Author Topic: A trip back in time, a day with a British BSA classic...from the net  (Read 1325 times)

Offline frankenstein

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A trip back in time, a day with a British BSA classic

Terry Vincent gives us his account of a recent trip back in time that he had with a classic British bike. Those who frequent the Ace Café in London will know that these bikes are still being ridden and lovingly looked after by a sizable following of riders.

The words below are his.


On Sunday the 10th of September, myself, Karen and my dad went down to the village of Cranleigh (near Box Hill) to hire a bike that my dad has been on about since he was 11 years old. It?s a BSA A10 650 twin a bike that?s over 40 years old now! Back in the 60?s my dad used to go to the Ace Café and was bike mad. He used to go there on his push-bike as a teenager before he could ride. He had all the magazines, used to watch all the racing and fantasise about owning a motorbike! He wasn?t a spoilt brat like me and didn?t have a bike bought for him as a kid. After years of saving and saving, working as a delivery boy, he managed to buy his first bike. An Aerial Arrow 250 just before his 16th Birthday. Many adventures followed and so did a very nasty head-on accident which luckily left my dad with no injury but did leave his beloved bike buried head-on up to the windscreen of a Morris Minor!
It?s safe to say that my dad didn?t know the meaning of the word riding safely which I don?t think anyone did back then! At the age of 17 came the time when he could have either carried on biking and bought a bigger bike, or buy a car. The bike he had always lusted after and had pictures all over his wall was of the BSA A10. He thought that with his nutty style and the bike, he would end up killing himself! It?s probably lucky he bought a car because he stayed alive and the bug of biking never left him and by the late 1970s he bought another bike, which was lucky for me. Had he not then I would never have got the bug and grown up with bikes! Good old Dad!

The BSA A10 wasn?t a particularly special bike back in the day; it was comparable to the Kawasaki ZX9 of a few years back when compared to the R1, Blade etc. Triumphs always had the best engines but the worst handling with the well known Triumph whip which describes the wobbly head shake it used to give through corners (no Ohlin?s steering dampers back then? Ed). Norton?s had the best frames but not so good an engine. Hence the creation of the Triton! The Triton is a Triumph engine in a Norton frame to get the best of both worlds. The BSA, like I say wasn?t the best bike or fastest but a good all-rounder with a good mix of handling and performance.

For all my childhood I have been brought up with tales of my dad?s adventures, and it all comes back to this particular bike; the BSA A10 650. When the Ace Cafe first re opened we were there and headed straight to the old British bikes to have a nose around. His love for them is clear. As a kid I remember holding onto his hand and walking around these classic bike shows with him showing me all these old classics. So the love for these bikes has transferred down to me. For many years now we have talked about buying one but it?s not been practical what with lack of storage and mechanical knowledge that these bikes require. So at the start of the summer in the MCN my dad found this place that hires out classic bikes. We enquired and they had his dream bike for hire the bike he had lusted after for so many years. It turns out the bike was undergoing an engine rebuild and wouldn?t be ready till September. Come September I get an email saying the bike is ready and after a phone call it?s all booked. Roll on 10th September.

This was going to be such a special day, and to see my dad ride the bike he has been lusting after for so long will be fantastic.

The Day Arrives

Sunday the 10th comes and we decide to incorporate the days hire with the Brighton run as the hire place is on the way. We set off from the Ace with the usual parade of thousands of bikes, which is always as delightful as ever! We come off the M25 and onto the A24, heading past Box Hill, then to Cranleigh. We peel off the A24 and marvel at some of the awesome roads we encounter en route! Yes, we get lost and stopped at the village of Ewhurst to check directions. That?s when we see other LB members on a ride out go flying past ignoring me despite my frantic waves to say hello! Small world eh! Anyway after some debating and checking of maps we find the hire place! We pull in the drive and see the BSA A10 parked up in all its glory! What a beautiful machine! She is gorgeous and oozing history. The bikes are advertised to be in a used working condition which they are and in some respects, just how old classics should be. It?s nice to see them in pristine condition as well but there is something about an old classic that is being used regularly that I think is very special. Karen and I look over the bike while my dad exchanges the relevant documents. It looks old and leaking oil, as all British bikes should do.

I was so eager to see it being ridden. With that my dad appears with the owner and goes through various starting procedures! Turn on petrol (what! I have never done that before), tickle the carb, retard the ignition slightly, top dead centre on the kick start and whack, give it a good hard kick. I watch my dad and think hmm that?s never going to happen as the first kick amounts to nothing. Then he jumps on the kick start and away she goes! What a beautiful noise out of the twin pipes. A noise that can never be recreated by any bike other than an old British bike, not even today?s modern twins can recreate the magic that was flooding my ears at this point. Ok so which way do the gears go? I think ?what!? They go as they always do! Hum, wrong. The gear lever is on the right and the box goes one up and three down with the rear brake on the left! How confusing! My dad then tells me it?s a proper bike; none of this gears on the left one down five up malarkey!

I feel the nerves build as we prepared to set off, not knowing what adventures we are about to encounter. Karen and I get ready and within a few minutes we pull out of the drive and up the road. Wow, what a noise following this thing! Within 100 metres my dad gives the thumbs up and I can sense by body language alone that he loved every moment.

We ride for the next hour, just following our noses. The roads and scenery are breath-taking. I feel like I?m in a time warp as I follow my dad on a bike that?s twenty years older than I am! Every junction and roundabout we encountered was interesting as the bike has no indicators, so hand signals all the way!

So, how about the brakes? Hmm front brake! What front brake? You pull the lever and nothing happens! Oh and the stop light doesn?t operate on the front brake, only the rear, so very delicate operating is needed whilst operating the rear brake with your left foot! The next thing that comes to me is this thing is quick! Not by today?s standards obviously but I was having to accelerate a fair amount to keep with it and the torque was unreal; pulling up hills nice and strong with no down-changes and no slowing down! The bike whips up to 65-70 mph no problem at all just by short shifting and riding the torque.

Then the handling! Well looking at the square and quite frankly scary looking tyres I thought corners were going to have to be avoided and my mind went back to how the hell did people use to blat along the north circular at 100mph on these things!? I stand corrected though, it took everything the road threw at it with ease! Sweeping bends, hairpins and round it went, no wobbles and solid as anything. Wow, is this thing really 40 old years old? I was impressed with it now, let alone how it must have appeared to be back then!

We stop off for a rest and to have a quick chat and a drink. Here is the fun part though; erm, we pull up and I stop, get my lid off and my dad is still messing around! He shouts over ?I can?t find neutral?. Well we must have been there for about 10 minutes. Of course, there?s no such wonderful thing as a neutral light, so after some sweating and riding up and down he finally gets it in neutral when rolling gently to a stop, to which a big cheer was awarded! I am eager to see exactly what my dad thinks of the bike he has wanted since a small child!

After Thoughts

My dad removes his lid with the biggest smile I have ever seen him have.

He says, ?I am overwhelmed by how good the bike feels. How quick it is as well. Good gearbox except for the neutral. It?s a real positive and precise change with no clonking or knocking. The torque is something else; it really is. There?s no point in reving it much and it would climb the side of a house its so good low down the rev range.

The handling is very good, much better than I expected, it throws into corners perfectly with no hint of wobbles and doesn?t feel like its out of date technology. The nostalgic feeling it gives you is brilliant, looking down at the old fashioned Smith?s dials and the speedo needle that jumps up in increments of 10mph a time. Cor, it brings back some memories of the motors I used to drive. It gives you a weird sensation of enjoyment, the same sensation that a sports bike can give at warp speed, but this gives the same feeling when you?re doing 70mph. I can?t describe it properly; it puts you in a surreal world of your own where you can?t stop laughing and grinning at how this bike makes you feel. The noise and vibration as well, I?ve no idea how people used to do 100mph on these things, it?s rattling my teeth out! I really have to think at junctions too with the reversed gearbox to make sure I don?t push the gear lever the wrong way! I loved it, I really did and it?s everything I thought it would be and I want one now!?

We spent the rest of the afternoon riding around, rather than going to Brighton as riding the countryside was far more fun than sitting around at the sea-front. I desperately wanted to have a go myself but I will have to wait until I am 25 before I can hire one and if it?s half as much fun as it looks then it would be a blast of a ride.

To sum it up now, really all I can say is what a fantastic day. It?s one thing I never thought we would experience. What a bizarre feeling riding a modern sports bike next to a bike with such a history. It?s like riding a current sports bike in 40 years time and the experiences it would bring us. You can?t imagine how time will evolve bikes and how it would feel. I would recommend everyone that rides a bike, no matter what bike you ride now, to give one of these a go just for a laugh.

Offline tombeau

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Thats really nice.
Its good to hear the reactions of someone a bit more openminded than I'll ever be*smile*

Offline LJ.

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WoW what a brilliant read!!

Doesn?t reading something like this really make you appreciate just what we have?

I saw this posted last night and was a little reluctant to read it because of it being so long? Anyhow, this morning I have a little more time and did just that and boy? has this set me up for the day!

I?ll add a little to this, you probably won?t quite believe me but its true.

Last Saturday I met a couple who rode in on some huge wacking gret BMW, I had met them before somewhere on my M21 and they were impressed with that big single that I ride, however the chap was mightily impressed with my A10 that I was on that morning because it was what he rode when back in his youth. I could see his eyes feeding on my machine and I did not hesitate to ask him if he wanted a go. There were no second thoughts from him; his reply was an astounding yes, but not here amongst other riders and that, I quite understood. So we arranged to meet at his place yesterday afternoon. He and his missus had just come back from a ride, funnily enough over my way and here was I at his place. Anyway just like in the story you?ve just read, I gave him the run down on how the bike liked to be started and all that, and in no time he took off. The first kick was a starting kick and immediately fixed that grin on his face that we all know about. I was left standing talking to his wife and we could still hear him in the distance. It?s nice to see and hear your own bike being ridden as a bystander for once and to give someone that pleasure to ride your/our bikes is something else.

Need I say the results of his ride when he came back? But I am sure we could possibly be having a new member to our forum in the near future.

Great Stuff eh?  *yeah*
Ride Safely Lads! LJ.
1940 BSA M20 500cc Girder/Rigid- (SOLD)
1947 BSA M21 600cc Girder/Rigid-Green
1949 BSA A7   500cc Girder/Plunger Star Twin-(SOLD)
1953 BSA B33  500cc Teles/Plunger-Maroon
1961 BSA A10  650cc Golden Flash-Blue
1961 BSA A10  650cc Golden Flash-Red

Offline fido

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Yes, I think a lot of people who have never tried one of these bikes don't realise how good they are. The bit about finding TDC when starting is a bit OTT on an A10, just kick it and it will be roughly in the right place for one of the cylinders.

Offline a10gf

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Very good reading, thanks for sharing !

...see the BSA A10 parked up in all its glory! What a beautiful machine! She is gorgeous and oozing history.

A10 GF '53 My A10 website
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