1969 BSA 441 Victor
There is something about a single cylinder motorcycle that just brings the true essence of motorcycling out. It is a simple machine, especially if it is a kickstart only model. Singles are a motorcycle that you actually ‘feel’, they haven’t been built to sewing machine smoothness that separate you from its soul. A single doesn’t have a high RPM whine, it has a bark!
Pushing a button on the handlebar while you finish your latte’ doesn’t come close to finishing your basic black coffee in a heavy, white diner style mug then throwing a leg over your motorbike, swing the kickstart lever out, slowly rotate the lever until the piston comes up to TDC, then…one strong swift kick on the lever and the bike wakes up with a bark…and so do your neighbors.
British singles generally define what a single is. It is a bit cobby, it is powerful and it is a pain in the ass to start…until you learn the secret handshake. Over the years more races have won on British singles than any other motorcycle (that is a statement that I cannot verify, but I think is probably quite true). British singles ruled off-road racing up into the 1970’s when the Japanese and European two strokes took over. British singles ruled road racing as well from the beginning of the century until the 1960’s.
The BSA singles are actually a development of the original Edward Turner designed 150cc Triumph Terrier, which soon later became the 200cc Triumph Cub, a great selling, solid reliable little motorcycle. I imagine that more than one great British racer cut his teeth on a Cub. In 1958 BSA brought the C15 250cc then bumped it up to 343cc. The C15 Scrambler was the basis for the bike that Jeff Smith eventually won two 500cc World Championships on in 1964 and 1965 (at that time it been bumped up again to 441cc).
The BSA single did have its flaws as it grew but by 1969 BSA had sorted out most of them. Early problems with lower end bearings and the transmission/clutch and electronics (even though they were still Lucas..aka the ‘Price of Darkness) were somewhat solved. The ignition went to a battery and coil system, which was blasphemy to purists but much better for everyday riders, and the compression ratio was lowered to take the strain off the bearings and make the bike easier to start. again, all to make the bike a better bike for the general public.
I have owned a BSA single (a C15), ridden quite a few Gold Stars (my absolute favorite) and my good friend Tad still rides his B50 (quasi) Cafe Racer on a regular basis. BSA singles, to me, are the epitome of the British motorcycle industry through the ‘Golden Age’.
I found a ‘diamond in the rough’ BSA single on ebay today that with a bit of love could be a true treasure. This 1969 B44 Victor has been sitting for decades and it shows. But…that is not necessarily a bad thing. The seat is way wrong and the gas tank seems to be from maybe a Triumph Trident? Wherever it came from, I think it’s wrong, but it may work if you get the right seat. The seller says it kicks through with good compression and most all the parts are there. This would be a great winter project that will provide huge riding rewards come spring time.
Singles are without a doubt the most fun motorcycles to ride. A single is light, narrow and they almost know where to go before you do. A single has a soul that was born before your great, great grand daddy. This one I found on ebay may not be perfect today, but it can be without too much investment of time or money. Just make sure you paint it properly (it’s pretty damn ugly right now).
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