Sunbeams: The Two Noble Kinsmen

two Sunbeams side by side

‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ is the title of a play, published in 1634, and attributed in part to Shakespeare (in collaboration with Fletcher). It is also my nickname for my two Royal Sunbeams, born about a decade apart, in 1923 and 1934.

The elder, frame number 141812, I bought on my birthday in 2005, travelling to Preston for the purpose (it cost me £150) and returning with it triumphantly on the train. It remains my favourite bicycle. It has a 26″ frame, which I think gives it perfect proprtions. It is fitted with a Sunbeam 3 speed gear, a clone of the BSA 3 speed, which was itself derived from the Sturmey Archer X-type. This is operated from a lever on the top tube, and is characterised by having the low gear in the forward position, away from the rider, with the lever pulled towards you to select normal and high, thus ensuring that, should the wire snap, the default gear is first rather than third.

The younger,  frame no. P.468.O.625, I bought at an auction here in Perth, again on my birthday, in 2010. Another Royal Sunbeam, about 10 years younger, from 1933 or 4. It has  a Sturmey Archer K-type 3 speed hub, operated by a ‘Sunbeam Control’ trigger.

In this picture, the 1934 machine is nearer the camera, with its red rims and cream tyres; the difference in frame size is evident.

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