This is where it all started. The partnership of R H Lea and G I Francis was formed for the purpose of producing high quality bicycles.
The first cycles produced were sold under Lea’s name in 1896. In May of that year the limited company of Lea & Francis Ltd was established and from 1899 products were marketed under the Lea-Francis name.
The cycles of Lea & Francis were excellent products, using round and oval tubes and a fully enclosed chain case. In 1897 a very neat tool kit was designed to fit in one end of the handlebars with an oil can in the other (pictured below). The commitment to produce the finest products without compromise meant the superior quality was matched by a superior price and, as a result, Lea-Francis cycles were out of the range of the mass market.
Lea’s talent for invention led to him filing 42 patents prior to 1914, these included patents for bicycles, gearboxes, pedals, lights and reflectors. From 1912 the company concentrated on the development of a twin-cylinder motorcycle and, as a consequence, the work on bicycles was restricted to little more than changes to detail with production ceasing by the First World War.
The bicycle pictured above is a 1910 Ladies’ loop frame. Below is a Gentleman’s Roadster from 1908.