Beeston Humber Aluminium Special Light Roadster c.1899
Yes, that’s right…. Aluminium!! Humber first used aluminium tubing in cycling construction in 1898. Of course there was no means of welding the tubes at that time so it suited perfectly their ‘detachable joint’ method of construction which was patented in 1896. The frame is demountable, being held together with finned cotter pins through the steel lugs ( see 1898 Humber catalogue extracts below ) Humber’s claim that the detachable joint method of frame construction was ‘the most important development in cycle construction since the introduction of the Pneumatic Tyre in 1888′ was somewhat overstating the case ( to say the least! ), but it is nonetheless an interesting novelty. When the machine was disassembled it could be stored in a tailor-made wicker basket for storage or travel purposes. Priced at £33, the aluminium version of this bicycle was probably the most expensive bicycle available at the time.
Made to special order with a double top tube 28 inch frame, my machine is largely original, and is fitted with the patent Humber adjustable length cranks facilitated by rotating the circular insert in the crank end on which the pedal axle is eccentrically located. Thus 5/8 inch of length adjustment can be obtained. Handlebars are incredibly narrow at 13 inches. The drive train is in 5/8 pitch, a Humber speciality. The wheels are 28 x 1 3/8 inches, a size for which tyres are now completely obsolete. NOS tyres are fitted but this is the only pair in this size I have been able to obtain in the last 10 years. The rare Brooks B28 saddle has replacement cover made by me.
An intriguing feature of this machine is that there are quite a lot of traces of nickel plating on the steel parts of the frame and also on the aluminium tubes. Was it possible to nickel plate aluminium at that time? Can you imagine what this bicycle must have looked like if it was entirely nickel-plated?
Although a number of demountable Humber’s survive, only two other aluminium tubed machines are known of, one in the Coventry Museum of Transport, Bartleet Collection, and the other (from c.1908) in a private collection.
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