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The Rover Company was a Britishmarker bicycle and motorcycle manufacturer before it began the manufacture of motor cars. Rover was established by John Kemp Starley in 1884 in Coventrymarker to make bicycles. The company developed and produced the Rover Imperial motorcycle in November 1902. Between 1903 and 1924 Rover produced more than 10,000 motorcycles.

History

In June 1896 John Starley formed the Rover Cycle Co. Ltd. at the New Meteor Works in Coventrymarker. Starley had become successful making 'safety bicycles' and used the money to import some of the early Peugeot motorcycles from France in 1899 for experimental development. His first project was to fit an engine to one of his Rover bicycles. John Starley died early in October 1901 aged 46 and the business was taken over by entrepreneur Harry Lawson.
1912 Rover 3-speed
The company delveloped and produced the Rover Imperial motorcycle in November 1902. This was a 3.5hp diamond-framed motorcycle with the engine in the centre and 'springer' front forks, which was ahead of its time. This first Rover motorcycle had innovative features such as a spray carburettor, bottom-bracket engine and mechanically operated valves. With a strong frame with double front down tubes and a good quality finish, over a thousand Rover motorcycles were sold in 1904. The following year, however, Rover stopped motorcycle production to concentrate on their 'safety bicycle' but in 1910 designer John Greenwood was commissioned to develop a new 3.5hp 500cc engine with spring-loaded tappets, a Bosch magneto and an innovative inverted tooth drive chain. It had a Brown and Barlow carburettor and Druid spring forks. This new model was launched at the 1910 Olympia show and over 500 were sold.

Racing success

In 1913 a 'TT' model was launched with a shorter wheelbase and sports handlebars. The 'works team' of Dudley Noble and Chris Newsome had some success and won the works team award.

Production after the First World War

1920 Rover 500cc
Rover supplied 499cc single cylinder motorcycles to the Russian Army during the First World War. When the war was over the company began to focus on car production but Rover still produced motorcycles with 248cc and 348cc Rover overhead valve engines and with J.A.P. engines, including a 676cc V-Twin. In 1924 Rover led the way with unit construction of engine and gearbox on a new lightweight 250cc motorcycle. This had lights front and rear as well as a new design of internal expanding brakes. Following poor sales Rover ceased bicycle and motorcycle production. Between 1903 and 1924 Rover had produced more than 10,000 motorcycles.

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