Social Distancing at Little Horwood
Gin O’clock at Little Horwood

Cruising Speed


The Monday Photo

Ten years almost to the day that I borrowed a bike for a photo in this same lane in Clifton Reynes, I came back to photograph my own classic British bike.

It wasn’t until I got home that I looked at that other shot and checked the date on it. I hadn’t realised that yesterday was the closest Sunday I could have chosen to that other Sunday, a whole decade before.

The 1932 Levis I borrowed that day was built as an off road sport machine, for trials and scrambling. My 1953 BSA was built for the road, and to have a sidecar attached. It’s known as an M33.

Bike ownership for both solo machines and bikes with sidecars hit its peak in the 1950s, so there was also a B33 for solo use, very similar but lighter. Both had a 500cc single cylinder engine.

There are a few differences between my bike and the B33.  On my M33, there are attachment points for the sidecar chassis, built into the bike. The gear ratios are different; more widely spread to cope with the weight of  ‘the chair’ (the sidecar), yet still give a reasonable cruising speed. The frame is braced underneath, but there’s no bracing on the B33.

My M33 is the version with the plunger frame. An advance on the older rigid frames that gave no rear suspension, the rear axle plunges up and down on two strong rods, more or less controlled by big springs.

It gives a gentler ride than no rear suspension at all, but gets a bit confused at modern road speeds on bumpy back roads. If you ever follow an old bike like this and the rider slows down where you wouldn’t, it’s probably because the road is a bit too bumpy; they are doing their best!

The top speed on this BSA, without a sidecar, is about 83 mph. That probably doesn’t seem very fast compared to a modern 500, but back in 1953, a typical family car would only be good for 70 mph. Much of the traffic in those austere days was pre war, and slower.

I cruise around at 50 or 55 mph, but when the bike was new 50 was more likely to be the maximum cruising speed for private vehicles, on good roads. I’ll never take it up to 83 mph.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)