Paintwork

Frame No 136766

(Now sold)


All Sunbeams are an absolute pleasure to ride. That’s why they have been the most popular upmarket bicycle in British history. They were sought-after in 1918 when this machine was manufactured …and are still just as sought-after now, 94 years later.

This particular machine is the rarest frame size – 22″. As you can see in the Sunbeam catalogue page further down the page, the company states that it is suitable for riders of height 5′ 3″.

A 22″ frame is unusual because the overwhelming majority of bicycles in the early years were made with 24″ frames. Obviously it cost extra money for companies to manufacture different frame sizes. Sunbeam, however, had a very good relationship with its customers – for example, some years later, in response to public request, they brought out  a ‘Low-Built’ model with 26″ wheels for older riders. In the meanwhile, however, pre-1920, a bicycle with a 22″ frame was the best option for riders of shorter stature, and it would have been available to a customer’s order.

This example has been cherished throughout its life, and the paintwork is original and unrestored, with the remains of its box lining in places. Although the transfers have faded on the headstock, they remain in good visible condition on the oil bath chaincase. The rear tyre and tube has recently been replaced. The two-speed epicyclic gear functions well. I’ve taken this Golden for a spin, and it’s an enjoyable ride. With 31″ inside leg, 22″ is actually the correct frame size for me, although over the years I’ve become accustomed to jumping on and off larger frames.

Everything on the bike is to its original specification, apart from the accessories: the bell and extra lamp brackets were probably a later addition. The important little details are all correct: eg the steering lock is intact. The patent Golden Sunbeam removable handlebar grips unscrew and screw in smoothly, and the grips themselves are in excellent condition – this is one of the first things I examine on a Golden Sunbeam, as it’s always a good indication of a bicycle that has been cared for and stored inside throughout its life.