Sturmey Archer Logo

Sturmey-Archer-50 Years of Leadership - page 6

The Racing Fraternity


So far Sturmey-Archer had concentrated primarily on giving a new zest for cycling to the average cyclist who, delighted with being able to take most hills with ease, was not inclined to be excessively fussy about the precise size of gears offered. But the cycling enthusiasts were a different story. They thought in terms of a different gear for almost every hill and wind variation-particularly the road racing fraternity.

By 1930 the latter, who naturally sought comparatively flat roads for their time trials, were complaining that Sturmey Archer gear ratios were too wide. To meet their demands, Mr. Charles Marsball, a member of Raleigh, and one of the foremost amateur riders in the country, made experimental modifications to the "K" hub, and used them successfully in competition rides. After further experiments along these lines by the Company's technicians, two new hubs with much closer ratios were introduced in 1932. Compared with the original "K" model with its ratio of 33 1/3 per cent. above and 25 per cent. below, these gears were a step in the right direction providing ratios of only 12.5 per cent. above and ll.l per cent. below and l6.6 per cent. above and l4.3 per cent. below respectively-but they did not meet the racing man's full requirements. The designers, however, felt that they had exhausted the possibility of the single stage epicyclic gear train and for a time they experimented with'the possibility of the two-speed gear for providing closer ratios for road racing.

Close Ratio Units

But the paramount need was still for a close ratio three- speed unit. Its development was due to Mr. W. Brown, a Scotsman, who took charge of the Sturmey-Archer develop ment and design department in 1935. Mr. Brown, whose inventive genius was later to be directed to the Dynohub, produced in 1936 one of the most revolutionary of the Sturmey-Archer gears-the "AR" hub, which was almost the complete answer to the racing man's requirements.

The "AR" hub was built on an entirely new principle, - giving ratios of only a few inches on either side of the normal gear-a variation equal to that given by adding or subtracting one tooth from the sprocket.

Another innovation of this period was the joint patenting by Brown and Marshall of the first trigger control, and the development of a three-speed hub fitted with a cable control internal expanding brake. Later, single geared and front hubs were also produced for internal expanding brakes.


The Company might well have been content to rest on their laurels but their designers were already at work developing the principle used in the "AR" hub to produce a range of four-speed gear hubs, the first of which, the "AF", was put on the market in 1938, to be followed at a later date by the "FM", "FC" and a fixed gear three-speed known as the "ASC". This remarkable technical achievement, acclaimed by cyclists throughout the world, was more formally recognised by the award to Sturmey-Archer of the Cyclists Touring Club 1939 Plaque "for the four-speed hub as being the greatest improvement in cycle design or equipment during the year".

The Dynohub

Not satisfied with their achievements in the variable gear hub field, Sturmey-Archer designers turned their attention to lighting. The year 1935 saw the invention of the Dynolamp, a tyre-driven dynamo housed in the headlamp. It was a 6 volt, 4.5 watt unit which gave a powerful light even at walking speed. Two years later came the Dynohub, an innovation of outstanding importance, introduced by Mr. Rawlings, the original patentee, and subsequently developed by Raleigh technicians. It was enclosed in the front hub, virtually frictionless, dust-proof and unaffected by climatic conditions. It was immediately accepted by cyclists and started a widespread demand for cycles with gears and lighting as integral parts of their equipment. Weight, however, was important. From the original 12-volt unit an improved 6-volt and lighter Dynohub was introduced. Further weight- reducing experiments were carried out culminating in the housing of the Dynohub in the same shell as the three and four-speed gears. A headlamp was produced of minimum size and weight which nevertheless gave a light beam of exceptional quality. The latest refinement was the provision of an automatic filter switch unit which gave a Dynohub equipped cycle a light even though the machine was stationary.

Pioneers-Past and Present

No survey of Sturmey-Archer gears can be complete without a mention of the many personalities who have helped build and develop the Company.

If Sir Frank Bowden-created a baronet in 1915-was the driving force behind the introduction of sturmey-Archer gears, his son, Sir Harold Bowden, the present chairman of Raleigh Industries Ltd., was no less indefatigable. One example can suffice: in 1905 Harold Bowden matched himself against 20 professional riders in hill-climbing trials promoted by the Touring Club of France for the purpose of testing variable gears and brakes. The trials were held over mountainous country between Grenoble and Chambery. Harold Bowden won through within the time limit and the new 5turmey.Archer hub gear emerged from the judges' technical examination at the conclusion with full marks and the official comment: "Examination of the mechanism of the Sturmey-Archer. three-speed gear has not shown any sign of wear on the teeth." For its performance a silver medal was awarded.

The place in the Sturmey-Archer story of Messrs. G. P. Mills, James Archer, W. Brown and Charles Marshall has already been recorded, but there are other names equally noteworthy.

There was Ben Poole, who joined the Company in the early days and was well known as manufacturers' representative for many years until increasing blindness forced him to retire. He was succeeded by Mr. George Wilson, present deputy chairman and managing director of Raleigh Industries Ltd., who joined Sturmey-Archer Gears in 1927. In his early career with the Company, Mr. Wilson did much to press forward and publicise the development of the present range of Sturmey-Archer gears, with particular emphasis on the four-speed gear and Dynohub.

Another outstanding personality in Sturmey-Archer was Mr. W. H. Raven, works manager and later works director of the parent Company. Under his technical control and able administration the ranges of gears, hubs and Dynohubs were slowly extended.

In this he was assisted by Mr. L. C. Clarkson, Raleigh's present ~works director and director of Sturmey-Archer Gears Ltd., who succeeded him, and Mr. Charles Parker, works manager and now a director of Sturmey-Archer GearsLtd. Mr. Parker started in the Sturmey-Archer shop in 1902, working under James Archer. Eventually he succeeded Mr. Archer as foreman of the Sturmey-Archer assembly depart ment, later rising to his present position.

On the sales side, the name of Mr. James Harrisson, director and general sales manager, has, since the retirement of the ever popular John T. Chapman, dominated the post-war scene.

<- Previous         Next ->

English 3-Speeds
Retro Raleighs
Raleigh Parts Threading/Interchangeability
Three-Speed Parts from Harris Cyclery
Sturmey-Archer Hubs
Sturmey-Archer Brochures 1935-38
You'll need a fast connection for this.
Sturmey-Archer 1902-1952
Evolution of the Raleigh Sports
The Raleigh Twenty
Some of My Raleighs:
Competition | International | Robin Hood | Superbe Roadster
New! Sturmey-Archer Heritage Site
Martin Hanczyc's roadster pages.
Tony Hadland's Sturmey-Archer Pages
Tony Hadland on the history of Raleigh