History of the Rover Car Company. and Bicycles too



I have long been a fan of the Rover Automobile, one of England’s finest cars. The Rover was often known as the poor mans Rolls Royce. The Rover company began in 1878 by Starley & Sutton of Coventry. They first began building bicycles, motor cycles and in 1904 Cars. They introduced the first Rover Safety bicycle in 1885 an instantly became a World leader in cycle design. The concept was revolutionary and production of this type of of bicycle expanded rapidly because numerous manufacturers copied the Rover design. Rover had evolved the cross bar and diamond shaped frame that is still in use today. What is really interesting is the fact this bicycle design promoted Ladies in cycling. Rover can be credited with starting a revolution with the introduction of the safety bicycle. It quickly replaced what was then known as the Ordinary cycle, otherwise called the a penny farthing, featuring a large front wheel with a diameter of approx five feet.. It was cumbersome and potentially dangerous. These features combined with the Victorian dress styles made it unsuitable maybe impossible for ladies to ride. The Rover bicycle changed all that and started a social revolution as well as one of transportation and recreation. All the early bicycles were a single speed and fixed wheel. Free wheel wasn’t introduced until the late 1890’s. Several attempts were made to design gears but it wasn’t until Sturmey Archer in conjunction with Raleigh produced the first successful three speed hub. Production of this gear remained into the 1970’s. An interesting but also a little known cycle adventure began in 1886, “Round the World on a Wheel” was a book later authored and published by John Fraser the organizer of the venture. He along with two friends Edward Lunn and Frank Lowe set out from London in 1886. Their plan was to cycle around the World on bicycles. The cycles used were all Rover safety cycles and this would become the longest bicycle ride ever. The trio would cover some 19.000 miles and pass through 17 countries. They were not always well received, many places were openly hostile. To paraphrase their report, we were stone by Mohammedans because we were infidels, pelted with mud in China because they thought we were devils. Often we slept in wet clothes, subsisted on eggs, often went hungry and suffered from numerous ailments. The Rover bicycles stood up well and were equipped with the latest Reynolds roller chain and pneumatic tires, but they were still only single speed. They were heavy weighing in at 40 pounds and totally loaded over 70 pounds. The roads were poor to non-existent in most lands. Even in the US the road conditions were dreadful. For those reasons they often rode between the railway lines of the Union Pacific Railway. They had some anxious moments in tunnels and snow sheds in Nevada. Their trip took over two years to complete, and the Rover bicycles performed extremely well, just the expected punctures and other brake downs. The most serious failure was when a front fork broke and a new one had to be shipped from England. You can imagine the time involved in this operation, telegram communication with home and shipping by sea to the nearest port that was surely miles away. All in all this was an amazing feat and adventure.

To bring things back to the present day bicycles, Land Rover introduced a variety of modern and top of the line bicycles in 2009. They are lightweight, incorporating carbon fibre technology, 30 speed gears and hydraulic brakes. Nevertheless, loving Rovers as I do, I’m not contemplating a trip around the world on a bicycle, not even in a Land Rover for that matter.
Sadly the Rover Car Company failed in 2004, one hundred years after the first tiny car rolled out of the Coventry factory. Land Rover is still in production but now owned by a Foreign Company.
I presently have a 1973 Triumph bicycle (made by Raleigh) it has the famous Sturmey Archer three speed hub.
Hope you enjoyed my walk down memory lane, or should that be biked???
God Bless and keep reading.

About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
This entry was posted in Rover Automobiles, vehicles and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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