Essential Buyer’s Guide BSA 350, 441 & 500 Singles
For most of us, spending some substantial amount of our bank account on a classic British motorcycle is something of a leap of faith, a big gamble, and a labor of love all rolled into one. This is particularly true if the bike in question “needs some work.”
Unless you’ve really done your homework, knowing exactly what you’re getting for your money can be a mystery. Unfortunately, it can also end up being a very expensive and unsatisfactory mystery if you discover some things you should have known before the sale after the sale. Rare is the money-back guarantee in such transactions.
Adding to the peril of entering that market is the fact that each British motorcycle manufacturer had its own unique way of building bikes that made them very different from what you may be accustomed to if you are familiar with Japanese, American or Euro bikes.
From the mechanical and electrical operating systems to the system of numbering the bikes they manufactured, there are things about the various British marques that can take some getting used to, but more important, can impact on the value of the bike.
Birmingham Small Arms, known in the motorcycle world as BSA, is one of the British bike brands that many riders and collectors seek. Unfortunately, BSA ceased to exist as a motorcycle manufacturer in 1973. On the one hand, that would seem to add to the brand’s value from a collector’s point of view as the bikes gradually become rarer; on the other, it can pose problems for potential owners and restorers.
Up until now, finding technical resources on BSA motorcycles that covered the specifics of what to look for and what to look out for when buying one and to help decide what to do with it once purchased was not an easy thing to do. Now, there is such a resource in a single book by Peter Henshaw. The Essential Buyer’s Guide BSA 350, 441 & 500 Singles is written from an expert buyer’s point of view because Henshaw has extensive expertise where British motorcycles are concerned and he is the author of eleven such motorcycle buyer’s guides for Veloce Publishing.
You can get a taste of one of Henshaw’s other buyer’s guides in our review of The Essential Buyer’s Guide Triumph 350 & 500 Unit Twins.
The focus of this guide is on the BSA unit construction single cylinder C15, B25, C25, B40, B44 and B50 models built between 1958 and 1973.
Henshaw both demystifies the qualities of these bikes and forewarns of the quandaries of these bikes to allow a potential BSA buyer to make informed decisions on the investment. He gets right down to business in the first short chapter by asking you to ask yourself whether an old BSA single really is right for you. He minces no words about the reality of the bikes in terms of higher maintenance requirements, rather limited collector investment potential, weak clutches, high vibration, modest performance and only fair brakes.
Assuming you get past chapter one without abandoning all hope of owning a BSA single, he walks you through how to evaluate the value of the bike and potential costs for repair and restoration.
The book provides handy tools for pre-purchase inspection, guidance on what to look for in potential trouble areas of the bike options for locating and purchasing, the harsh realities of a frame up restoration and resources for new and potential owners to tap for help and information.
In the final chapter called “Vital Statistics” Henshaw provides a quick guide to engine, transmission, brakes, electrical, and weight specifications by model as well as tables of engine and frame numbers by model and year.
If you’ve thought it over very carefully and you still must have that classic BSA single cylinder powered bike, then this is a book you really ought to get first.
- Title: The Essential Buyer’s Guide BSA 350, 441 & 500 Singles
- Author: Peter Henshaw
- Published: 2015 Paperback. 64 pages. Measures 5.5” x 7.75.”
- Publisher: Veloce Publishing, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR, England
- ISBN: 978-1-845847-56-2 MSRP: U.S. $25.00 U.K. £12.99 CAN $27.95