Buying old English Motorcycles.

Things to know when buying an early English Motorcycle.

Buying an old motorcycle to restore and take to rallies or just to ride on the weekend is an act of love and very enjoyable for some of us who love to hit the road on our motorcycles. I live in a climate where motorcycles are ridden every day. We do have rain of course, but no snow or ice. For the rest of you the winter is a great time to drag the gearbox to a warm place in the garage and rebuild it.

It is rare these days to have the same wonderful contact with your bike's mechanicals when you are cruising along as an early model motorcycle provides. Old motorcycles have a primitive element that provides a joyous connection with the road not available on your new sleek, smooth as glass motorcycle.

Bikes like the Triumph Bonneville, Norton Dominator, A10 BSA or any of the better models of Ariel, and Royal Enfield bikes are still great to collect as well as being fun to ride.

If you are considering the purchase of a classic bike, consider all the areas that you will need to pay special attention too,and know how much it will cost you in time and money to maintain it after you buy it and what to do when things go wrong.

Here are a few expert tips:

An early (1938) Royal Enfield original  in perfect working order despite it's ragged appearance. Brian my brother-in law with the beard and Peter our mechanic.
An early (1938) Royal Enfield original in perfect working order despite it's ragged appearance. Brian my brother-in law with the beard and Peter our mechanic.
The Royal Enfield. Brian and his daughter Cindy on board for the test ride.
The Royal Enfield. Brian and his daughter Cindy on board for the test ride.
Bikes & Bits about 6 months after the business was started in my backyard..
Bikes & Bits about 6 months after the business was started in my backyard..
Mick, Ian and me with a very nice Ariel 600 sloper we had in stock. Australia 1969
Mick, Ian and me with a very nice Ariel 600 sloper we had in stock. Australia 1969
A very rare DBD34 Gold Star scrambler. A real handful and super quick in it's time of course.
A very rare DBD34 Gold Star scrambler. A real handful and super quick in it's time of course.
Getting packed for an 800 mile ride to Adelaide then back. I'm the one without the leathers.
Getting packed for an 800 mile ride to Adelaide then back. I'm the one without the leathers.

Preventative maintenance is the key to never having problems with these early model machines. They are simple and it is easy to see things developing before they go wrong.

Learn how to do the maintenance checks, do them often and save your precious bike.

When buying consider what is most likely to go wrong.

Look at all the common design fault areas first.


Fuel taps:

  • Many of the original taps had a cork seal. These leak and are often replaced with a newer type that has a neoprene seal. The original type of tap can still be purchased for authenticity and can be adjusted not to leak. The problem is that the cork shrinks, so adjustment is needed often.
  • Some of these taps are made of brass then chromed. If the cork leaks and a new cork does not fix the problem, you will need to renew the surface inside the tap. There are several ways to do this, as boring it out bigger will not affect the cork as it swells up when fitted.

Magneto:

  • The magneto often gives trouble, with most of the problems coming from the points breaker and the cam shaped disc that revolves to open and close the ignition points and advances/retards the ignition timing.
  • Always keep a spare assembly. Remember many BSA, Triumph, Norton, AJS, Matchless used similar units and many parts in the magneto interchange. The AJS one runs the other way to the Matchless although both bikes are basically the same!
  • Know that the points rotor is different on most makes and models but the magnetos are mostly interchangeable.

Generator:

  • The Joseph Luca generator was one of the most annoying devices on any of the early British bikes. It was common to be riding home with lights on, change down a gear and as soon as the engine revs increased, have your generator melt all the solder off it's joints and throw them about inside the generator's end cap. the solution here is to rewind the generator to boost it's output and use high temperature solder on the joints.
  • Make sure you under-cut the commutator and bed the brushes in so that they cover as much of the commutator surface as possible, or more likely tell an auto electrician to do that for you if you don't have a lathe or the skill to make a jig to run the armature.

Voltage Controlled Regulator:

Again the king of darkness raises his head! Early model motorcycles such as we are discussing here for the most part were fitted wit a large black tin box that Lucas for some reason believed would assist with the motorcycles electrical system. He was mistaken!

None the less it was very serviceable with only 2 small screws holding the cover on which hid a coil and a couple of sets of usually dirty contact breaker points and an adjustable spring steel tension strip. A crude and nasty device to be sure, but a bit of a clean, a twist of the tension screw and hey presto, lights!

  • An easy fix is to keep the Lucas tin box but replace it's innards with a modern voltage control unit.

Brakes:

  • Brake drums wear out rather quickly on early machines due to the weight of the bike and the fact that it has small (by today's standards) drum brake and no disc brake up front. Some brake drums detach from the wheel and replacement units can be obtained. Alternatively they can often be re sleeved with a new insert shrink fitted.

Spoked wheels:

The best way to check the condition of a spoked wheel is to put a spoke spanner on a spoke and see if it will turn. If not, the wheel will need respoking. Look for rim and hub damage on all early models as it is not uncommon for wheel bearings, brake drums or rims to be cracked, worn beyond limits or rusty and or corroded.

Engine:

  • Most of the English vertical twins and singles had cylinders and heads that were prone to leaking. Good clean surfaces and new bolts usually fixes this. I have all my heads and blocks machined, use all new bolts and torque very carefully from the inside to the outside to avoid warping. The alloys were not as good as they are now, thus many restorers prefer to make new castings.
  • Many expert restorers prefer to make a new crankshaft from billet steel if there is a mechanical weakness in the crankshaft. (Some early models had inherently weak crankshafts)
  • It pays to pull the oil pump out and check it for wear and ensure the gauze filter is not blocked. Many of these older motors will have been partly destroyed at some point in it's long lifetime, and aluminum particles often remain and build up to block or partially obstruct the oil pump pickup.
  • Check cam followers, cam bearings and lobes for wear. If it has exposed valve followers check them for scoring. eg Norton Dominator.

Gearbox/ clutch:

  • Many of these early machines ran a Burman gearbox in one of three types, the most common being the CP and GB models. All these gearboxes are a breeze to work on, but selector forks and selector mechanisms must be in top order to ensure clean gearchanges and to avoid false neutrals and accidentally shifting . The same went for the mono construction and rear bolt on gearboxes of Triumph and BSA, except tolerances were much closer on the gear selector forks and shafts as the gearboxes were refined.
  • In all of these early gearboxes, the biggest problem is the casings get cracked around the gearbox shaft bearing housings, and seized bearings also rip the aluminium out of the housing in the cases. This was common to all gearboxes but occurs more frequently in the lighter weight CP box.
  • Triumph and BSA unit construction gearboxes need to be pulled apart and inspected for fracture marks around the bearing supports in the gearbox case. You also need to look at the condition of the gears and selector mechanism. Many gearbox problems are caused originally by a worn gear selectors in these models.
  • Triumph Bonneville models have a habit of eating clutches, as well as hammering the crankcase main bearing supports to pieces. The earlier model 500 and 650 triumphs suffered badly from destroyed left hand crankcases because the bearing support was too small. Many triumph enthusiasts bought later model crankcases to support the crankshaft with the enlarged bearing area. We called them "cartwheel" crank cases as they had a large cartwheel area for the bearing support.

Be very careful buying early model triumph Bonnevilles!

If you are not familiar with the model, you need to pay 3 times what you would consider a fair price for a properly restored and updated Bonneville, just to ensure you buy a good one. The expensive and difficult problems to solve are only easy to pick for the few fanatical triumph experts among us.

Suspension:

  • Early suspension units as originally fitted to these bikes were often adjustable and get quite soft with age. Check to see if the rear suspension is adjusted to the hardest position. Many will be at maximum damping yet remain too soft due to wear and the spring being worn out.
  • On the road they can bottom out very easily and will need to be rebuilt unless in as new condition. Hydraulics are not as scary as you may think, but you do need the right tools to get old fork seals out without damaging the forks and to check the lower bush for wear you will need to disassemble the fork legs.
  • Rear suspension units need to be rebuilt from the original to maintain authentic looks. This can be done easily these days by cutting the unit apart if it does not unscrew and rebuilding. The unit is then welded back together with an inert gas welder.

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Comments 50 comments

diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

Not my bag, but had a glance through interesting information. No wonder we lost all the motorbike business to the Japs! I hope our new bikes are better these days, but I don't hold out much hope. Buy British has been changed to "Bye-Bye-British," I'm afraid...Bob


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks for reading Bob.

Generally speaking there was not a lot of imagination from the British products, they shared so many parts, and most of those parts were a bit sub standard at times! The new triumph is very nice to ride and massively more powerful.

Yes the English product is much better. It is almost as good as the Japanese bikes....... Almost


BRIAN SLATER profile image

BRIAN SLATER 6 years ago from Nottingham Uk

hello,earnestshub, I live very close to the old Brough Superior Factory in Nottingham where old bikes like these were made, I had a school visit around the place back in the early 60's and the thing that sticks in my mind is the smell, grease and oil, but I did sit on a very early BSA bike which i remember being very big at the time.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 6 years ago from Sparti, Greece

My friend had an old BSA - when it worked, it was a wonderful piece of engineering, years ahead of its time. Sadly, he eventually sold it because he tired of spending entire weekends trying to fix it. I seem to remember that the magneto was indeed the problem - new ones are very expensive.

Sadly, the British car and motorbike industry was packed with superb designers and engineers who created great concepts. Sadly, the accountants then proceeded to replace the original components with inferior, cheap alternatives. :(


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Hello Brian, my dad has an SS100 Brough Superior when I was a kid. It went like hell on wheels at that time and that's how he road it!

I would have loved to have seen the factory, what a magnificent motorcycle they were. In the sixties you may have been looking at an A10 BSA or similar models that were quite substantial.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Hi sufi, British Small Arms (BSA) were a proud and innovative company that went from making guns to making very good motorcycles, unfortunately all were fitted with one of only 3 magnetos on the market, two of which had faultily designed ignition points slip rings!

They also suffered from the work of the "king of darkness" Joseph Lucas who made very crook generators (prior to alternators) which meant they were doomed from the start. In the motorcycle trade everyone knows who the king of darkness is. The crap he made, made him a legend. Nice to hear from you sufi.


SomewayOuttaHere profile image

SomewayOuttaHere 6 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

good hub Earnest....loved the old pics....what a cool dude you are/were....

friends of mine are old Norton owners...sometimes I tag along to travel to a 'collectors' event'....i get a chuckle out of how they always make sure someone is travelling with us in a truck...in case someone breaks down...they love it!...always seem to be working on their bikes....i'm not mechanically inclined, so the old bikes are not for me....but i sure do like them!

Another friend likes to bring his bike by whenever he makes a change to it..no matter what the change is...just to show me....he knows i appreciate the work he does on it....i'll have to introduce him to my other Norton buds now that i think about it.....:)

Do you have any recommendations for good quality and 'nice looking' spoked wheel manufacturers...I saw some beautiful ones on a bike....and i can't remember the name and now i am searching for them on the net...for my HD


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 6 years ago from Southern Georgia

Had an old Triumph once! Spent more time working on it than riding it! Beautiful bike though! Lots of old Harleys around here, a friend has a 56 Harley with the original Maytag carburetor!

Enjoyed!

Randy


qwark profile image

qwark 6 years ago

Hi Earn.

I've owned many "bikes."

I bought a "Vincent Black Shadow" used in the '60's. It was a great bike but it'd beat me to death on long rides. It was a very "quick" little bike.

The best bike I've owned was a KZ 750 which I rode all over the USA and Canada.

I own a Honda 700 "Magna" now. Nice bike and it purrs along at 75 mph at low RPM and I find it a very comfortable bike on longer rides. I love "shaft drive."

I've put hundreds of thousands of miles on the bikes I've riden all over the US, Canada and Europe.

My first bike was a 1935 Harley Davidson vl 74 flathead. She had 19" spoke wheels.

I wish I still had all those bikes.

They are worth $ today.

Qwark


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks for the interesting comment SWOH. I'm sorry, I have no idea what spoked wheels are available currently for a Harley. I have only owned 2 Harley Davidsons in my whole life. A 750 WLA 750 and a 38 1200 flat head with reverse gear.

When I was a kid, my dad towed my '47 ford V8 home with a 750 WLA Harley. True story.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Hi Randy, Early Triumphs although lovely to ride, needed more than their share of preventative maintenance that's for sure!

The Maytag carburetors were infinitely rebuildable and although a crude device, suited the agricultural Harley motor very well.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Wow Quark. The Vincent Black Shadow would buy you a good house these days! You are one of the very fortunate to have owned a "Vinnie" Possibly among the worlds best motorcycles despite having the same faults as the rest of the bikes of it's era.

I think your current ride is a helluva lot more reliable though.


AlexK2009 profile image

AlexK2009 6 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

I am not into Motorbikes old or new except as examples of early technology but this was interesting.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks Alex! A man after my own heart I see.

I like to look at hubs outside of my personal interests too. Thanks for dropping by and leaving your comment.


daydreamer13 profile image

daydreamer13 6 years ago

Interesting!


Mark Ewbie profile image

Mark Ewbie 6 years ago from Euroland

Nice nostalgia trip for me Earnest, thanks.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks Mark. I enjoyed re-living a few moments when I wrote this. I am glad you enjoyed your little voyage in time.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

You are bringing back memories. In the late '50s and early '60s it was every young fellows' dream to own a Triumph. Only three in our small town achieved it.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Amazing! The small town I was in after I left the outback was exactly the same, except only one kid could afford to buy a Triumph.

At that time, Triumphs were considered fast and all the kids wanted one!


pgbranton profile image

pgbranton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Many thanks for this hub! I sent the link to my brother who will probably respond as well. It made me very happy to read this!

My fascination with Brit and European bikes started when I was a lad in the '60s after seeing a bike race at Mossport Park Raceway (which was named for Sterling Moss the great cross-over racer of both autos and bikes). My brother and I were very much into collecting in the early '80's and acquired a couple of nice BSAs, an Ariel and a '68 Jawa roadster which I would regularly ride to work. Nice to see the great response, too!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you pgbranton. I had a heap of respect for the Jawa in both single and twin cylinder.

Very few design faults. You will recall their chrome plating was the biggest problem with Jawas. The wheels and tank rusted while you watched!

You will also recall the BSA clutch had a weak centre pressed out of thin steel, while the Triumph and Norton were very strong clutches with a caste iron centre.

We used to build a clutch that was a combination of BSA, Triumph, Norton and Ariel and sell them as an assembly to bolt straight on to the BSA gearbox output shaft.

Memories........


Roger 6 years ago

Hey hey...Mr. Braton's bother here checking in as he predicted...Ufortunately, the years have passed faster than I'd like and my '58 Ariel is still not road-worthy. One day soon, I still hope! If anyone is inclied to venture into old bike ownership, a few key points: They are indeed SIMPLE devices, as has been stated. So restoring and workig on them is still easy enough to be pleasurable! In the case of English bikes, almost any part for any bike is going to be available, except in very rare cases. Parts prices are still within reason. Best of all, networkig with other owners will bring you lots of valuable tips...owners are usually pretty generous with their knowledge and you'll get a feeling of good commeradery (did I spell that right?). Now I have to nit-pick...the "B" in BSA stands for Birmingham and Mossport is a contraction of Motor & Sport - although it is widely believed to have been named for Stirling Moss. Kate Moss, maybe??

Now if anyone can direct me to a detailed set of directions for dismantlig some Armstrong rear units, I'd be most grateful!


Roger (again) 6 years ago

Some things I should have mentioned...

Since I'm encouraging everyone to buy the first bike-in-a-basket they find at the nearest swap meet (and that's exactly what I'm doing!), it should be stated that owning an old bike - and again, my personal experience is with old British bikes - has become a lot more practical a proposition. Since the 1980s, many system upgrades have become available to address the old woes. The first of these I became aware of was, of course, the electonic ignition upgrades. Same bike, same sound, same appearance but with modern reliability! There are conversions to hydraulic brake actuation, belt primary drive, higher capacity oil pumps...the list goes on. Most of these will bolt right on and give instant improvement to some age-old technical short-coming. But doing up an old bike this way will also add considerably to the costs over making one stock.

The plan for the 650 Cyclone project is to make it dead stock, then assess what I might want to modernize during the first riding season.

In fact, kids...here's the whole process in one simple paragraph!:

Aquire your project bike. Brand and condition are immaterial at this point; it's NOW YOURS and you're gonna bring it back to life!

Establish your work space. Best to keep this a dedicated area, at least until the thing is back in one piece again. Buy a model-specific manual and any other related material to help walk you through the mechanics. Nickelson Bros. published a great workshop bible for bike owners that's probably still widely available (at least here in Canada!) Take the bike apart down to the last nut & bolt. Create some sort of system to keep track of what came from where. Small, properly labelled containers of some sort. In this age of digital photography, this task can be readily documented for future reference - something we didn't have back in the day! Wash the years of gunk off EVERY part. Familiarize yourself with the various methods of dealing with rust. Sometimes just using wet/dry sandpaper with some WD40 will clean up a part like new! I also bought one of those flap wheel metal polishing kits. Highly recommended! Decide what's salvageable and start your list of what you need to replace but do try to use any of the original parts that can be saved! Some will argue but I believe you can get an acceptable quality of paint finish YOURSELF. (light coats, wet-sanding in between and finally buffing with compound. Easy) Order your parts as your budget allows and install on bike as they arrive.

When complete, add oil & gas and enjoy.

Also...look what an arse I am. I lambasted my own brother for his Mosport comment (see above), then spelled it wrong myself. Duh!


barryrutherford profile image

barryrutherford 6 years ago from Queensland Australia

THis hub brought back memories of me living in West Yorkshire around 1969. I used to polish a BSA 650 for Stan who was a close neigbor. It had lots of chrome which meticulously polished with Solvol Autosol. I used to get 10 bob for the job which did every week for a year so while i was there.


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 6 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

I am quite an admirer of old English motorcycles. Far out photos you posted here, and great info. My husband and I are hoping that one day we'll get at least one. Enjoyed this much earnestshub!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Hi Roger! Nice informative comment. You are right about BSA of course and I have edited accordingly.

I agree, you can buy a decent oil pump and electronic ignition (I made my first one in 1968)is a blessing.

If you want to keep the original mag-dyno it can be sorted though. As you said parts are available for most of these old bikes.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Nice memories no doubt Barry. Some of the BSA 650s had a lot of chrome. Very nice looking bikes.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks Frieda! I know you will get heaps of pleasure from an early bike (or two) They are great fun to restore and ride.


Roger 6 years ago

Glad it was read-worthy, Earnest! Of course, my over-simplification of the restoration process was tongue-in-cheek. But there really isn't too much more to it than that! Compared to doing a major rebuild on an old car, especially. A small, 150lb. guy like me can heft an iron head parallel twin engine onto the work bench. Not so a V8! And besides being the best toy you'll ever have, an old bike can change you in a positive way. I type this with a straight face now! You'll end up more resourceful after living with an old motorcycle, able to keep a cool head when others panic over the little annoyances that make up our modern lives. Kind of zen-like, really! (not to make any reference to that popular book...)


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Well said Roger! I quite liked that book by the way! I think the main ingredient in restorations is to go slow and do one thing at a time. Easier to gather any required special knowledge that way, one job at a time.


Big Brother profile image

Big Brother 6 years ago from Earth

EXCELLENT HUB. I own a new Triumph / tiger and i'm satisfied with this bike. I had before german bikes (BMW-GS-RT-K-etc) and i can say this with confidence... Viva for ever English motorbikes!!!

I'm fun of Triumph...

Take care and glad to be your fun


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Hello BB.

I'm pleased to know you are happy with the Triumph.

They always were special to ride. I had a ride on a late model triumph last year and may even write about it.


boblet42 6 years ago from Widnes England

I had the privilige to own a Norton Inter,I also owned a Royal Enfield model G, Qwark in his comment says the Vincent was a little bike, I dont think they made a little bike, I think the Comet or Rapide was the smallest at 500cc but the Shadow was a 1,000cc v twin, certainly not small. my Inter was a 500cc, I can smell the Castrol R now, Happy Days


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Nice observations boblet42.

Most of the Nortons were great to ride, with a smooth clutch and light gearchanges on all those I can recall.

I had a very nice Dominator for a while, and also a Commander. I also sold many Nortons from my business the oldest being an early Manx.

The Vincent was huge, but he may be comparing it to one of those American agricultural devices that weigh as much as a 3 bedroom house!


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

Oh what a wonderful Hub to be introduced to. My very first bike was a 250cc BSA Superflame. I modified it a little with suicide handlebars and added some more chrome. That little bike was so reliable and the great times I had with it driving all over the island of Montreal Quebec Canada was devine.

I then moved up to a 650 Triumph bonnevilee and that gave me more speed and comfort..until I crashed broadsiding an automobile and putting myself in the hospital for a couple of weeks and totally destroyed the bike...stopped driving for many years after that...moved up to automobiles:0) but I still look back and remember the great rides I had with friends and girlfriends...loved the leather...Peace my firend.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Great comment saddlerider, BSA made many models, and I have never heard of a Superflame, so I guess it was a local brand in the USA that we did not get here.

I bet I would know it by it's engine number though!

Sorry to here about your argument with a "tin top" (local bikie slang for an automobile.)

The Bonneville was an awesome machine in it's day, and worth a fortune nowadays!


Roger 6 years ago

Earnest,

If you liked Zen and the Art...The guy who edits the automotive section of the Toronto Star newspaper re-traced Robert Pirsig's journey on his small, 80s vintage Suzuki and wrote his own book about it. It's a good read too, called Zen and Now. He meets a lot of the people

from the original book along the way.

Frieda,

If it is indeed two bikes you & your husband are thinking about (a great idea!), I think you'll find a British bike will be well-suited to your stature. (I'm assuming you're somewhere under six feet!) The motorcycle industry seemed to forget everyone ISN'T tall or long of inseem. The English manufacturers did, of course, offer lots of singles. And some of these are very capable bikes. You'll find them light and narrow and generally with a lower seat height. Even the twins are nice and narrow and with an average weight of around 400lbs. Yes, that's heavy if you have to pick it up but relatively light as bike weights go. Triumph and BSA started using their "oil-in-frame" designs in the early 70s and these bikes have a taller frame, hence a higher seat height.

Rent a copy of My Own Private Idaho and see how Keanu tosses around that beautiful Norton Fastback Commando like it's a toy. This is a potent 750 and you can see what a managable size it is! Also worth considering are the old Ducati singles. Lovely bikes, though obviously not English!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Roger, I will read that!

I reckon a single is a good first choice for a beginner restorer. Something like a DB33 BSA 500 single, or even a DBD34 Gold Star. A bit simpler to work on than many, and most of the design faults are associated with the "King of darkness" Joseph Lucas, so in that way, they are all in the same boat.


Roger 6 years ago

My BSA is a humble 250 C15. But make no mistake, this is a "real" motorcycle! For most of my riding, it's ideal but I admit, it's no good for any kind of highway use. Brilliant little commuter bike though. Good handler, will even faithfully pull two people along with only a slight loss of performance. Great, smooth shifting gearbox. Only obvious fault is a terrible charging system but I'll get 'round to upgrading it some day. Nice looking ride, with decidedly vintage full fenders and a "big bike" sound. No cache at all, like a Goldie but possibly a good choice as a beginner bike. Can probably still pick one up for a few hundred bucks too!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Roger, we had a few C15 BSA 250s in Australia and if I recall correctly it was a "unit construction" motor and gearbox?? As you say, a nice little commuter. I used a C11 to run from my parent's home to the City on the weekends, a highway trip of 2 hours. If I left too late to come home I would be at the mercy of the Lucas electrics, and it was a bit 50/50 as to having any lights or not. I was 17 and did not mind leaving the lights off as long as possible in the hope of saving the generator for the next weekend trip. I loved the little motor though! It was much better to ride than the 750 WLA Harley Davidson that replaced it too, as it had rear suspension.

I like the idea of getting a Goldie, but if I were you I would also keep the C15.


KKalmes profile image

KKalmes 5 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

Hello EH, brings back memories (not necessarily good ones) when my ex and I had a recreational business in Illinois suburbs we were importing Neval motorcycles with Ural sidecars for a few years back in the early 80's. My sister tried to keep the franchise going long after we gave up on it with an attic full of spare parts and the occasional import of cycle and sidecar.

I think I have lived many lives and you just resurrected one of them... interesting to relive (for a short while) thanx...

http://www.cossackownersclub.co.uk/library/pdf_fil...


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Hi KKalmes, nice to meet you. Would these be the 650 horizontal twin cpied from the "Imperial" or BMW R65? We had Ural motorcycles in Australia as well.

Thanks for dropping in, I will take a look at your link.


billrobinson profile image

billrobinson 5 years ago from CA, USA

A lot of hubs have the same topics but this is a good one. Thanks for sharing.


Roger 5 years ago

Yes, the C15 has a unit construction mill. Very tidy little package, that. Had the odd timing tower with the points at the top. Same here with the lights! Many a night I'd ride home on the "emergency" ignition setting that just allowed a spark (a week one!) but no lighting. If there was a full moon, I didn't miss that feeble 6 volt headlight anyway! Yes, I still have that little single with no plans to get rid of it. Incredibly, the C15 was very competetive in off road events, in trials trim.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks for the run down on your "Beeza" Roger. I seem to recall that the C15 was very competitive and popular in Australia as a competition dirt bike as well. I'm pleased you are keeping it, they are a good looking machine too.


PETER LUMETTA profile image

PETER LUMETTA 5 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

I love British bikes. Had many and worked on hundreds of them. I've had them all and loved each like a child. One of my favrites was a 650 single Panther. Enjoyed every word and photo. Thanks Peter


Tony Pitcher 5 years ago

My best bike was a 500cc AJS spring twin that I got straight from the factory in 1953. Have also had Triumph Thunderbird, Royal Enfield, BSA, Norton, just love old English bikes, nothing can touch them.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Peter, I would love it if you wrote about some of the machinery you have worked on. I have worked on a few myself. I has a Panther "Sloper" In Australia it was a bit hot for the old girl in the summer. I had the oil boiling once when waiting for a traffic light to change. I loved it! Massive torque!


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earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Tony, I had a few of the series, including a G80 Matchless. There is one in a photo in this hub.

The Thunderbird was amazing, I wish I had one.


Bob Rose 4 years ago

i road and raced an 88 Dominator, a Black Shadow a Bonneville and a hot Super Rocket, i had a D10 trials Bantam and never had problems with Lucas or Wipac magnetos or lighting sets , mind you we are a hot dryish country with no drizzle.

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