Christmas Yule Blog 2020: Christmas Humber One

By Craig Willis

To paraphrase Queen- Oh, my friends, its been a long, hard year. But now its Christmas. Yes, it’s Christmas. Thank God it’s Christmas!

Which means it’s time for my annual Christmas Yule Blog!

To put it mildly, 2020 hasn’t been easy for anyone. Or to put it another way its been an absolute trash fire of a year. However there have been a couple of highlights this year and I think its important to celebrate even the smallest of wins.

In a strange way, I actually had quite a nice summer. It was warm and I got to do more cycling than I’ve ever done. Exploring the local villages in glorious sunshine without a lot of excess traffic was just wonderful. I also began my newest restoration project. A custom restro of a Raleigh Trent, which I hope to share more about next year.

But perhaps my favourite thing of 2020 was acquiring this 1934 Humber bicycle.

I must confess, I didn’t know a great deal about Humber before I got this bike, so I thought i’d share a little bit about this interesting and versatile company.

Like all the best companies, they were pioneers in both bicycles and motorcycles. And just like all the other companies around this time, the ins and outs of ownerships, name changes and manufacturing itself are very complicated and confusing. So I’ll try and keep it simple!

It all started with Thomas Humber, an engineer and blacksmith from Sheffield. He built his first velocipede in 1868, which he based on a picture in a magazine! After early success selling and building, he then founded a bicycle manufacturing business which quickly gained a reputation of producing incredibly well made bicycles. In fact, they were so well made and designed, Humber became known as “The aristocrat among bicycles”.

Fun fact for the motorcycle fans on the website, in 1896 Humber also produced one of the first “practical” motorcycles by strapping a two horsepower motor to one of their bicycles. They continued to produce motorcycles up until 1930 when they decided to concentrate more on their car production.

The company went through many changes over the years, expanding through France and America when cycling was first becoming popular at the end of the 19th century. They also experienced various ownerships and name changes but in terms of the bicycle side of things, the biggest change came in 1932 when a little company called Raleigh bought the Humber trademark. Raleigh would continue to produce Humber bicycles into the 1960’s. Which is where this whistle stop tour of the history of Humber cycles ends.

As I said, my bike is from 1934 and it’s the oldest bicycle I’ve ever owned and definitely the oldest I’ve ever ridden. There is something so magical about being able to ride something this old. A bicycle that was built 86 years ago that still does the function that it was made to do makes me so happy. Its why I love vintage machines and why I enjoy restoring them more and more.

Thanks for reading folks and a big thankyou to everyone who’s read a post, liked a photo or sent me a tweet. It really means a lot. I’d like to wish you all a very, merry Christmas and hope Santa bring you all something two wheeled!

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