Humber 1914 3½ HP 499 cc side valve single frame # H 2828 engine # F 2856
A Coventry firm with its roots in the Victorian bicycle industry, Humber began experimenting with powered transport in the closing years of the 19th century, introducing its first successful motorcycle -a built-under-license P&M – in 1902. Because of the need to increase car production motorcycles were discontinued after 1905. For the 1909 model year Humber came on the market again with a 3½ HP motorcycle, now fully of their own design and manufacture. The engine had bore/stroke dimensions of 83×90 mm and was available with hand starting, footboards and two speed gear. An unusual feature of the machine was that the exhaust system was incorporated in the front down tube of the frame. This typical silencer arrangement was abandoned the next year, but the system of starting the engine with a hand crank was a Humber feature for several years.
New for the 1912 range were a redesigned engine with bore x stroke of 84 x 90 mm and désaxé cylinder. This design principle puts the cylinder axis not directly above the crankshaft, but slightly offset in the direction of rotation. The advantages of this are reduced piston side thrust and less wear. Several other makes, for instance BSA, also used this principle. The magneto was now placed behind the engine and the top tube was dropped to get a lower riding position. The next year the ROC hub was replaced by a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub with clutch. A foot-operated kick starter (connected by chain to the rear hub) was now fitted instead of the rather cumbersome hand crank system. One of the few new features introduced for 1914 was an improved lubrication system with Best & Lloyd semi-automatic drip feed.
The machine we present is virtually complete, apart from her toolboxes. At some time in the past, probably in the 80s, she has been partly refurbished but a complete restoration hasn’t been undertaken. She has been on display in a museum collection for years and will need a good check-over. She is sturdy and well-built however and comes with a Pioneer Certificate issued in December 1990 and some photostat sales documentation.