Author Topic: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)  (Read 456 times)

Offline Yasser

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BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« on: 18.09. 2020 14:38 »
Hi everyone.

Being a British motorcycle lover since I can remember I have always be interested in differences between the biggest three trademarks, or at least the most well known and spread.

More than specific details in the design of the engine I can tell you that in Cuba, where parts are very difficult to get you can notice the differences on how years of basically NO SPARE PARTS made this motorcycles looks like today.

I own a Norton. So let me be the last.

Triumph, are usually noisy, from the right side of the engine due to worn pinions. Maybe two camshaft make shorter the pinion life. They use to be even very leaky, their lubrication is external. Anyway there are very good examples here, they are fast as hell.

BSA have always being my dream. They are clean, vibrates a fraction of others, idles great. That´s what I have felt riding a couple of times my fellow´s motorcycles. I have heard complains about the cranshaft support at the right side. BSA owners prevent going too fast on highways.

Nortons are strong, hansome, curve lovers. Mine never say no. I just love it. When I bought it 20 years before I was concerned about chains. I have never had a problem about it.

I am wondering to know thought from different perspectives, based on driver experience. Sincereness will be welcomed.

All the best.

Offline bikerbob

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #1 on: 18.09. 2020 17:31 »
Well I am in my late seventies now but back in the late 1950's early 1960's. If you wanted top class road holding you went for a Norton with a featherbed frame, if you wanted a bike with looks and style Triumph had the edge, If you wanted a great sounding bike you would go for a BSA you cannot beat the sound of a Gold Star belting the revs out. All British bikes of that era  are great bikes  they all have their good points and bad points. I have never regretted owning and riding various makes over the years and I am looking forward to continuing riding both my BSA twins an A7 and an A65 for as long as I can handle them.
56 A7 s/a
63 A65

Offline Yasser

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #2 on: 18.09. 2020 19:04 »
Even living these day I won't be clever enough to describe it so brilliantly! Thank you Sir!

Online groily

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #3 on: 19.09. 2020 09:58 »
I think you've given those of us with more than one marque a great opportunity to unload all sorts of thoughts! So thanks, I will! And Hat Off to you by the way for keeping your machines running in a very difficult part of the world, everything I ever heard has said it is very hard to do.

Never owned a Triumph, so can't comment too much there, although I've done a few engines of the 5T / 6T 1950s sort for friends. Yup, can be a bit leaky, and sometimes noisy - but not sure it's the two cams that cause it. Nice to play with, although the ones with white metal big ends need to be sent somewhere good to be sorted - and there aren't that many places  . . . I think they can be converted to shell bearings maybe, but never had to go there. Same old question of plain bush on the timing side on period Triumphs as on Beesas - but I have never seen too much trouble arising from that, and my own A10 has lasted very well in that area.

Norton twins I know a bit more about, but 60s not 50s in my case. Quite like them, but hard to work on the top end with the engine in the frame of a Featherbed - horrible horrible job getting the head on and off with the pushrods having to be stuffed right up inside it past the rockers to get enough room to drop them down the barrel. Makes an A10 rocker box a pleasure! Chains for cam and sparks are OK I think, and I like the outrigger bush in the timing case, even if it makes assembly a fraction harder. The thinnzer rear chain on many models doesn't seem to have been a big issue either. In 650cc form, they are pretty long stroke for a supposedly sporty bike though - 68mm bores on a 650 is a bit vintage I reckon, what with an 89mm stroke! Even the A10 managed 70mm on what's not a very sporty design, and the Thunderbird was 71mm from memory. The Atlas got to 73mm with the 89mm stroke, which ought to have been more like but actually vibrated a lot due to being at the limit of the design I suppose. Post-1950s though, so doesn't count!

You can see from this I prefer squarer engines, which is maybe why I like another make - the Matchless / AJS twins, which run 72mm with a 79mm stroke at 650. and 72x73mm at 600 - far more like! I also like engines where oil delivery is contrived to be equal in flow and pressure at the two big end journals, and I don't like having to shim crankshafts for lateral movement very much. Another reason I like the AMCs, where that is controlled by standard thrust washers next to the central plain, 3rd, main bearing. And no, they don't break crankshafts every 5 minutes, despite bar room myths to the contrary! No external oil pipe plumbing AT ALL on them either, except from tank to engine. Two cams, pushrods that operate vertically like Triumph, but without leaky tubes  . . . Neat design, only marred maybe, like on Royal Oilfields, by the fact that the heads and barrels are separate, which can cause some dribbling on the larger capacity models from round the cylinder base. Through-studs though, from crankcase to head, as per Sunbeams of the vintage area and a lot of other well-designed engines.

You say Nortons love the bendy bits - and they do. But the swing-arm Beesas aren't far behind I don't think, except perhaps in the fork department. I can't do much on my Dominator I can't do on my A10 - and both are more fun on bends than any period Triumph, AMC or Oilfield twin.

As to what sounds best  . . . have to be careful here, as noise isn't everyone's cup of tea. But any A on correct silencers sounds good I think (I have pattern Goldies on mine these days though - not bad I'd say), a Norton on the correct cigar-like Campbell silencers is very pleasant to my ear, and I have to be fair and say I have always liked the sound of most Triumphs. The original style correct megaphones always fitted on Matchless twins make a throaty, not excessive noise too, so do the Burgess silencers used by AJS models in the 50s. Many pattern jobs are a bit tinny compared to the real things, which is why I'd rather see a tatty original set up than a highly polished replacement.

If you ask me 'Which is your favourite machine' - the answer is 'The one I'm on'! They've all got their ups and downs, but as a general breed, just got to love them all. (Well, most of them, anyway  . . .)

Online RDfella

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #4 on: 19.09. 2020 11:49 »
Guess motorcycles are like art - different people have different tastes. Having owned / riden a wideline featherbed and a variety of BSA's (both rigid and s/a) I'd give the featherbed 7/10 and the goldie / A series s/a 10/10 for handling
'49 B31, '49 M21, '53 DOT, '58 Flash, '00 Firestorm, Weslake sprint bike.

Online muskrat

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #5 on: 20.09. 2020 10:31 »
Agreed 100% RD. There were more f/beds behind me on the race track than in front.
'51 A7 plunger, '57 A7SS now A10CR,  '83 CB1100F, 88 FXST .
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Online Greybeard

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #6 on: 20.09. 2020 19:51 »
Agreed 100% RD. There were more f/beds behind me on the race track than in front.
That could be because your cahoonies are bigger than theirs.
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Online Triton Thrasher

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #7 on: 20.09. 2020 20:05 »
There are few things more pointless than marque rivalry sixty years later.

None of them are fast bikes.  All of them can be enjoyable to ride.

Online ellis

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #8 on: 21.09. 2020 12:18 »
Had a 1960 A10 and still have a MK3 Commando 1975. Both have or had problems with them but on reflection i have stayed with the 850cc Comando.
I recently bought a Yamaha 900 Diversion nice bike but has a problem with a sticking clutch so have to select 2nd gear and rock the bike back and forth till it free,s itself. All bikes have a downside but you have to learn to live with them. Still on the lookout for the perfect bike but havent found one yet. *wink2* *wink2*


Offline Yasser

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #9 on: 21.09. 2020 16:21 »
Well I give you more details based on my experience.

I bought my motorcycle back in 2002. Unfortunately previous owner put a large thread spark plug on an iron cylinder head. He pulled the bike and then in second gear release the clutch. The result was a broken connecting rod. Furtunately at the same time this lower the price so I can afford it.

Through this years I have be riding a lot and on oportunities I improve something (remember parts are very difficult to find for me)

My insatisfactions?

I will prefered a better clutch cover. Unfortunately my clutch is dry. I need to lubricate the chain. Pretty sure that this is a source of vibrations.

The compact form of the head makes definetely difficult the assembly but....sincerely just once...

The gearbox is very smooth, until 60mph the vibration is could be less

No more complains

Offline Seabee

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #10 on: 21.09. 2020 18:24 »
I've never owned a Norton, but sure like their looks and sound.
My British bike experience began with a 68 Bonneville in 1980. Not my first bike, but first road legal bike. I restored it and learned to cuss Lord Lucas! Having no magneto, I learned how to push Brit bikes! I LOVED the torque that bike had! It was a wheelie machine (I was 19). Of course it had TT pipes and was quite stripped down.
Fast forward to 1997 and I was given my 61 SR in boxes from a friend whose pickup I painted. He was in the U.S. Navy in Scotland and had brought it back with him to the States. He tore it down in 1984 to restore and that's where it sat. I finally got around to restoring it in 2001-2002 and have loved riding it ever since. I LOVE the sound an A10 makes. I LOVE the magneto, so Lord Lucas rarely makes me push anymore. I do ride in the dark sometimes though!
The 57 RR I bought as a chopper off of eBay and restored it back to original with original parts I collected. It's a cream puff trailer queen, but the SR gets ridden regularly. As noted, they all have their pluses, but I'll keep my A10's until I die...……..
1961 Super Rocket
1957 Road Rocket
2009 Harley Electra Glide Classic
1993 Harley Springer Softtail
1971 Harley Shovelhead
1970 Harley Sportster Chopper
1957 Harley Panhead Chopper
1982 Yamaha XT550
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1970 Honda CT70
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Offline Rocket Racer

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Re: BSA vs Norton vs Triumph (from the fifties)
« Reply #11 on: 22.09. 2020 06:00 »
nortons and triumph twins often get thought of as competition machines and faster, but in the US BSA preunit twins were very competitive with all comers in flat tracking and in NZ were a common racing sidecar engine on track and speedway. Typically raced to destruction with thin flange and small journal crank.
But the american export models just look so right and were certainly no slugs. Chris Vincent in 62 won the sidecar TT on a humble A7SS powered rig beating thoroughbred BMW rennesport race engines.

I've owned a norton and preunit triumph (and raced both), both had their good and bad points, the fifties swing arm triumphs really didnt handle so I only like the early rigid ones. The very late preunit duplex triumph 650 frame had the nickname the iron whip for good reason! 

  Third, the frame, a carryover from the 1954 T110 and overtaxed with the extra power, was a wobbly mess, due to poor support of the swing arm pivot. Triumph knew they had a major hit on their hands, if they could just fix the problems quickly for the 1960 Triumph Bonneville. And fix them they did. Well...sort of.
A good rider periodically checks all nuts and bolts with a spanner to see that they are tight - Instruction Manual for BSA B series, p46, para 2.
New Zealand