During 1951 about a million Sturmey-Archer hubs were exported-half the Company's output. How was this flourishing overseas trade established? The answer is linked with the foresight of the Company's founder.
Frank Bowden realised that the new three-speed gear had European possibilities. Cycling was already popular on the Continent, but the mountainous nature of much of the terrain (particularly of his beloved South of France) made a variable hub indispensable for pleasanter cycling.
So in 1905 he took the revolutionary step of providing Sturmey-Archer gears as a separate unit to be fitted to any bicycle of either home or overseas manufacture. The response was immediate. European and British trade advanced side by side.
To-day Sturmey-Archer hubs are available in over 100 markets, adapted to meet varying requirements. In Europe, for example, which still remains the largest hub market, Belgium and Switzerland want mainly simple three-speed wide ratio gears, whilst Holland, Denmark and Scandinavia buy gears combined with hub brakes.
In other markets-particularly English-speaking countries, such as America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia-there is a call for variable gears and Dynohubs. In the United States, where the popularity of British bicycles is worrying home manufacturers, the Sturmey-Archer ranges are in corporated in American-built bicycles to help meet British competition on something like equal terms.
Export demand continues to increase and, despite constant expansion of Sturmey-Archer manufacturing resources, there seems little likelihood of the Company being able to satisfy world requirements in the foreseeable future.
|Articles by Sheldon Brown and others|