One of the most iconic British motorcycle brands in the world, BSA was originally formed in 1861 by a group of gun makers to supply weapons to the British government during the Crimean War. In fact, BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) is the more commonly known name for the company, which is the British Birmingham Small Arms Co.
As the Crimean War declined, the company began branching out into making bicycles, and by 1903 produced its first experimental motorcycle, along with automobiles. BSA motorcycles were initially sold as affordable bikes, with reasonable performance for the average user. The BSA brand stressed the reliability of their machines, the availability of spares, and dealer support.
BSA motorcycles were a mix of sidevalve and OHV engines offering different performance for different roles. For example, if the bike was purposed to haul a side car, it may have a more powerful engine than one without this addition.
BSA bikes were intended for commuting above all else, when they first came out, and were often compared to Norton motorcycles. Post-war, a few riders began entering races such as the TT races with their BSA’s. They started off making a slow appearance into these races, but by 1952 BSA was in the majority.
By 1956, the makeup was 53 BSA bikes to every 1 Norton and 1 Velocette! Due to their successful introduction into racing and in order to improve U.S. sales, BSA began entering here in the U.S., starting by entering a team of riders into the 200 mile Daytona Beach race with a mixture of single cylinder Gold Stars and twin cylinder Shooting Stars assembled by Roland Pike.
Motocross became such a success for the BSA factory with Jeff Smith riding a B40 that they were able to capture the 1964 and 1965 FIM 500 cc Motocross World Championships. This would be the last year the title would be won by a four-stroke machine until the mid-1990’s.
The BSA brand was most definitely one of the most iconic brands there were. Even today, BSA’s continue to be viewed as both competitive vintage racers and, along with other British brands such as Triumph, staples of the modern café racer culture.
No matter what type of classic or vintage motorcycle you own, we can insure it at Condon Skelly. Your vehicle will fall into the antique category if it is completely original and at least 25 years old. We insure many different types of antique cars, trucks, and motorcycles so we’ll be able to craft the perfect policy for your vehicle. Please contact us at (866) 291-5694 for more information today!