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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A new recruit to the Vintage world.

I'm pleased, and a little proud, even though I do say so myself, that as a result of the Scottish Vintage Training Day last year, at least one more person in Scotland now rides a vintage motorcycle - read on for Paul's story.

B.S.A. W32-6 VMCC training days can have strange and lasting effects; an interesting and challenging day was anticipated, but falling for side valve hand-changers? No, not really. And then, barely a week after the event at Alford last year, I saw an advert for a very tidy BSA W6 at a very fair price - some things are just meant to be. What we have here is a 500 sidevalve with full electrics and a four-speed hand-change gearbox. The new-fangled foot change was optional but a detachable cylinder head as standard was thought modern enough for 1932. Controls are not quite as they appear or as you might expect: the left-hand 'mag' lever is in fact the decompressor, ignition advance being controlled by a left twist grip (great fun!). Oh, and the horn button is on the right, as is the rear brake pedal. The machine has been beautifully restored, sometime in the early 90's I would guess, but the worthy emphasis on originality made it less than ideal to actually use. This might explain the mileages shown on the last 13 years' MOTs: 570 in 1997 and still only 980 in 2010. So ... firstly, the coiled copper fuel pipe had to go - it was routed close the cast iron engine and the resultant vapourisation of ethanol-laced fuel caused weak running and an absolute refusal to start when hot. Next the cable from rear brake pedal to front brake was removed - linking may have seemed a good idea but in practice it restricts the geometry of both brakes. A two-pole bulb holder has been fitted in the rear lamp unit so a brake light could be wired in - not a legal requirement prior to January 1936 but important for safety in modern traffic; rather like a mirror. A little fine tuning to carburation and ignition timing further improved things to the point where this is now a safe, reliable motorcycle. Just as BSA intended. Sorry if all this causes gnashing of teeth but I like to ride my bikes regularly over quite long distances without recourse to the tool kit and its a 115-mile round trip for an MOT here. We've done over 700 miles since the last one and the engine feels more willing than ever; I don't think it has been given the chance to 'run in' since the rebuild. The hand change can be a bit of a handicap in town where the W6 is otherwise sprightly enough, the brakes coping well. With a comfortable cruising speed of 45mph main road riding needs an eye on the mirror and, if a queue is beginning to build up, I pull in to the next lay-by to let them all pass. Its a pleasant surprise how many drivers appreciate this and give a wave or a hazard flash. But on back roads and single track the BSA is an absolute joy. Plod along in top gear or push on a bit just as the mood takes you. Either way concentrate on the road surface as girder forks have their limits, and allow extra braking distance on steep descents or when running above 40mph. Steep climbs need a drop to 3rd with perhaps a little retard on the ignition if the revs fall off. All situations need good anticipation and planning but with a little practice it will come together. And then comes the magic as the machine begins to talk to you. Your control asks the question and the way it responds gives reply as in "oh for goodness sake, what are you playing at", or perhaps simply "could do better", but best of all is "well, you got that right, didn't you". And so the dialogue continues to journey's end. Wonderful!

VMCC training days can have strange and lasting effects. You have been warned!

A few facts and figures... Engine air cooled 4-stroke single Displacement 499cc Bore/Stroke 85 x 88mm Compression (est) 5.0 : 1 Valves side valve Carburation 1in. Amal type 76 Ignition Lucas magneto, gear driven Lubrication pressure feed from gear type pump to roller bearing crank 3 pt. (1.7 l) reservoir in unit with crankcase Power (est) 13 bhp at 4000 rpm Transmission single row primary & final drive chains Clutch multi plate Gearbox 4 speed, hand change Electrics (optional) Lucas 6v 3-brush dynamo Frame I-section steel spine with bolt on front & rear down tubes, lower rails & rear sub-frame Front suspension BSA girder with coil spring, adjustable friction damping Rear suspension sprung saddle Front brake 7in. SLS drum (originally with additional link to foot brake) Rear brake 7in. SLS drum Tyres 3.25 x 19 front & rear Fuel 2¼ gal. (10.2 l) Wheelbase 54 in. Seat height 28 in. Weight (est) 360 lbs. (163 kg) Typical consumption 55 - 60 mpg


Stuart said...

Thanks for sharing your vintage experience with us Paul. It has certainly given me food for thought. . . Maybe one day...?

MFMF said...

Must say I was a bit disappointed to hear of the cancellation of this years training day, I was looking forward to sampling some vintage iron with a view to purchasing something usable like Paul's BSA.I sometimes wonder what is going to happen to all these old bikes when their present owners can now longer ride them, if new blood like myself who has never ridden a hand change / clutch less / hand oil pump /multi handed machine are not encouraged into the world of vintage machines,maybe the VMCC should follow the lead of the vintage tractor club. Go to any country show and see young lads with big smiles on their face sat on there old tractors,yes they may have been brought into the fold by their dads who may have farming in their blood,but go to any vmcc event and how many young faces do you see (apart from your gbcness)there are only so many museums that can take them, will they like a lot of our works of art go out of the country to foreign buyers?.Yes I know I could travel to England to a training day but why should we in Scotland Always have to travel to England.
Disgruntled M.F.M.F

Mrs. BC said...

What a fantastic story and brilliant write up from Paul. What inspiration and encouragement for those of us who put so much time and effort into arranging the Scottish Training Day, and who were well into the arrangements for the next one. To say we were disappointed it was cancelled would be an understatement, but Paul's story certainly helps soften the blow, and gives us incentive to put plan B, C, and D into operation. We are not easily beaten and will get the message over that old bikes are not only fun, challenging and rewarding, they are also much safer on the road than plastic rockets. No offence to P.R. Riders, and obviously it is wise to modify them sensibly as Paul has done, but if you want pure speed on a motor bike, then find a race track! If you want the pleasure of being able to enjoy the day and the countryside, and to experience a piece of engineering history, then get something older and be a part of the continuing story. I thimk, with his permission we had better try to get Paul's piece published in as many places as possible and let others see what they are missing. After all, there is no better endorsement than from one who has tried.

Well done Paul! And go on Stu - you know you want to. You might even get your pic on the blog!

Anonymous said...

Very nice bike Paul, and sensible additions. I'd like to acquire something vintage before I achieve that status myself. I'm still older than my oldest 50's bikes. It would be nice to own one older than myself...Good luck on Plans B through D...GBC and Mrs.BC. Hairy Larry, in still snowing Northern Calif.

Mrs.BC said...

Snowing1 What's snowing Larry? Got any pics?

Positively spring-like here - now that's a reckless thing to say!

Anonymous said...

Well Mrs.BC, maybe in a week or so I'll have some time off to go take some pics in the snow. If I had a better lens on my digi-cam, I could go up on the roof here and probably catch a pic. Better to go up and play in the snow and take pics. Noticed Kawa had a snowing in Scotland pic just a short while back.Not putting the skiis up yet!
Hairy Larry

kawa said...

Paul your BSA looks great, infact its nearly the same as a Blue Star other than the engine topend. Good to hear its a "user" and you've been making up for the lack of miles. Also getting to know the bike and listening to it makes riding it even better as you seem to have found out.
Larry, that snow was five weeks ago, but it should be safe by the end of the month to talk about it,,, what you think Mrs.BC


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