’68 BSA 441 Victor
Depending on who you talk to and their experience with the big BSA single, this motorcycle was either known as the Victor or, more often than not, the BSA Victim. For a short period of time, about six months, a BSA 441 lived in our garage. My step dad lived and breathed English motorcycles, it didn’t matter if it was in perfect shape, running but ratty, a good restoration project, or a box of parts that some of them said made in England, if it had two wheels and was made in Britain, it found a home with him. At one point it got so bad that we took over the carport at my Grandmother’s house. You should have seen the look on her face when she came home from a weekend away only to find her backyard full of motorcycles and a group of guys building walls around her carport…hey, she never used the carport for anything but piling up junk, we just changed out the junk. That is where the BSA 441 Victim spent its last days in our keep.
We acquired this particular BSA from a friend of a friend of a friend in trade for a seized up Greeves dirtbike, we thought we got the better of the deal. The 441 was complete? It just needed tires, the seat fixed, a headlight, handlebars, compression release lever (vital on the 441!!), kick start lever and foot pegs…”this is gonna be easy” says Michael. Sure enough, within a week or two we had all the parts, the bike was stripped down for cleaning and we had high hopes for this BSA. Every evening after work and school Michael and I could be found out in the garage making this motorcycle road ready.
At the end of just one short month a very nice looking and finally complete BSA 441 Victor rolled out of the garage and into the light of day. The driveway was full other English bike nuts ( Michael’s friends), all with celebratory beers in hand ready to toast the lighting off of the beast. Michael’s best friend and self proclaimed expert on BSA singles, Stanley, was giving the instructions on ‘the drill’. The ‘drill’ is how to start a BSA 441…turn the motor over to just past TDC, pull in the compression release, give a mighty kick and it’ll fire right up…or toss you over the handlebars when it kicks back! Two good sized men found themselves on the ground with the BSA standing there rather defiantly. Everybody took their turn to no avail, the 441 sat there quietly. The first round of beers were drunk, we all needed it, and the BSA still stood there. After everybody got bored and left, we tried one more time…did the drill, planted a motocross boot on the kickstarter, slammed the lever down and…BOOM!! Hey…it runs!!! We kept blipping the throttle to keep it running because we didn’t trust it to start again. Michael took off down the street, wheelied it in second gear and disappeared around the corner. I could hear that bike blocks away. As the sound faded, I headed back into the garage for another beer and waited for my turn to ride the Victor.
Twenty minutes later I see a guy wearing one tennis shoe and one motocross boot walking up the street. Put the old 2×10 ramp and some rope in the back of the truck and go get the bike. Yeah, we tried to start it a couple of times before loading it in the back but it just sat there laughing at us. We eventually got the hang of starting the 441, for fun we started putting empty beer cans up on the wall for each time one of us got pitched by the bike. I actually rode the bike quite a bit, in a relative term sort of way, and I have to tell you, I was not impressed. Yeah, it was fast and it sounded really great but, push it hard and the bike was not happy. This thing flexed more than a guy looking at himself in a mirror at the gym, the suspension was weaker Coors beer and the electrical system is the stuff of bad dreams. The BSA 441 Victor may have won two world motocross championships, but the production version is nothing like that championship bike. However…when it started, when the electrical system was working and you weren’t trying to win a motocross (or even trying to go fast on a trail), the 441 was a neat bike to ride. Within its limits, it really was a good motorcycle. The BSA also had a very high cool factor, those that knew about the bike and it’s difficulties admired you for riding it…instead of a cool factor I should say it had a macho factor.
BSA 441’s have found themselves a bit of a cult following and therefore a nice one can command a decent price. I found a really clean one this morning on ebay. It’s a 1968 model with only 4516 miles. It looks to have been well cared for and is ready to ride right now. The owner doesn’t give a whole of info but you can always contact him to learn more. Would I want to own another 441 Victor? No. Would I like to ride someone else’s? Absolutely. Like I said, within its limit’s the Victor is a fun motorcycle. One more thing about the 441 Victor…it WILL make an awesome cafe racer!! Click on the pic’s to see more of this really nice BSA.