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John Glimmerveen

BSA, from Guns to Motorcycles

By November 5, 2012

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A common thread running through the early motorcycle manufactures was their ability to produce small precision components, whether it be cycle parts, textile machines or, in the case of BSA, guns.

The early years of what would become BSA motorcycles were dedicated to the mass production of small arms (rifles) for the British military.

The ability to produce armament in ever increasing quantities required the ability of the manufacturers to both mass produce components and also to make parts interchangeable (in years previous, skilled fabricators had produced one-off items).

For BSA the ability to mass produce precision components for guns was easily transferable to producing firstly cycle parts, then complete motorcycles.

The early history of BSA is one of a company looking for markets to fill with their precision engineering capabilities.

Further reading:

BSA History, the Early Years.

November 6, 2012 at 8:55 am
(1) Pete says:

Besides ‘Birmingham Small Arms, it was also heard once in a while to stand for ‘Bastard Stopped Again’.

They did however have some GREAT ads back in the day…

You recall the Lightning half out of the crate, and the drop dead gorgeous girl half out of what few clothes she had on? !

March 30, 2014 at 9:20 am
(2) G2Actual says:

BSA was one of the very best road bikes to own in the 1960s, with the exception of their Lucas (Prince of Darkness) electrical systems. When they ran, they ran well, and handled better than most other full-size road machines. My uncle had several Triumphs and my 650 BSA was well-behaved next to them. For one thing, it didn’t shake and bounce all over the driveway at idle like his did. The Beeser under-weighed his T120 by a substantial amount and could reach 70 before he could, but ran out of breath shortly above that due to gearing. The shorter BSA wheelbase made it handle quite differently than the T120, especially in the wet. Both bikes wore Dunlop Roadspeeds until I put knobbies on the Beeser, which turned it into an animal I didn’t much care for. In all the 650 BSA was one of my favorite street machines Back In The Day and I’d love to find a good one again today before I’m too old to enjoy it.

March 31, 2014 at 7:15 am
(3) classicmotorcycles says:

G2 Actual:
Trust me, you are never “too old to enjoy it.” Let me know if you decide to get another “Beeser.”

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