Starley Motorcycles of St John's Works, 1903

Starley's Ltd of St John's Works, Coventry

1903 Starley was a motorcycle invented by W. Starley of Coventry (presumably William Starley), and built under licence by the Swift Motor Co. It was shown on Houk's stand at the 1902 Stanley Cycle Show.

This machine differed from most in that the single-cylinder engine was mounted transversely to drive back through a two-speed gear and worm and wheel. The wheel was on a countershaft that drove the rear wheel by chain.

The engine construction was also different as the cylinder was held down by a large ring, which screwed on to the crankcase top, and a one-piece over-hung crankshaft.

The whole design was highly complex and nothing further came of it.

Report from the 1902 Stanley Show

The Starley Motor-bicycle. A new motor-bicycle appeared on the stand of the Houk Automobile Co, Ltd., late on Saturday. This was the Starley motor-bicycle for 1903. The frame is specially designed to take the engine, a tube runs from the top of head to a point on the strut, just above the bracket, and two twin tubes run from bottom of head to same point: the vertical engine is carried on an extension in front of the bracket. Each of the three triangles of the frame contains a tank, the forward one holding the oil, the tank in the main panel containing petrol, and a wooden box between strut and back wheel carries the coil and accumulators. Spray carburetter is fitted, warmed by hot air from the front of the cylinder. A drip-lubricator is fitted, the drip being variable by means of a lever on the oil tank. The low tension wires are contained in the frame tubes; this makes for neatness. A gear-case is fitted to this machine.

Motor Cycling, 26th November 1902
N.B. Failure to mention the worm drive in this article is puzzling.

The Starley Worm Drive.

Visitors to the show should make a point of inspecting the mechanism of the Starley worm gear-driven motor bicycle and two-speed gear. This has been so recently described in our pages that it is unnecessary to go into details here. For the purposes of exhibition there is a part section of the worm gear on the stand, by means of which the visitor can demonstrate to his own satisfaction the perfect working of this gear. A sample of the engine which is to be adopted on these machines in future is also to be seen, and this presents several novel features, the principal of which is the method of detaching both inlet and exhaust valves with their seats from the motor. The cylinder and head are cast in one piece with the necessary fitting for both the valves. This provides a round joint for the attachment of the valve seat and valve, together with the necessary unions for connecting the exhaust or induction pipe. The valve box is secured to the cylinder by means of two bolts, which pass through the cylinder head. These bolts are prevented from turning by lock nuts, which in turn are prevented from working loose by means of a catch plate, this holding both huts firm at the same time.A double train of gears is employed — the gear operating the exhaust valve cam being on one side and the inlet and ignition cams on the other.

Another neat feature of the design is the fitting of a small stud to the valve plunger. This stud is hardened, and can be adjusted to give the necessary clearance between the end of the valve steam and the plunger, and it is secured in position by a small lock nut. We cannot pass from this stand without mentioning the motor cycle support, which forms one of the features of the Starley gear-driven bicycle. This, as our readers may remember, consists of a tube dropped from the rear end of both back forks, and permanently fixed thereto. Two aluminium arms are carried, which may be inserted into the ends of these tubes, and which, when placed in position, allow the machine to stand clear of the ground, so that the engine may be run or tested as occasion may require. This forms a permanent stand, and one that is light and quickly brought into action. (Stand 6.)

The Motor Cycle November 25th, 1903. p848
National Show 1903, Crystal Palace

rover-info at
J K Starley
Sirs, on your page "Starley Motorcycles" you show an advert of 'Starley's Eye Opener'.
This was not built by J.K.Starley rsp. ROVER, but by William Starley after bankruptcy of Starley Brothers.
I'm documenting Rover Motorcycles. If anyone has details of the ROVER 2.5hp of 1902 or 1903, please contact me.
Michael-Peter Boersig
Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany

Thanks so much for pointing out the error. This page will undergo revision. Ed.

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