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.
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.