TALES FROMTHE SHED
What is it that never runs smoothly? Was it a BSA? Frank Westworth has a new unfavourite motorcycle…
What is it that never runs smoothly? Was it a BSA? Frank Westworth has a new unfavourite motorcycle…
The Shed receives few visitors. This is either down to its secret location on the outer reaches of somewhere very far away or because I am notoriously unwelcoming. Or maybe it’s because whenever some optimistic and well-meaning chum drops by to say hi! what happens next is that they get roped in to providing support and assistance with whatever horror story is currently cluttering the bench. Some visitors claim to be delighted. Oddly enough, they never reappear. Strange, that…
I had hoped that by now we would all have forgotten my utterly completely intensely silly decision to buy a deceased and mostly dismantled BSA to turn into some kind of vague ‘special’. I’m never entirely certain what ‘special’ actually means, especially as I’ve suffered grievous misfortune over a long and indeed weary lifetime which has included trying to ride and then trying to write about several ‘specials’. My very favourites are those specials which aren’t special at all. Often they are simply unpleasant lash-ups, but presumably their owners love them. At least… they claim to do so, invite a magazine to feature them and promptly offer them for sale. Which is one of the many things a scribbler needs to remember when the gushing delight is about to gush onto the page, where other people might read it, become infected by the gushing and then gush out and buy the bike. This is a rare event, but once it’s happened it is unforgettable. Let me tell you about… Maybe later. The BSA. If I stand back and heave a huge sigh it will all feel better, right? Not so.
Even prolonged hyperventilating does not improve my somewhat dark feelings towards BSA in general and this one in particular. Although, to be quite honest about it, mostly, my grump has little to do with this bike. Nor really with BSA. The problem is – as I might have subtly mentioned before – is that as I prefer to work on AMC and Norton machines I have been spoiled. Not only have I worked on lots of them for a very long time so am fairly familiar with the way they’re put together, but I also know all the sources of good spare parts and how they fit. Mostly. We will ignore centrestand springs at this point. Thank you. I knew you’d understand. Did you see that fine attempt at humour? Never mind.
Anyway. Somehow, we had a guest. This is always a puzzle as we do our considerable best to discourage socialising in all its forms – we live a very long way from anywhere and share house space with a pair of terrifying raptors. They registered their displeasure at our attempt at socialising at the weekend by leaving a mostly dismantled dove by the door to The Shed. Cats are symbolists, as I’m sure you know. First the hint … then the slaughter. It pays to be careful.
As well as needing to attempt sort-of friendliness, I also needed to shift around several of the piles of scrap in The Shed. I try to remember to refer to them as ‘glorious examples of our classic heritage’ but ‘scrap’ is so much easier to type. Also more accurate. Possibly. However, when a pal reveals that he’s just ridden over from Eastern Europe in torrential rain simply to sample the arcane delights of the Cornish Pie Company, it feels churlish to deny access. And in any case, I happen to know that he’s good with the spanners. There is always an ulterior motive…
I have not been idle, either. I have been accumulating parts for the BSA. Which is actually nothing like as easy to do as I’d expected. In my innocent way, I’d been confident that at least several thousand people on the planet would be breaking 1971-73 BSAs or Triumphs, and that they would kindly offer the bits on eBay for pennies … because … who wants old bits of unpopular bikes? Apart from me? And I was entirely wrong. It’s easier to get secondhand bits for 1964-66 AMC heavyweights than it is to find them for BSAs. And AMC only built about three bikes every year, whereas BSA/ Triumph built about 50,000 of the things every week. Baffling. Never mind: every day is a new dream. Eventually I accepted that as I am no Odgie I could not make one of my several BSA 250 rear guards fit (they’re heading for eBay, where plainly I will sell them for a fortune), and found a Triumph one. It was cheaper than buying a new one, but not much, and much more expensive than importing one from India, somehow. How does that work?
Anyway, I bid and I bought. It arrived and it is indeed the correct one and fits. This is all very good.
Next – the seat. The Great Stupid Plan involves fitting a cheap used stock seat and then at a later date chop it to look somehow more ‘special’. The ethers must be full of cheap seats as all self-respecting BSA types back in the early 1970s fitted café seats with humps, correct? Not so, apparently. The ethers are conspicuously devoid of BSA seats of the right vintage, but a Triumph item will fit.
There were no Triumph items for a whole month … and then I found a BSA seat. I bid and I bought. I am flushed with success. I was at the time compiling a guide to auctions and was delighted to confirm that I can pay way over the odds for a piece of junk just like anyone else. I was so fed up with trying to buy secondhand Beezer bits that I decided that I would just buy new ones. This is not actually difficult. However, it is not entirely cost-free. I relearned that just because A Thing costs a reasonable tenner, by the time the supplier’s added packing, post and VAT the price can rise by over 50%. This is irritating.
It is especially irritating when the part … Does… Not… Fit.
I’d wondered while bidding for the seat why it didn’t come with hinges (why would anyone remove the hinges?) or the set of five rubbers which live between the seat base and the frame rails (ditto). I ordered a pair of new hinges. Five arrived. I have no idea why. Maybe I’ll sell them on eBay and make a profit. The rubbers simply do not fit the holes in the seat. I destroyed three of the five by attempting to make them fit. Morgan, our hapless visitor, suggested that I could drill out the seat base to fit the bungs. I think he was making a joke. Although I am not certain of this.
He was allowed to make jokes at my expense, however, because he had discovered that his one remaining mission in life, the single remaining task which would allow him to transcend this physical world and ascend to nirvanic delight… that task was to make the BSA run. Of course I laughed. Politely. And I disguised it as a cough. It is unfair to mock, I believe. As I am a polite, nay, kind fellow, I suggested that this was impossible without dismantling another bike to provide several parts … like a twistgrip and cables and things like that. And I am all too aware that whenever I cannibalise a bike I never refit the stolen parts. This in itself isn’t a problem, but this very week I have been sorting out another consignment of aged scrap … I’ll never get the hang of this … ‘glorious examples of our classic heritage’ to send to a faraway place where a friend will persuade otherwise sensible folk to exchange them for money. The time I discover that I’ve not refitted cannibalised components is when I decide to sell the bike. Inevitable, I suppose.
So no, I explained to Morgan. No, he cannot make it run. He looked downcast. Could he, he wondered, make it spark? I suggested that a bucket of petrol and a match was probably too good for a BSA, but he ignored me and dived into the famous process known hereabouts as searching
for the spark. Rarely have I seen a chap so happy while in pursuit of a hopeless goal. I had searched for sparks on the BSA to no avail. It was sparkless. I commented on this. ‘Hmmm…’ went Morgan, ignoring me. Probably wise.
Meanwhile, I had discovered that although we all love the work-in-the-wet cast-iron discs fitted to many 1970s Brits, that very cast iron can – and does – corrode in the salty atmosphere of The Shed. This means that the rust takes up the clearance between the disc – the rotor – and the pads. This means that it’s impossible to wheel the bike around. This does not help when Tracey arrives to carry the bike away in her large white van. And Tracey is not a lady with whom I would wish to argue. Trust me on this.
I freed off all the discs on the big posh bike, pumped up its tyres and decided not to sell it. Then I stared a bit more, wondering how come it was so utterly filthy, despite having been stored beneath a very expensive indeed outdoor bike cover and sprayed with ACF50, which is perfection in anti-corrosion terms, as you know. How come the bike was so … filthy. Really filthy. And … fluffy.
The mice have been nesting in the lovely soft fluffy lining of the very expensive indeed cover. Mice are incontinent, among many other things. I made a mental note to lock Mrs Kibble – the serious attack cat – into The Shed every night for a month. That’ll sort out the mice. And me, too, at a guess.
The next bike to be dragged from its slumbers was a Matchless – one of those great 500 singles built by LF Harris and featuring not only a Rotax engine, but also twin disc brakes and an electric leg. Why would I sell that? I don’t know. It was either that or the 1965 G80 on which I spent years and thousands in mostly successful attempts at building a functional machine, and I actually want to keep that, so…
The rear brake is seized solid. So solid that I can’t move it. The bike, that is. I can’t even get it onto the bench so I can haul out the wheel and assault it with Thor, King of Hammers. The rear brake is a drum. How can it have seized? I held a brief theory that all my efforts – my failed efforts – at getting the BSA B25SS’s front brake to work had somehow magically transferred to the G80 to the point at which its brake had worked a little over-efficiently. Hmm. That’s nonsense, isn’t it? I gave up wondering lonely as a clod, and dug out the 65 G80. It’s a great bike. Nothing seized at all.
And I had worked out the reason why secondhand BSA seats come without their hinges. It’s because you need to remove one of the hinges to fit or remove the seat from the bicycle. That’s cunning. I now have lots of hinges, and they appear to fit. Well… they would if I could find the four bolts which do the retention thing. Bolts? Faint not, I have a genuine BSA spares list, and I can share with you that these bolts, part number 14-0101, are easy-to-find ¼” x ½” UNF, and I have lots of those. Hurrah for me, huh?
Except… Except that my entirely delightful stainless steel bolts will not fit the threads in the BSA seat base. And yes, they are the correct bolts, and yes they do fit other bits of the Beezer which use them. Happily for my remaining shred of sanity, I have a lot of bolts, many of them brand new and many of them stainless. Wonderfully, BSF bolts fit the seat.. This is confusing. Care to offer any suggestions regarding how BSA suggest that their seats take a bolt that doesn’t fit? And if you have a 1971-72 BSA twin, be thankful that
you plainly already have the correct bolts. And rubber buffers. Treasure them. Never sell them.
Time drifts lazily by when wasted like this. It’s actually quite pleasant. I’d drifted into a sort-of reverie, coasting silently to a brave new world where there were no BSAs and all my bikes worked as they should. ‘Come and turn the engine over…’ came a voice from somewhere near the BSA’s bench. It was Morgan. I’d forgotten he was here. He had not, which is probably fortunate.
I turned the engine over. The pair of spark plugs which Morgan had rested against the cylinder head in some sort of manic optimism sparked as I turned the engine over with the kickstart. ‘ There you go,’ he said, and we all went out for a curry.
At least there is an illusion of progress…
The postman has been bringing gifts! At least some of these things must surely fit
The rear mudguard may have started life on a Triumph, but it still fits the BSA. No inter-marque rivalry here
This is the closest to being the right rear light, and is OK to use. Mostly…
Terrible déjà vu moment: FW spent several centuries trying (and failing) to find the right rear light bracket for the B25SS. None of these was correct. They’re not correct for the A65T either…
Left: The (not very) cheap seat is certainly right for the frame
These are the parts you’re looking for. Observe the difference
Above: So why did the seat come without hinges or rubber pads?
Replacement rubber pads are freely available. However… as you can see, these are not the parts you’re looking for…
Visiting The Shed comes at a price. TopChap Morgan announced that he would find the missing sparks. And he did!
While FW had been searching for the spark by applying the nice new wiring harness, Morgan simply used old bits of wire he found lying around … and sparks resulted. There may be a lesson here
New hinges are occasionally available. Here’s one now. The nice new shiny bolts are not the UNF thread BSA fitted. Maybe UNF stood for U’ll Never Find the right one?
This was FW’s preferred set of winter wheels for many years, until for some idiotic reason he sold the bike. The big idea behind the A65T project is to somehow recreate this but in a later frame. It’s doomed, of course…
Where we’re up to, then. Progress is … leisurely
The majority verdict is that FW should remove the bracket and gubbins before coating the exhausts. As seen here – except no chrome will be involved!
Meanwhile, there has been a style debate in The Shed. Two of the three participants reckon that the top bracket linking the two exhaust headers is ugly and unnecessary