I’ve been riding motorcycles since the mid 70s, but in all those years I’ve never owned a British bike. It’s time I did.
After looking at the alternatives, and there are plenty, I’m going for a BSA M33 or B33, a 500cc bike with a single cylinder engine. These were both made from 1947 to 1957 (M33) or 1960 (B33).
The bikes are fairly similar, but the main difference between the two is that the M33 was designed to have a sidecar attached. There are attachment points, or lugs, built in for the sidecar, and the frame is stronger.
I’m not after one with a sidecar. I quite like the idea but I have nowhere to keep one. Plus, every time I’ve tried riding a bike and sidecar I couldn’t keep the sidecar wheel off the pavement.
So far, I’ve joined the BSA Owners Club, and I’ve had lots of advice about these bikes from the members. Being in the club means we go out on bike rides.
We meet at the Super Sausage cafe at Potterspury on the A5 one Sunday each month, then take a twisty and convoluted route down the back roads to somewhere that sells tea and cake. Some of these bikes, fifty or sixty years old, are not too quick compared to modern bikes, but it doesn’t matter; they are in their element on the back roads.
My Yamaha, a mere 37 years old, is quick enough for modern roads, but I’ve often been finding myself riding more slowly, since I started my relaxed trips out with the BSA Owners Club.
The last ride out took us all over the top edge of North Bucks beyond Buckingham. It was a route so twisty I can’t retrace it on the map, and a lot of the time it was on what we might have called cart tracks if only they were a bit wider.
We ended up at Turweston airfield, right on the border of Bucks, not far from Brackley. RAF Turweston, as it was, like many airfields in this part of the world, was an Operational Training Unit or OTU. They trained bomber crews. It opened in November 1942 and over the course of the war men were trained on various twin engined aircraft.
We arrived on a variety of motorcycles, most of them BSAs. We were going to the first floor Flight Deck Cafe, where we could drink tea and have a good view of aircraft taking off. The cafe is open from 9am to 4:30pm every day. There’s a lift up to the first floor.
BSA Owners Club, Beds, Bucks & Northants branch.
The man in the top photo is Chris. He has been a BSA man for many years. The bike is his BSA M33.
I bumped into him at the annual Ludgershall Bike Night. (I covered it here last year) He had ridden there on his M33. I had last seen him a few weeks before, when I told him I was after a B33 or an M33 for myself.
Then, he immediately offered me a chance to try his one out, so I could see what they were all about. Ludgershall was the first time I had seen him since.
I straddled the Beeza, and followed his instructions. I must confess, I couldn’t start it. Off I got, and to show me how it was done he started it with ease, twice.
I got back on, and failed again. But I’m sure it’s just a matter of technique; I’ve never owned a British bike, and it’s been a long time since I had a bike with a kickstart. I’ll be going round his house in a few days, then we can try again in a calmer atmosphere.
Riding an old British bike will be rather different from riding modern machinery. These machines were designed just after World War Two, and there have been many changes in Britain since then.
I’m looking forward to getting one.