TALES FROMTHE SHED

What is it that never runs smoothly? Was it a BSA? Frank West­worth has a new un­favourite mo­tor­cy­cle…

Real Classic - - What Lies Within -

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

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