Humber produced motorcycles from 1896 to 1905, and from 1909 to 1930.
1896 The company started experimenting with powered machines, working with entrepreneur Harry Lawson, who had the rights to build the De Dion engine, in Coventry.
1896 At the 1896 International Horseless Carriage Exhibition Humber showed 'motor cycles fitted with the Kane Pennington motors and two tandem safeties with the twin-cylinder motors boomed out at the rear'.
1896 'The first practical motorcycle built in this country was completed last week when Humber and Co finished a bicycle fitted with a Pennington two-horsepower motor made at their works in Coventry'.
Also in 1896, Humber established a subsidiary in Sweden, Scania, which built their first motorcycles in 1902 and eventually became the vast Scania-Saab corporation.
1898 Lawson also had the rights to De Dion's tricycle, which Humber made for him.
1898 The company first constructed a power tandem, driven by a battery powered electric motor. Although its life was short, it proved to be useful on racing tracks where it was used for cycle pacing. A ladies' bicycle, modified to carry an engine behind the seat tube, was also produced, along with a forecar known as the Olympia Tandem. This was based on the Pennington design, with the engine hung behind the rear wheel. None of the above models were produced beyond 1899.
1902 Humber became a serious contender in the field of powered transport and two models were produced. Both were very successful and proved their worthiness at shows and in trials. The smaller used a 1.5 h.p. engine hung from the down-tube with belt drive, the larger 2 h.p. model was made under licence from Phelon and Moore, so had the engine fitted as the frame downtube. From there it drove the rear wheel by chain in two stages. These were raced in competition by the work's riders J. F. Crundall and Bert Yates.
1903 The success of the two previous models led on to the development of new machines. All had chain drive and comprised 1.75-hp and 2.75-hp solos, a 2.75-hp tricar with single front-wheel, and the Olympia Tandem forecar. All were listed in two forms, the 'Beeston' or the cheaper 'Coventry', as was Humber's bicycle practice.
1904 The tricycle was dropped, the smaller model became 2-hp and the Olympia was fitted with a 3.5-hp water-cooled engine.
1905 By now most efforts were going into the production of Humber cars, so motorcycles were temporarily dropped.
1909 The name returned with the with just one 3.5-hp model of conventional form with belt drive and the option of a two-speed rear hub. An unusual addition was a silencer that formed part of the frame downtube, and sprung front-forks with blades that pivoted on a bearing in the lower crown against springs.
1910 Normal silencers and Druid forks made a return, the firm added a new 2-hp model in both lightweight and ladies' variations and also entered the TT.
Stanley Show 1910
Humber, Ltd. Coventry.
Stand No. 53.
The 3.5 H.P. two-speed Humber will undoubtedly prove a very great attraction on this stand. The frame is a new design, exceptionally strong, being only 281in. from the ground. The machine has a long wheelbase and improved pattern spring forks. The engine is a 3.5 H.P. 83 mm. by 90 mm. bore and stroke, with ball bearings to the main shaft, and large mechanically-operated valves. The front rim brake is exceedingly well made, and a powerful metal to-metal band brake is fixed to the back hub, and operated by the foot pedals. The carburetter control is by Bowden wire from the handle-bar; ignition is by high-tension magneto, gear driven transmission is through a variable pulley by best-quality rubber V shape gin. belt, the variable pulley giving 4 to 1 and 51 to 1 gears. The free engine clutch and two-speed gear is made under Roc patents, and the rest of the specification is carried out with that thoroughness with which the name of Humber is synonymous.
We recently referred to the new 2 H.P. light-weight motorcycle, which the company are now placin5 on the market. This machine weighs only 90 lbs., and is a beautifully- finished article. The engine is 2 H.P., 60 by 70 mm.; the ignition is by Bosch high-tension magneto, gear driven. The entire control, including exhaust valve lifter, is operated from the handle-bar without lifting the hands from the grips. The wheels are 26in. by gin., Dunlop motor-cycle, beaded edge, special rubber-studded tyres being used. The transmission is by belt of best quality, the pulley being variable, and giving 5 to 1 and 8 to 1 gears. The price of £37 is very reasonable for a machine of such very high quality, and we anticipate that the Humber light-weight will speedily become one of the most popular bicycles on the road.
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