Classic Lightweights UK
Classic Frame Builders
R O Harrison - New Star CyclesAuthor: Peter Underwood
R O Harrison Cycles was formed in 1933 at Queen's Road in Peckham, South London and produced classic lightweight frames until late 1950s. At some time between 1934 and 1948 R O Harrison became a limited company. (Michael Williams and William Hammond, both of the V-CC, have since told me that they can remember the R O Harrison shop in Evalina Road, Nunhead, trading until the mid to late '60s.)
Their 1934 catalogue included the following models: The Sprint (as supplied to Syd Cozens and Henri Lepage); The Star Road Racing Model; The Star Tourer; The Special Chater Lea Racing Tandem, Brampton Sports Tandem + Brampton Touring Tandem; The Lyta; The Club Model and The Sports Model. This catalogue seems to have been produced for an exhibition at The Horticultural Hall, 1934. It does show an amazing range of machines for a company which had been in existence for approximately one year. Under the name of R O Harrison in this catalogue is the qualification A.M.TECH.I - Associate Member Technical Institute. For an insight into R O Harrison, the man, we have the story of his years in the business by his daughter and grandaughter.
In Cycling 15 April, 1936, the 'Trade Notes and News' had the following details:
"The Harry Grant Continental Model is perhaps the most outstanding machine described in the catalogue published by R O Harrison (The New Star Cycle Works, 41 Queen's Road, Peckham SE15). The frame is of accepted Continental design with upright frame and 41½" wheelbase with special rear fork ends. Other features of the specification are Constrictor or Dunlop tubulars on Constrictor sprint wheels, special Continental handlebars, Boa solid-centre racing pedals, Osgear or Simplex gear to order, Pellisier front and rear brakes and Bluemel's 'No-weight' mudguards. The finish is as desired with chromium plated ends and fittings. The cost is £13 10s or £11 17s 6d with Dunlop High Pressures. To those racing men whose pocket does not run to such an amount there is a BRR Model built for road racing at £9 12s 6d, whilst the clubman will be interested in the Sports Model at £8 12s 6d, the Club Model at £9 15s, and the New Star Tourer with derailleur gear to choice at £12 12s. A really lightweight mount is the Lyta Model that can also be used for road racing; specification is of the best and the price is £13 15s."
I also have an R O H catalogue dated 1949 and it covers the two R O Harrison machines shown. The first is the unusual framed 'Shortwin' (see image of BB above right), described as:
'A new type of Short Wheelbase machine of semi orthodox design is now available, built with a 'D' section double down tube giving extreme rigidity to the bracket and welded throughout. It has a wheelbase of 39 inches, the rear triangle giving ample clearance for 27" wheels, yet being only 15 inches long. The seat tube angle is such that it gives the normal position of a 71 degree frame.The price of the frame is £12 12s 0d and may be fitted to any cycle at prices relative to the standard equipment specified' (sic)
The catalogue also lists:
The Club; 'An all-round popular Model for racing or club use or very easily adjusted for Touring' - a brazed frame with 531 tubing.
The Meteor;'For many years the most popular Time Trials model' brazed with 531 tubing and beautiful cut out lugs.
The Lyta; 'A brilliant example of craftmanship using all alloy fitments' 531 tubing throughout, Sifbronze welded.
The Continental Suberbe; 'A cycle of Continental Design which has proved very successful for many years' - brazed with cutout lugs and 531 tubing.
The Madison; 'A purely track model for grass, cement or steeply banked tracks and which has been used in many 6-day Races. 531 butted throughout with attractively cut lugs
The Super Circuit; 'Called the Acme of Perfection, it rightly deserves first place among the celebrities' - light cutaway lugs and 531 tubing.
The other R O H shown below is the Madison which is priced at £12 7s 6d in the catalogue. They also produced a tandem called the Rigide.
R O H also produced a custom built steel lapped stem with the insignia of a six-pointed star with 'ROH' inside it on the front. One is shown on the R O H Shortwin and detailed images below.
I have tried to decipher the frame numbering system and assume the following:
Numbers have either six or seven numerals. This suggests one or two of them denote the month. I make these the first digits followed by one digit for the year and then a four figure serial number. For example 1192578 is November of 49 and 213337 is February 1951. Only the last digit of the year is used if this hypothesis is correct.
Examples of fine lug-work on the 1951 R O Harrison Madison track frame
The complete machine with inch-pitch block chain and sprints
Below are four images of a one-third-scale model track machine built by R O Harrison
Presumably it was made for display at cycle shows where space would be at a premium
The model even has a Major Taylor style sliding stem as well as an inch-pitch block chain and has amazing detail
(Click on images for larger version)
In a Cycle Show edition published 17 November 1948, Cycling had a description of R O Harrison's stand and the text was headed "PARDON ME", which must have been a byline to the company's name (see third page for "PARDON ME" adverts). This Item also mentioned the 1/3 scale model of the 'Madison' track machine.Above: Series of adverts showing R O Harrison models as listed in 'The Bicycle' early 1955
The piece read:
"PARDON ME" R O Harrison Stand No 39
Machines for both racing men and tourists are on view on this stand. They include a 'Super Tourist' model specially built for a well-known Northern veteran tourist, and three models specially designed for massed-start racing and long-distance racing and touring. These are the 'Super Circuit' model with Dunlop alloy high pressure wheels, the 'Continental Superbe', and the 'Lyta Professional' which has a welded frame and is shown with alloy sprints and tubulars. For the time-triallist there is the 'Meteor' machine which is shown with sprints, tubulars and a single brake, or a new design of short-wheelbase welded frame, 'The Shortwin'. Other models include the 'Madison' track machine and the 'Club' bicycle. On this stand can be found one of the rare items of the show, a tandem, in this case designed for the racing men. The frame is built with 531 tubing in a special 'trussed' design to give added rigidity. To complete the Harrison display there is a range of frames of the various models produced by this firm, while an item of particular interest is the one-third scale model of the 'Madison' track machine complete in every detail.
© 2006 Classic Lightweights