The Sturmey-Archer Story supplement

The last years of British ownership

The book The Sturmey-Archer Story was published in 1987, at a time when interest in hub gears and hub dynamos was at an all-time low. Many new hubs have been launched since then, some of which echoed Sturmey-Archer designs or concepts publicised by this book. Sadly, they were not always exploited by Sturmey-Archer themselves. Moreover, in view of the comments in the book’s last paragraph, it was interesting that Shimano’s concept for the “everyday bike” of the late 1990s centred on a range of hub gears and hub brakes.

In 2001, 99 years after invention of the first Sturmey-Archer gear and 98 after formal establishment of Sturmey-Archer as The Three-Speed Gear Syndicate, the company passed out of British ownership. It entered a new era as a Taiwanese-owned enterprise, with a European base in The Netherlands and no office at all in the UK.

This supplement contains a brief summary of major product developments by Sturmey-Archer and its competitors from 1987 until the company left the UK. Then comes the story of how Sturmey-Archer ceased to be a British company. Finally there is additional information covering the pre-1987 era, some corrections and advice on changes of address.

Product Developments 1987-2001

During this period, Sturmey-Archer substantially re-engineered their product range. Apart from the AW three-speed, all their hub gears eventually incorporated “NIG” (No Intermediate Gear). This feature was intended to maintain positive drive through the hub, regardless of control cable adjustment. Following the example of their competitors, Sturmey-Archer lubricated their hubs for service life, omitting the traditional oiling point. Longer axles were fitted to some Sturmey-Archer hubs, such as the Sprinter range. This was because most bicycle frames were now being produced primarily for use with derailleur gears, and could not easily accommodate the shorter rear axles hitherto used in hub gears. Typical derailleur axles themselves also became longer to accommodate up to 10 sprockets.

The Steelite 70mm hub brake range was introduced about the time the book was published. It comprised steel-shelled versions of the Elite hub brakes. Interestingly, these were in some cases lighter than the alloy-shelled versions. The Steelite hubs replaced the earlier versions of the SBF, SBR and SAB.

The AWC three-speed coaster was launched in 1988 and had a different brake actuator to the S3C. The Mk.2 version was introduced in 1991 and had three brake shoe segments rather than the earlier single split ring shoe.

In 1989 Stephen Harding of Tiger Cycles Limited, Clapham, London filed a patent for a non-epicyclic hub gear offering up to 10 well-spaced gears and an overall range of 3:1. His hub could be used with a hollow quick-release axle and offered the option of pneumatic control. A nine-speed prototype was made in 1990 but despite strenuous efforts, Stephen Harding was unable to generate commercial support for his ingenious hub.

Sachs showed their first five-speed hub, the Pentasport, at the Milan cycle show in 1987. It was similar in concept and overall gearing range to the Sturmey-Archer S5 series, but with the advantage of no “no gear” positions between the gears. Marketing in the UK began in 1990. The Sachs five-speed range comprised unbraked, coaster brake and drum brake versions, together with heavier duty alloy-shelled versions (Pentacross) intended for off-road use.

No doubt the competition from Sachs led to the replacement of the S5/2 five-speed in spring 1991 by the short-lived 5-StAr (Sturmey-Archer). This used a different shell to the S5/2 and therefore the internals of the two types are not interchangeable. Some early 5-StArs suffered from rough running, a production problem which was quickly remedied. But the hub proved to be relatively weak, and axle breakages were unacceptably common. This led Sturmey-Archer to issue a warning that the chainwheel to sprocket size ratio should not be less than 2:1 – the company’s aim being to limit the torque to which the hub was subjected. Sturmey-Archer produced a prototype seven-speed version of the 5-StAr but did not market it.

The Paradigm infinitely variable hub gear, announced in autumn 1991, was designed by Bill Terry. It worked in much the same way as the All-Speed Gear (see page 66) but with a much wider gearing range of 4.5:1. The Paradigm was marketed by CV.Posi.Drive of Redmond, Washington, USA.

At the 1991 Geneva Show of Inventions, Swiss engineer Florian Schlumpf launched his Mountain-Drive. This was an epicyclic chainwheel gear, comprising a complete replacement chainset and spindle assembly, which could be fitted into almost any standard bicycle bottom bracket shell. The original ultra wide-ratio version of the Mountain-Drive gave direct drive and a mammoth reduction of 60%. There was also a medium-ratio version giving a still huge drop of about 40%.

Although not a hub dynamo as such, the German spoke-driven GS2000 was a closely related retrofit product. It was launched about the end of 1991.

In early summer 1992 Shimano, who were thought to be working on a five-speed hub, circulated samples of a seven-speed within the German cycle trade. This was a single-cable compound epicyclic medium ratio hub with a range of 2.44:1, similar in many ways to the Sturmey-Archer S7 of 1973. Known as the SG-7, it was designed to shift under reasonable pedalling load and had outstandingly even proportionate spacing between the gears. However, it had no direct drive. Some critics suggested that this might be to mask the frictional losses of the compound epicyclic system.

The original coaster brake version was the SG-7C20, superseded after a year or so by the slightly modified SG-7C21. Shimano began to market the hub in the UK in spring 1995 as part of the Nexus Inter range of hub gears and hub brakes. This range included a version of the SG-7 combined with the Inter-M roller (hub) brake. Shimano later announced a related four-speed, the Inter-4, which gave direct drive in lowest gear. Later still, this was available with a micro-processor controlled automatic shifter, with two electronic modes and manual override. In 2000, for the Japanese market, Shimano launched a simpler single-mode microprocessor controlled shifter for their three-speed hub.

Shimano’s announcement of the SG-7 surprised Sachs (formerly Fichtel & Sachs) who were already developing a seven-speed prototype. The Schweinfurt company immediately revealed details of their seven-speed to the German cycling press and accelerated their development programme. The result was the Sachs Super 7. Unlike the Shimano, this was a single annulus gear with three suns and three-stage compound pinions – the format later emulated by Sturmey-Archer for the Sprinter 7, and one which should be inherently more efficient as it involves a single epicyclic gear train.

Like the Shimano SG-7, the Sachs Super 7 was operated by a single cable. However, the Super 7’s trigger control and cable were integral with a “Click Box” which plugged onto the right-hand end of the wheel axle. The Click Box contained the indexing mechanism and no cable adjustment was necessary. The main penalty for this otherwise highly desirable arrangement was a somewhat vague gear change action: the converse of the Shimano SG-7, which was fiddly to adjust but changed gear very positively, via either a twist-grip or trigger. The Click Box system was later used on the Pentasport five-speed in place of twin cables.

In late 1992 an ungeared German hub dynamo, reminiscent of the prototype Sturmey-Archer design described on page 147, was launched. Designed by Wilfried Schmidt, it was taken up by Union and christened the WING – meaning Wheel INtegrated Generator. DT of Switzerland and Shimano later introduced their own hub dynamos.

In November 1993 the 5-StAr was replaced by Sturmey-Archer’s first single-cable five-speed, the Sprinter – a mere 72 years after Henry Sturmey patented such a hub! The Sprinter used the same shell as the 5-StAr; and like the 5-StAr, had the same ratios as the S5 series. However, the Sprinter’s arrangements for routing the toggle chain into the hub were novel in that there were four options: the traditional flared wheel nut; or a “gear selector pulley” in a housing which slid over the wheel nut; and in either case with or without an axle-fitting fulcrum lever/clip. These options were felt necessary because of the high cable tension necessary for single cable selection of five gears – which with an ordinary flared nut and banded-on fulcrum clip could give stiff operation and/or cause the clip to slip along the chainstay. However, with a brazed-on cable stop, the flared nut worked quite well.

The Sprinter 7 was a seven-speed triple sun version of the Sprinter, with an overall range of 2.78:1. It was displayed at the autumn 1994 Anaheim cycle show in California (including in “exploded” form) but virtually ignored by the cycling press. In spring 1995 a test batch of Sprinter 7s was distributed in the Netherlands, Sturmey-Archer’s main market. In September 1995 the company exhibited the Sprinter 7 at the Cologne cycle show. Eventually it became available in the UK but initially only as original equipment on a small number of cycles by Raleigh, Alex Moulton and Pashley.

Rumours suggested that by summer 1994 Sturmey-Archer had produced a prototype nine-speed hub, but that frictional losses in the top three and bottom three gears were considered unacceptable. They certainly designed an eight-speed hub which was introduced after the company was sold to SunRace.

Sachs, who at one time marketed a hybrid gear comprising a three-speed hub fitted with twin derailleur sprockets, took the idea further by introducing the 3×7. This was a three-speed hub gear combined with a seven-speed Hyperglide-compatible cassette body. By spring 1995 two US downhill mountain bike racers, Robby Rupe and Terry Tennette, were using this transmission, according to Sachs’s advertising. At the Frankfurt motor show, held in September 1995, the Land Rover All Purpose Bicycle was launched. This variant of the Alex Moulton APB was one of the first production bicycles to use the Sachs 3×7 hybrid gear. The 3×7 was eventually replaced by a 3×8.

In 1995, Sachs revealed a 12-speed hub, known as the Elan. It was extremely heavy and bulky, and was soon dropped from the range. The company was taken over by SRAM, makers of Gripshift. The former Sachs range was thereafter marketed as SRAM Spectro.

A far superior product to the Sachs Elan was Rohloff’s 14-speed Speedhub, also from Germany. It was much lighter, very efficient but extremely expensive.

In 1998, Sturmey-Archer patented an improved mechanism for locking the sun pinions in hubs with multiple suns (such as five and seven-speeds). This used three ball-bearings per sun. The mechanism was incorporated into existing products and in a revamped alloy-shelled brake hub range called Summit, shown at the IFMA trade show in Germany in September 2000. The Summit alloy shells had a slightly parabolic shape. Model codes followed the pattern X-RD5, where R indicated rear, D a drum brake and 5 the number of gears. X-FD was therefore a front drum brake.

How Sturmey-Archer went East

Derby International took control of Raleigh and Sturmey-Archer in 1987. In 1998 Derby Cycles Limited, then a UK-based company, became sole owner of Sturmey-Archer Limited.

At this time about 40% of Sturmey-Archer’s turnover came from its Engineering Component Department, which made sintered and cold forged components for the automotive and domestic appliance manufacturers. These were produced at the Triumph Road factory in the Radford district of Nottingham, opposite Raleigh’s main factory and headquarters. Hub gears, hub brakes, spokes and nipples were also made at Triumph Road by the Cycle Component Department. A much smaller factory at Smethwick, Birmingham made Brooks leather saddles.

By the late 1990s, about 85% of Sturmey-Archer’s bicycle component production was exported, three quarters to countries on the European mainland. The biggest market was The Netherlands where there was a separate Derby-controlled sales and distribution company, Sturmey-Archer BV. In Europe, Sturmey-Archer had about 10% of the hub gear market, well below the market leader SRAM (owner of Sachs) and second-placed Shimano.

Sturmey-Archer’s turnover dropped steadily from £18m in 1996 to only £12m in 1999. Pre-tax profit in 1996 was £2.4m (13% of turnover), whereas in 1999 a loss was recorded of £0.3m. The rise in the value of the pound sterling against the Euro currencies had pushed Sturmey-Archer into the red.

Derby’s options

After Sturmey-Archer made a pre-tax loss of £408,000 in 1998, Derby appointed Colin Bateman as managing director of Sturmey-Archer. He took up the post in March 1999, with a brief to assess the ongoing viability of Sturmey-Archer. Eight months later, Bateman reported to the directors of Derby that, in view of the 1998 losses and projected 1999 losses of £1.1m, he saw three alternatives:

  • Invest £3.75m immediately,
  • Consider the viability of ongoing trading, or
  • Sell the land and/or business.

Derby opted for selling. Colin Bateman and Sturmey-Archer’s financial director and company secretary, Paul Smith, investigated the options. On 17th December 1999, Sturmey-Archer agreed to sell its site at Triumph Road, Nottingham to Nottingham University for £3.75m. The site was then leased back to Sturmey-Archer for a year to permit relocation of the factory. Nottingham University wanted the site for the £20m National College for School Leadership.

Relocation and the search for a new owner

Bateman and Smith promptly started a search for separate sites to relocate the Engineering Component and Cycle Component Departments. They also commissioned Manro Consultants to advise on optimising Sturmey-Archer’s profitability. They discussed further outsourcing of manufacturing processes, involving buying in components from Taiwan, with estimated cost savings of 30% and a consequent reduction of about 100 in the workforce. The estimated cost of relocation, excluding the real estate costs, was £4m. This included £1.5m to move the Cycle Component Department, about £0.7m to move the Engineering Components Department and £1.5m for workforce redundancies.

Derby considered these costs to be too high. They therefore commissioned a firm of corporate financial advisers, Oasis Europe Limited, to seek potential buyers who would continue manufacture in Nottingham. Meanwhile, a possible management buy-out of the Engineering Components Department was mooted.

Most potential buyers merely wanted to ‘cherry-pick’ certain parts of Sturmey-Archer, especially the name and/or patents. Sturmey-Archer was developing an eight-speed hub, which was of particular interest. Sun Race of Taiwan made a serious offer to buy Sturmey-Archer which would have left some jobs in Nottingham. Their offer was, however, contingent on Sturmey-Archer achieving forecasted sales figures and could not therefore be finalised quickly. Derby, however, were under great pressure from their American investors to reduce debt and the Chase Manhattan Bank required a quarterly progress report.

Sale to Lenark

One company put forward by Oasis, Lenark Limited, was prepared quickly to buy the whole business as a going concern, complete with all existing and contingent liabilities. The price Lenark offered was lower than that proposed by Sun Race but was more acceptable to Derby because it got rid of debt by the end of the second quarter of 2000, when their American investors had to report to their bankers.

Lenark, formed in 1998 and registered at 33a High Street, Heathfield, East Sussex, appeared to Derby to be a sound investment firm. It ran four divisions containing about 17 companies.

Consequently, on 24th June 2000, Derby sold Lenark The Wright Saddle Company Limited for a nominal sum, believed to be £30. This was slightly less than the retail price of a basic Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub gear. The Wright Saddle Company was a dormant subsidiary of Sturmey-Archer, incorporated in the 1937 and wholly owned by the hub-gear maker.

Six days later, on 30th June 2000, Derby transferred the assets and liabilities of Sturmey-Archer into The Wright Saddle Company and its name was changed to Sturmey-Archer Limited. Simultaneously, the former Sturmey-Archer Limited became Derby Cycle Corporation Limited, apparently on the advice of Derby’s tax specialists. This was a normal and legal tax avoidance move and should not be construed otherwise.

About the same time, and with little or no publicity, Derby Nederlands sold the profitable European sales and distribution operation Sturmey-Archer Europa BV, based in Amsterdam, to the now Lenark-owned Sturmey-Archer Limited. The sale price was 3m Dutch guilders (about £0.8m) and was in the form of a loan from Derby to Lenark. The directors of Sturmey-Archer Europa BV, which had about seven staff, were Colin Bateman and Paul Smith, the MD and finance director/company secretary of Sturmey-Archer Limited.

The deals seemed to benefit everybody. Sturmey-Archer’s managing director Colin Bateman said, “For the first time in a long while there is room to invest in production, marketing and product development.”

Lenark and relocation

By this time the financial backers of the suggested Enginering Component Department management buyout had withdrawn. However, they had already found a new factory site and left a completed relocation plan. Lenark’s business adviser, Simon Allso, who fronted negotiations for Lenark throughout, suggested therefore that Lenark should also take over the Engineering Component Department.

Lenark’s directors assured Colin Bateman and Paul Smith that they would fund the relocation. On 1st July 2000, two non-executive directors were appointed to the Sturmey-Archer board but with little day-to-day involvement. In both July and August, Sturmey-Archer paid its new parent company, Lenark, £60,000 in management fees. Sturmey-Archer also paid £52,000 to another Lenark Group company, Hawson Limited. According to the liquidator’s report, Simon Allso persuaded Mary Waring, one of the new non-executive executors to authorise this payment, advising her that Sturmey-Archer directors Bateman and Smith had approved it. They had not and were not even aware of the transaction. It later emerged that Simon Allso, a former bankrupt, had previously been involved in a large number of business failures in southern England and had been imprisoned for fraud.

By mid-August, all the directors of Sturmey-Archer were starting to have concerns about the relocation, as Lenark had yet to provide any funds for this purpose. Negotiations were under way for freehold premises to rehouse the Cycle component Department at Calverton, near Nottingham and there was also the site that the failed management buy-out had targeted for relocating the Engineering Components Department. In anticipation of the relocations, which needed to be complete by the end of 2000, stock levels had been increased and additional shifts worked.

Lenark proposed that they buy the Calverton site and sublet it to their subsidiary Sturmey-Archer. But at the same time, Lenark wanted Sturmey-Archer to provide them with the purchase money! The proposed agreement between the two companies was never formalised.

The financial situation worsens

Pinch came to shove when a 10% deposit of £75,000 was needed for the Calverton site. Sturmey-Archer, having recently paid other parts of the Lenark Group £172,000, did not have the money and was expecting Lenark to provide the funding – one of the reasons Sturmey-Archer was sold by Derby so cheaply. Lenark, however, made it clear that they would not be providing the funds. Meanwhile, the landlords of the proposed relocation site for the Engineering Components Department were not happy with Lenark’s financial status and therefore refused to sell.

As the situation looked bleaker and bleaker, the board of Sturmey-Archer held an urgent unscheduled meeting with Lenark on 11th September 2000. Lenark were represented solely by Clive Walton, who held a fifth of the shares in Lenark. He stated that he supported the directors of Sturmey-Archer and left the meeting ostensibly to enlist the support of the other Lenark directors. It is reported that some people at the meeting thought Walton had merely left the room for a cigarette break. In reality, he left the building and with effect from that date, resigned his directorship of Lenark.


The Sturmey-Archer board were now concerned as to their company’s ability to continue trading. They therefore called in insolvency practitioners Smith and Williamson. These advised that, lacking the substantial funding needed to relocate, Sturmey-Archer could not avoid insolvent liquidation. Thus, on Friday 15th September, the first day of the annual IFMA cycle show in Cologne, Sturmey-Archer staff manning the company’s stand heard of the insolvency.

Closure of the Nottingham plant was announced to its 260 staff the same day. The Independent newspaper reported a long serving employee saying, “The whole workforce is devastated. It is terrible. I have worked here for 42 years and couldn’t believe it when we were called into this meeting and told our jobs had gone. The firm says it could no longer afford to pay our wages and asked us all to leave the premises immediately.” The same paper quoted Sturmey-Archer ‘s managing director, Colin Bateman: “This is a sad day for bicycle manufacturing in Nottingham, not to mention for all the staff that work here. We feel very let down. It is a devastating blow.”

For a time, 28 volunteers stayed on in the factory working on final assembly and packaging.

Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett, responding to an approach from Nottingham South MP Alan Simpson, offered to provide practical and financial help to the company. The East Midlands Development Agency considered buying the new site for Sturmey-Archer and renting it back to them. Sadly these offers did not come it time to prevent Sturmey-Archer’s liquidation. Trade Secretary Stephen Byers promised to investigate the circumstances of the closure but at the time of writing (December 2001) does not appear to have published anything.

On 22nd September 2000, Derby issued the following press release:


In connection with our sale of Sturmey-Archer to Lenark in June of this year there has been much rumour and public comment generated. We share this disappointment and would like to share what we know.

We decided to seek a buyer for the business as it did not fit our strategic focus on the manufacture and distribution of bicycles and accessories.

It was essential for the viability of the business that a buyer be found without delay who was willing to invest in the patented innovation which Sturmey-Archer had prototyped and to relocate to a new site: the best offer was made by Lenark.

In carrying out due diligence on the capability of Lenark to make a success of Sturmey-Archer, evidence was produced showing that they appeared to have more than sufficient resources to undertake the plans the management of Sturmey-Archer had initiated to make a success of the business.

We were just as surprised and concerned as anyone that it now appears that Lenark is unable to fund Sturmey-Archer, and this has forced it to enter into insolvency proceedings: we are both a customer and creditor and will suffer from their insolvency along with others in the same position.

We understand that an insolvency practitioner has been appointed by the management of Sturmey-Archer to advise them through this period until a meeting of creditors next month determines the future of the business: we sincerely hope that a buyer for the business can be found.

We are very distressed that so many Sturmey-Archer employees who served loyally for many years under our ownership of the business will lose their jobs if a buyer cannot be found.

One of the few newspapers to report the crisis at Sturmey-Archer in any detail was The Mail on Sunday. On 24th September its reporter Lisa Buckingham revealed that two other firms owned by Sussex-based Lenark had just gone into liquidation and that a further four were days away from the same fate. Gary Matthews, chief executive of Derby, protested to The Mail on Sunday his surprise that Sturmey-Archer was facing ruin: “We understood Lenark to be a robust investment firm. They were represented by top-flight counsel.” Matthews also claimed that Derby carried out “the appropriate due diligence” to ensure Lenark were up to the mark. However, as the newspaper reported, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) revealed that Simon Allso was declared bankrupt in 1992 and had been linked with at least eight insolvencies. Lenark director Barry Robinson was reportedly a professional gambler based in Las Vegas.

The Mail cited the Experian credit rating firm, which described Lenark’s financial position as weak, with current assets of just £48,000 at the end of the year to May 1999 and liabilities of £600,000.

Creditors’ meeting

On Monday 2nd October, creditors of Sturmey-Archer arrived in Birmingham for a meeting of about 50 people which was expected to place the company in liquidation. Jeremy Lewis and James Stack, on the This is Nottingham website, reported the events in graphic detail. Attendees discovered that control of Sturmey-Archer had changed. Lenark had sacked the management team just two hours before the meeting. The new directors, Barry Robinson and his associate Alan Brigham, wanted to avoid liquidation and instead intended applying for an administration order in the High Court the following Friday. The meeting was therefore redefined as an informal meeting of creditors rather than a formal creditors’ meeting.

The meeting started without Barry Robinson, who arrived ten minutes late. Delegates demanded the freezing of Sturmey-Archer’s bank account with Barclays at Walton-on-Thames, from which a further £25,000 had recently been taken by Lenark making a total taken of some £192,000. They also succeeded in getting Lenark to reconsider the application for an administration order, arguing that without a substantial injection of cash, it would be pointless so late in the day. Freshly-sacked former managing director Colin Bateman argued that placing the company in administration would be a disaster: it would delay redundancy payments to the workers by many months, and it would lose the company customers who would go elsewhere.

The meeting was heated. At one stage, a departing Sturmey-Archer manager, Alan Ettles, asked Barry Robinson, “What has changed to make you believe it is worth investing in? Have you come for a bit more of the cake? The crumbs that are left? What are you after?” Robinson replied, “We are trying to save Sturmey-Archer. … We want to save as many jobs as possible.”

Nottingham South MP Alan Simpson asked why Lenark had not approached the DTI or the Department for Education and employment for assistance with the relocation to Calverton. He also asked for the financial guarantee that Lenark gave to Derby to be published. Derby’s corporate controller, Simon Goddard, reiterated the company’s stance that it had undertaken “due diligence” via a firm of financial advisers. Gary Matthews, chief executive of Derby, had told The Mail on Sunday that Wragge and Co. did the due diligence on Lenark. But Wragge and Co. denied this at the meeting, saying it was done by Oasis Europe, the company that made the Derby-Lenark match. Oasis subsequently denied this, leaving suspicions that nobody did the due diligence, despite what may have been believed by those involved.

Tony Murphy of Sturmey-Archer’s insolvency practitioners Smith and Williamson, pointed out that three Lenark companies were in liquidation, another in receivership and a fifth might well go into liquidation following a creditors’ meeting in a week’s time.

Derby had insolvency practitioners at the meeting, partly because Lenark still owed them about £0.8m for the purchase of Sturmey-Archer Europa BV. Hence, Derby too was keen for immediate liquidation.

Also present was George Hu of Sun Race USA, wearing a black shirt emblazoned with his company name. Plainly his company still wanted Sturmey-Archer.

New Sturmey-Archer MD Barry Robinson was given fifteen minutes by the meeting to consider his options. This he did and announced, through Tony Murphy of Sturmey-Archer’s insolvency practitioners Smith and Williamson, that the bank account would be frozen and that Lenark would underwrite the cost of investigating the benefits of putting the company into liquidation. David Stott, an engineering manager with Sturmey-Archer, successfully demanded that the meeting not be allowed to break up until it had been confirmed that the bank account was frozen.


By the end of the week, Barry Robinson, having twice visited the Nottingham factory, had decided that there was no way a rescue could be arranged using Sturmey plant as collateral. Therefore administration was no longer an option. Derby chief executive Gary Matthews then said that Derby might be interested in buying some of Sturmey-Archer’s bicycle related divisions, but nothing came of this. So, Sturmey-Archer went into liquidation. The directors attributed its failure and the loss of some 300 jobs to the lack of financial support from Lenark. They considered that, apart from the necessity to relocate and costs associated with this, the company remained a fundamentally viable business.

Assets were estimated to realise £3.7m. These included a 100% shareholding in Sturmey-Archer Europa BV, valued at £0.75m; machinery and equipment valued at £1.1m and stock worth £1m. The company had a deficit of £2.3m. The largest category of creditors was the employees. Their claims in lieu of notice and redundancy pay amounted to nearly £3.3m.

In early November 2000, as liquidation of Sturmey-Archer proceeded, the management team of Brooks saddles paid the liquidators £1m and thus saved the Smethwick, Birmingham operation. Brooks exported 85% of its production to more than 180 countries and was established in Birmingham about 1870. The plant employed about 20 staff. An anonymous ‘UK bike trade individual’ financially supported the acquisition. The new managing director of Brooks was Gordon Nixon. He had been the Brooks factory manager and the two-day a week personnel manager for Sturmey-Archer.

Auctioneers FD Savills auctioned the Sturmey-Archer factory equipment. A sale preview was held on Monday 11th December. The equipment included three Liebergeld cold-forging presses, said to be worth more than £100,000 each. The largest weighed about 1,000 tonnes. The full list of equipment is given below this article.

Sun Race buy Sturmey-Archer

On the day of the auction preview, 11th December 2000, the following press release was issued by Sun Race Roots Enterprise Co. of Taiwan:

From the Office of The President, Sun Race Roots Enterprise Co., Ltd., is pleased to announce the following:

Sun Race Roots Enterprise Co., Ltd., a public traded company on Taiwan Stock Exchange, one of the largest global manufactures of bicycle drivetrain components of 28 years, one of the key players in the bicycle industry in North and Latin Americas and Asia, has just completed a deal with Sturmey-Archer Ltd., the producer of the 98 years old Sturmey-Archer branded bicycle internal gear hubs, the “original” inventor of the internal gear hub system.

The deal will give Sun Race a strong foothold into the European market. This purchase completes Sun Race as one of the three total bicycle drivetrain solutions provider in the same league next to Shimano and SRAM.

Total investment on the purchase, to bring production back, and to develop new products for introduction in 2002 will be around Three and a Half Million US Dollars (USD$3,500,000.00).

The North American operations will change the name from Sun Race USA to Sun Race Sturmey-Archer USA. The European operations will change the company name from Sturmey-Archer (Europa) BV to Sun Race Sturmey-Archer Europe BV.

The parent company Sun Race Roots Enterprise Co., Ltd., will change the company name to Sun Race Sturmey-Archer Inc. Sun Race’s China operations will be renamed as Sun Race Sturmey-Archer (WuXi) Industries.

It is Sun Race Sturmey-Archer Inc.’s intention to continue with the 98 years old Sturmey-Archer Brand which has traditionally been associated with high end. With the back up of the newly added engineering, manufacturing and marketing capabilities of Sun Race, Sturmey-Archer products will continue and expand to a full Internal Gear Hub Drivetrain Group consist of Shifters, Brake Levers, Chainwheel Crank Sets, Chains, and Internal Gear Hubs with Drum and Coaster Brakes.

Sun Race Sturmey-Archer Inc. will market the Derailleur Drivetrain Groups, which consist of Shifters and Brake Levers, Front and Rear Derailleurs, Chainwheel Crank Sets, Freewheels and Cassettes, Hub Sets, and Multiple Speed Chains under the Sun Race Brand.

The production of Sturmey-Archer hubs and service parts will continue from Sun Race Taiwan factory. The move will make Sturmey-Archer Products much more competitive than before. Production will start January 2001 with resume shipping dates of late March, early April 2001.

And for the year 2002, celebrating the Century Mark of 100 years on Sturmey-Archer, Sun Race Sturmey-Archer will introduce a very special surprise based on the patent pending technology.

Mr. Alan Clarke, a Sturmey-Archer Man of 31 years, has been named the General Manager of Sun Race Sturmey-Archer Europe BV.

Sun Race Sturmey-Archer Europe BV will stock the entire line of Sun Race branded MTB, ATB and BMX products to service our European customers.

  • Sturmey-Archer was the original inventor of multiple speed gears on bicycles.
  • Sturmey-Archer was the First to invent the 3 speed gear hubs back in 1901.
  • Sturmey-Archer was the First to invent the 4 speed gear hub.
  • Sturmey-Archer was the First to invent the 5 speed gear hub.
  • Sturmey-Archer was the First to invent the 7 speed gear hub.
  • Sturmey-Archer has sold over 100 million hubs to the world.
  • Sturmey-Archer used to license SACHS in Germany to produce gear hubs.
  • For 2002, Sturmey-Archer will be the first to introduce, a surprise.

It is Sun Race Sturmey-Archer’s intention to make Sturmey-Archer NOT as the third player, but as the Leading Player, like Sturmey-Archer has been in the glorious past.

If you have read the published book titled “The Sturmey-Archer Story”, you must wait and see the latest Chapter that is beginning to form. The title is, The Sturmey-Archer Story part II, “The Comeback.”

Sun Race paid £0.75m for Sturmey-Archer. Sun Race was formed in 1972 and, at the time of the Sturmey-Archer acquisition, was owned by its chief executive officer, Yi-Hsung Hsu. The ‘very special surprise’ promised for 2002 is almost certainly the eight-speed hub that Sturmey-Archer were developing before the company went into liquidation. It should be noted that, contrary to the statement above (and as any reader of The Sturmey-Archer Story will know) Sturmey-Archer was not the original inventor of multiple speed gears on bicycles, nor was it the first to invent a four-speed hub.

The auction of Sturmey-Archer equipment took place 12-14th December 2000. The boardroom table reportedly went for £2. Twenty container loads of tooling, accessories and spare parts were shipped to the eight-floor Sun Race factory in Taoyuan province, Taiwan. This already employed some 250 people and had the capacity to produce more than a million drivetrain sets a month. Sun Race bought only a few items from the Savills auction catalogue. The other Sturmey-Archer equipment they obtained had been pre-selected and omitted from the sale list.

AESR writes to the DTI

While the auction was on, the pressure group Architects and Engineers for Social Responsibility (AESR) wrote to the DTI Companies Investigations Branch about the closure of Sturmey-Archer. This group encourages environment-friendly technologies and an awareness of ethical values in the professions it represents. AESR urged that an enquiry be carried out into the sale and liquidation, and that it should specifically examine these points:

  • Did Lenark deceive Derby as to Lenark’s financial status?
  • In charging Sturmey-Archer management fees, did Lenark obtain money by deception?
  • If Derby were not deceived, did they proceed with due diligence in making the sale?
  • Why did Derby sell the Dutch Sturmey-Archer company for £0.8m to the Lenark-owned Sturmey-Archer Limited only days after selling the
  • British Sturmey-Archer company to Lenark for £30?

Production starts in Taiwan

In April 2001, Sun Race announced that the Sturmey-Archer production line had been installed in Taiwan under the supervision of three ex-employees of the former Nottingham company. It was anticipated that it would be August 2001 before all hubs from the old Sturmey-Archer range would be freely available. Alan Clarke, general manager of Sun Race Sturmey-Archer Europe BV, said that the external appearance of many hubs would be modernised and that some new gear controls would be introduced. He said that Sturmey-Archer branded chainwheels and cranksets would be added to the range, so that complete drivetrains could be offered.

In mid June the first Taiwanese-made hub-gears reached Europe. Among the first customers were Derby-owned Raleigh. This was particularly ironic. As Carlton Reid wrote on 4th June 2001 on the Bicycle Business website, “Visitors to the Raleigh boardroom now have a different vista to feast their eyes on. No longer will they see the defunct Sturmey-Archer factory: it was blown up yesterday!”

It took another couple of months to complete clearing the site at a cost in the order of £0.5m. The financial clearing up proceeded in parallel: on 2nd July 2001 Sturmey-Archer Limited was renamed SA Realisations Limited, registered at the Guildford offices of liquidators Smith and Williamson.

By the time the factory was demolished, Gary Matthews, the Derby chief executive officer who started the Sturmey-Archer disposal rolling, was also history – at least as far as Derby were concerned. Moreover, within a few months, Derby itself was wound up: for more on this see my book Raleigh: past and presence of an iconic bicycle brand.

Principal sources

  • Bicycle Business website.
  • This is Nottingham website.
  • Article by Michael Radford in News & Views of the Veteran-Cycle Club, June/July 2001.
  • Liquidators’ report for meeting of creditors.
  • Correspondence between the author and SunRace Sturmey-Archer.


Special thanks to Michael Radford, Carlton Reid and David Squires.

Auctioneer’s List of Sturmey-Archer Plant

Presses – Cold Forging & Deep Drawing
Liebergeld 1 x ‘L1000’ and 2 x ‘L630’ tonne Mechanical Cold Forging Presses (1986).
Craig & Donald 3 x 500 and 6 x 425 ton Mechanical Cold Forging Press.
AIDA ‘C2-25’ 10-Station 250 ton Transfer Mechanical Deep Drawing Press.
AIDA ‘C1-20’ 200 ton Transfer Mechanical Deep Drawing Press.
Taylor & Challen ‘1573’ 130 ton.
Geared Deep Drawing Press.

Other Presses
HME ‘G-100’ 100 ton ‘C’ Press.
HME ‘Rigispeed’ 70 ton Open Front Press.
Tranemo Double Action Hydraulic Press 200 tonne.
Wilkins & Mitchell ‘C30’ 150 ton Mechanical ‘H’ Frame Press.
14 x Taylor & Challen Presses, 12 x Bliss, 15 x HME, 3 x Turner Bros., 5 x Wells 5 ton, Hare Presses 14 x ‘5BS’, 2 x ‘5IT’, 4 x ‘Airmiser’ Pneumatic, Cincinnati ‘Milacron G-30’, CVA 25 ton Dieing Press, Lectra & Raskin Presses, 2 x BHP and Humphris Coil Feeders.

Powder Metallurgy Presses
Atlas ‘MPA15’ 15 tonne Powder Compacting Press (1997).
Dorst ‘TPA 100’ 100 tonne (Rebuilt 1998).
Lauffer ‘HPM 200L’ 200 tonne Hydraulic Powder Compacting Press.
Bussmann ‘HPM 200’ 200 ton.
2 x Bussmann ‘Simetag’ 200 tonne.
Bussmann ‘Simetag’ 400 tonne.
Dorst 350 ton.
Mannesmann ‘Simetag’ 15 ton.
7 x Manesty 35 ton. Mannesmann ‘Simetag’ 45 tonne.
2 x Dorst ‘TPA 60’ 60 tonne.
5 x Rotary Cone Powder Mixing M/c’s.

Wire and Spark Eroders
Agie ‘Agiecut Sprint 70’ CNC Wire Eroder (’93).
Agie ‘Agiecut DEM 315 220H’ CNC Wire Eroder (’84).
Agie ‘Agietron EMS-2’ CNC Spark Eroder (’85).
Agie ‘Agietron FMS 15’ Spark Eroder.

Multi Spindle Bar Auto Lathes
Wickmans 3 x 13/4″ – 6 Spindle, 5 x 1″ – 6 Spindle, 12 x ?” – 6 Spindle, 1 x 13/4″ – 5 Spindle.
New Britain Gridleys 18 x 1″ – 6 Spindle, 2 x 21/4″ – 6 Spindle also BSA 1″ – 6 Spindle.

Multi Spindle Chucking Auto Lathes
Wickman 24 x 6″ – 5 Spindle, 13 x 6?” – 6 Spindle, 12 x Kummer ‘K20’ 2 Spindle.

Single Spindle Auto Lathes
Bechler ‘AR10’ and ‘BR-20′ Swiss Type Sliding Heads with Multibar Powered Bar Feeders.
Petermann ’10HS’ Swiss Type Sliding Head.
12 x CVA ‘No. 8’ Single Spindle Bar Auto with 12 Station Magazine Bar Loader and 4 x with Vibro Barrel Magazine Feed.

CNC Machines
Takisawa ‘TC-2’ CNC Slant Bed Lathes, 4 x Mk. II (’91), 2 x Mk. I (’97).
Sameco ‘Monosam 45’ Hydraulic Bar Feed.
Kitamura ‘MyCenter 1’ CNC Vert. M/c Centre (’83).
Ti Herbert-Churchill ‘HC3/15’ CNC Slant Bed Lathe (’86).

Grinding Machines
Jones & Shipman 1 x ‘1305 EIU’ Universal Cylindrical (’81), 4 x ‘1400’ Horiz. Surface, 4 x ‘1300’ Universal Cylindrical with Int. Grinding Spindle, 1 x ‘310’ Tool & Cutter Grinder.
4 x ‘540’ Horiz. Surface.
Thompson Horiz. Surface.
Matrix ‘GU 065’ Universal Cylindrical.
Catmur ‘2C’ Jig Grinder.
2 x BSA Centreless Grinders.
Brierley ‘ZB 32’ Drill Point Grinder, some with Magnetic Chucks.
Cincinnati ‘No. 2’ Tool & Cutter Grinder.
Pratt & Whitney Tool & Cutter Grinder.
Also various Off-Hand Grinders.

Air Compressors/Boilers
Ingersoll Rand 1 x ‘SSR ML 132’ Packaged Screw (’98) & 1 x ‘TMS 300’ Air Dryer (’98).
3 x ‘EN4C30’ Receiver Mounted, 1 x ‘SSR ML4’ Packaged Screw with TMS Air Dryer, 1 x ‘SSR 2000 18L’ Packaged Screw with TMS ‘190’ Air Dryer.
Hydrovane ‘IP54’ Rotary Vane.
Compair Broomwade ‘6000N’ Packaged Screw.
Broomwade ‘V200A-F3’ Vee Twin Compressor with TMS ‘190’ Air Dryer. 2 x Hoval ‘ST 6000’ Gas Fired Medium Pressure Hot Water Boiler, 6 Million Btu/Hr. Output (’84).

Broaching Machines
Lapointe 1 x ‘SPD’ Vert. Semi-Auto Pull Broacher also 5 x ‘FP5’ Verticals.
Weatherley Horiz. Broacher.
Weatherley ‘XP30X54’ 4 Station Vert. Int. Broacher.
Cincinnati ‘1066’ Table Index Vert. Surface Broacher.
Weatherley Cincinnati ‘XP30X30’ 2 Station Vert. Int. Broacher.

Sawing Machines
Rohbi 2 x ‘RKA62’ Auto Vert.
Reciprocating Cut-off Saw (’87/’89).
Kasto ‘SSB260VA’ Vert.
Cross Cutting Bandsaw (’86).
Do-All ‘BWIPG’ Vert. Bandsaw.
Clarke ‘CHS 8W’ Reciprocating Hacksaw.
Birkett ‘Cutmaster’ Pull Down Cut-off Saw.
Thiel ‘Segura 117’ Vert. Bandsaw.

Finishing Machines
1 x Morris-Flex & 1 x Moons Rotary Transfer Polishing M/c’s.
3 x Doug Booth Shotblast M/c’s.
4 x Acton Vibrota Vibro-Barrel Rumbling M/c’s.
10 x Boulton Vibro-Barrelling M/c’s.
Also Rhodes, Trowall & Canning Vibratory Barrels.
CM ‘1000’ Shotblast Cabinet.
Vixen ‘Jetair’ Beadblast Cabinet.
Butterfield ‘MCR Airoblast’ Conveyorised Beadblast M/c.
Osro High Energy Centrifugal Deburrer.
Acton Vibrota ‘VB3’ Vibro-Barrel.
Acton Vibrota Vibratory Maize Dryer.

Treatment Plant
ICI Trichlorethylene Heated Degreasing Tank.
PPC Auto Barrel Transfer Process Plant.
Hockley Semi-Auto Barrel Transfer Process Plant.
Electro Paint Conveyorised Wash Plant.
Hockley ‘Barraflow’ Wash Plant.
Ohmic Auto Barrel Transfer Process Plant (Rebuilt ’90).

2 x Wellman Gas Fired Mesh-Belt Anneal (’85).
2 x Wild Barfield 70Kw.
Electric Temper.
6 x British Furnaces Gas Fired Sealed Quench.
3 x Heat Treatment Services Gas Fired Mesh-Belt Sinter.
3 x Birlec Gas Fired Mesh-Belt Sinter.
EFCO Electric Mesh-Belt Enamel Baking Oven.

Die Casting Machinery
EMB ‘No. 14’ Cold Chamber Die Casting M/c.
2 x EMB ‘No. 10’.
3 x Ramsell Naber Electric Crucible Furnace.
2 x Fisher 24 Nipple Die Caster.

Spoke and Nipple Machines
7 x Hahn & Kolb ‘T3’ Vario 9 Station Rotary Transfer.
12 x Aachener Bicycle Spoke Making M/c’s.
18 x Amba 10 Station Rotary Transfer.
4 x Amba Aachener Cold Heading M/c’s.

DSG’s Straight Bed Centre Lathes.
1 x 13-30 (Rebuilt by DSG in ’97).
1 x 1307-30.
Suga Plugboard Auto 4 x ‘STS-2’, 3 x ‘STM-2’, 1 x ‘STM-3’. 8 x Herbert ‘Cri-Dan B’ Threading Lathe.
Myford ‘Super 7’ Lathe.
DSG ‘Type 17’ 17 x 86 Gap Bed Centre.
Harrison ‘M400’ Straight Bed Centre.
Herbert ‘No. 4’ Capstan.

Gear Machines
9 x Drummond ‘Maxicut 2A’ Gear Shaper.
3 x Mikron ‘132.02’ Gear Hobber.

Drilling/Milling/Tapping Machines
2 x Adcock-Shipley ‘Bridgeport JB’ Turret Milling M/c’s.
2 x Slack & Parr 18 Spindle Horiz. Drilling M/c’s.
7 x Centec ‘RE29’ Plain Horiz. Milling.
6 x Cincinnati ‘100’ Horiz. Rise & Fall Milling.
2 x Cincinnati ‘100’ Plain Horiz. Milling.
5 x Mollart Twin Spindle Horiz. Deep Hole Drilling M/c’s.
3 x Slack & Parr Quick Tap. Elevating Arm Radial Drill.
2 x Thiel ‘Duplex 158’ Vert.
Milling with Horiz. Milling Spindle & DRO.
Parkson ‘M1200’ Plain Vert.
Milling. Kearney & Trecker ‘430’ Vert. Milling.

Miscellaneous Machines
SIP Societe Genevoise ‘Hydroptic-6 HY-6P’ Jig Borer.
Sunnen ‘MBB-1650A’ Precision Honing M/c.
Liebergeld ‘STR63’ High Speed Bar Cropper (’85).
Hylatechnik Hydraulic Die Splitter.
West ‘Mono Arc 222’ 8 Kva. Electric Arc Welder.
Edwards 48″ Powered Guillotine.
Morgan Rushworth 50″ Box & Pan Folder.
Sureweld ‘Tigtronic 165’ 150 amp Welder.
Heenan & Froude ‘S50′ and Rockwell ’35’ Horiz.

Strip Formers
US Baird Horiz. Spring Former.
Löser ‘KS360’ Centreless Linisher (’96).
Flott ‘BSM75’ Centreless Linisher.
Twin Carousel Enamel Spray Line.
Arc System 801 CD Cap.
Discharge Portable Electric Arc Stud Welder.
Pantograph Engraver. Kitchen & Wade ‘E26’ 4ft.
Gentry ‘305’ Auto Vert.Lapping M/c.
Ormerod Shaper.

Inspection & Laboratory Equipment
Various Inspection and Measurement Equipt. Including Mitutoyo ‘BH504’ Co-ordinate Measuring M/c., Hommel Int. & Ext. Gear Profile Inspection M/c’s.
2 x Baty ‘R202’ Shadowgraph Projectors with DRO.
Sigma Projector, and Large Qty comparators, Plug & Slip Gauges.
Also Various Laboratory Equipt. including Tensile/Compression Testing M/c’s., Microscopes, Hardness Testers, Electronic Balances, Sample Mounting, Houndsfield Tensometers.

Additional Information (Pre 1987)

This section gives additional information on the Sturmey-Archer story prior to 1987, and which relates directly to the text of the book.

Page 17, column 2, paragraph 5
The earliest patented derailleur seems to be the Polycelere (meaning Multispeed). It was patented by Jean Loubeyre in Paris in 1895. For further details of this and other early derailleurs see Ron Shepherd’s excellent article “The Origins of Derailleur Gears” in The Boneshaker, Vol.13, No.124, Winter 1990, published by the Veteran-Cycle Club.

Page 19, column 1, paragraph 2 – William Reilly’s early years
I am indebted to Mr A D Dorsey of Hull for his further research, completed in October 2001, which has given us the following additional information about the family background of William Reilly.

William Reilly was born at the family home, 10 Wood Street, Salford on 11th January 1867. His father was Peter Reilly, a dairyman born somewhere in Ireland about 1831. Peter would have been 14-16 years old during the worst years of the Irish famine and this was probably the cause of his move to Salford. William’s mother was Rosanna (Rose) Reilly, née Brown, a dairywoman born in Salford.

By 1871 when William was four years old, he had eight living siblings, ranging in age from 2 to 18 years. The youngest, Rose, was born about 1869, James c. 1865, Selina c. 1863, Joseph c.1861, Peter c.1860, Jane c.1857, Mary c.1855 and the eldest, John, was born about 1853.

Ten years later William was a 14-year-old engine turner, living at 1 Lee Grove, Salford. This was the home of his eldest brother John, now a 28-year-old mechanic working on turning machines. John lived with his 21-year-old wife Jane, apparently a former dairywoman. Also in the household were William and John’s brothers Joseph, now a 20-year-old engine shunter pointsman, and Arthur H. Reilly, a 9-year-old schoolboy. Arthur H., known as Harry, was born about 1873 and was therefore about five years younger than William. See page 52 of ‘The Sturmey-Archer Story’ for the story of how Harry and William were to fall out with each other.

Page 67, column 2, paragraph 5
Two examples of the All-Speed Gear have been discovered, one in France, the other in Britain.

Page 74, column 2, paragraph 2 – type K clutch
In 1936, Sturmey-Archer enthusiast Jim Gill was given a new bicycle with K type 3-speed. He recalled that it had a “no drive” position, not unlike that of the AW. How did this fit with the “no slip” clutch described in the book? To find out, in 1993 Jim wrote of how he stripped down more than twenty K and KB hubs. He discovered that from 1935 until the K was phased out in 1937, there was a wider tolerance between the clutch arm and the cage dogs, giving a definite “no drive” position.

Page 76, column 1, paragraph 3 – William Reilly’s later years
In a letter to The Classic Motor Cycle magazine, June 1987 edition, Norman Brooke revealed that, on leaving the army in the late 1940s, he went to work for a small engineering company in Stockport. There he met William Reilly (known to his colleagues as Bill) who was then 83. Reilly, although shaky and with poor eyesight, did most of the company’s machining; on one occasion even turning a square hole with a lathe, by using an accessory he had made himself. He told Norman Brooke how he had invented the Sturmey-Archer gear and claimed that he had been cheated out of the patent rights. He also showed blueprints which he stated were the original drawings. About 1950, whilst cycling to work, Bill Reilly felt ill. Standing his bicycle against the kerb, he sat down in the doorway of a shop and died.

Page 130, column 1 – Out-of-Patent Copies – AW ‘Clones’
From examination of hubs by Ted Tyndall, he and I conclude the following about who made Hercules AW hubs. It is well known that Hercules broke the cycle manufacturers’ price cartel in the 1930s and rapidly became a huge producer of relatively inexpensive bicycles. Raleigh would not have wanted Hercules to be seen to be supplying bikes fitted with Sturmey-Archer hubs, as S-A was a premium Raleigh brand. On the other hand, Raleigh would not have wanted to miss out on selling vast numbers of S-A hubs to Hercules. So we conclude that, for a while, Raleigh got the best of both worlds by badge-engineering S-A hubs for Hercules. From Ted’s examination of hubs, it seems probable that S-A started badge-engineering hubs for Hercules just as soon as their new AW design had been proven in service (c.1937). Soon after WW2, Hercules started making or commissioning copies of the AW, without S-A’s approval. Raleigh served a writ on Hercules for transgressing a minor 1939 patent concerning selector splines, so Hercules merely changed the spline design slightly and carried on with impunity. There was nothing else in the AW design that was protected by any enforceable patent. Brampton and Hercules both became part of TI’s British Cycle Corporation and it is probable that most post-war Hercules AW copies were made by Brampton. In the mid 1950s, BCC entered formal agreements with Raleigh to stop making hub gears and use only S-A hubs. Thereafter, as noted on page 136, column 2, Sturmey-Archer again supplied badge-engineered hubs to Hercules when S-A introduced the SW hub as a replacement for the AW.

Page 134, column 1 – A New Wide-Ratio Three-Speed – The SW
Josh Malin has discovered an AW date stamped 55 6, indicating manufacture in June 1955. This is plainly later production than was generally believed hitherto.

Page 137, column 1, first three paragraphs – SW reliability problems
In 1995, Sturmey-Archer enthusiast Jim Gill produced a report on the SW’s shortcomings and how they might be resolved. He noted that slipping occurred in direct and high gears but not in low gear. After extensive testing he concluded that invariably one or two pawls failed to seat fully against the ratchet teeth. “The gear ring and pawl ring were thus no longer concentric so that with each turn of the hub the dogs which locked these two items together moved very slightly in relation to each other and eventually they “walked” apart causing a slip.”

He concluded that the SW would have worked fine if Sturmey-Archer had a) slightly increased the depth of the well for the pawls and b) fitted each pawl with a spring and modified the profile of the ratchet teeth in the ball cups.

Page 143, column 2, final paragraph – Moulton Stowaway coasters
Very early Moulton Stowaways were fitted with a 36 spoke hole coaster marked Perry * *, rather than a 28 hole Perry B-500. The earlier hubs may well have been the B-100 pattern (see page 144, paragraph 1).

Page 147, column 2, paragraph 4
Tony Hillyer retired in June 1995.

Page 179, Converting an FW into a 5-speed
Mike Curtis has devised a conversion that retains the original 4-speed trigger and uses a second trigger simply to invoke the additional fifth gear. He has also designed a modification to reduce the drag caused by the sun spring. Details are confidential but you can contact Mike by sending a Stamped Addressed Envelope (or International Reply Coupons) to him at 13 Wingfield Road, Trowbridge, Wiltshire BA14 9EE, United Kingdom.

Page 179, column 1, paragraph 3
The Three Speed Alloy and Five Speed Alloy used the same shell casting. Therefore, even though made after April 1984, the Three Speed Alloy’s shell can take the S5/2 (and therefore the S5, S5/1, FW and AM) internals. Note, however, that the S5/2 retro-fit kit is no longer made.

Page 180, column 2, paragraph 3

For the Sturmey-Archer conversion of a standard AW to 2-speed fixed operation, see elsewhere on this website. You will also find there Jim Gill’s instructions for converting an FM into a 3-speed fixed hub.

Page 181, column 1- Cyclo Converters
These are no longer manufactured, although a batch of old stock was advertised for sale by a major cycle shop in 1995.


This section identifies and corrects typographical, proof-reading and other errors in the printed text of the book.

Page 13, column 2, final paragraph
The first version of the Bantam had equal-sized 24″ wheels; the “baby ordinary” was the second model.

Page 17, column 2, paragraph 2
Eite & Todd, not Elite & Todd.

Page 17, column 2, paragraph 3
The Whippet bicycle was introduced in 1887. The Protean gear was patented in September 1894 and first sold in March 1895.

Page 17, column 2, paragraph 6
The Gradient appeared in 1896.

Page 19, column 2, paragraph 2, line 3
For “1986” read “1896”.

Page 32, table in column 2
For speed 2 the number of revolutions should be 25, not 35.

Page 88, column 2, paragraph 3, final line
For “92.6” read “82.6”.

Page 95, column 2, final paragraph
The AR was first produced with the AW-type indicator and was changed in 1939 to feature the left-hand indicator. In effect the comments on the AM on page 96, column 2, first two sentences, also apply to the AM.

Page 108, column 2, paragraph 1, line 1
For “December” read “September”.

Page 143, column 2, paragraph 2, line 3
For “milles” read “miles”.

Page 151, column 1, para 4, line 2
The year should be 1978.

Page 154, column 1, para 6, line 1
The patent number is 1,399,434.

Page 155, column 2, flow chart
Delete “with compound planet pinions” from note under title.

Page 171, column 2, line 1
For “Sachs-Hurst” read “Sachs-Huret”.

Page 179, column 1, paragraph 3, line 4
For “list” read “kit”.

Page 181, column 2, paragraph 1, line 2
Delete “Prior to this a similar unit was made by Gian Robert”. (Gian Robert only made the derailleur mechanism.)

Page 190, column 2, line 2
For “SC1” read “SCC”.

Changes of Address

After the passage of a quarter of a century, many addresses shown in the book no longer apply. Most companies, organisations or individuals that are still in business should be traceable via their own web sites or through web sites such as

Last revised: 2 July 2012

2 thoughts on “The Sturmey-Archer Story supplement”

  1. Thanks for the background information on William Reilly. I’m guessing he would have made some sort of gears for early motor cycles, as well as for pedal cycles.

    1. Hi Peter,
      Reilly patented a motor cycle hub gear (in the name of James Edwin Ross) about the time he left Sturmey-Archer (1910). It was not produced commercially. Sturmey-Archer meanwhile did make motor cycle hub gears but hub gears are essentially a bad idea for motor bikes and they did not work well. By the outbreak of WW1, S-A were abandoning motor cycle hub gears and thereafter they concentrated on countershaft gears with integral kick-starters. These proved very successful and were used extensively in military motor cycles during WW1. There’s more about this in my 1987 book The Sturmey-Archer Story.

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