BSA Sloper: Beauty of the grand dame

POSTED BY Dinesh Appavu ON 23 July 2013


An old marquee from a factory in Small Heath with A “3 Rifles” logo was first installed in 1875 to advertise the plant producing weapons and later in 1902 into a bicycle making venture.

It also started building motorised bicycles in 1904 before it started to expand and diversify its business into motorcycle manufacturing in 1910.

We are talking about a motorcycles manufacturing company named as Birmingham Small Arms or more famously known as BSA.

During World War One (WW1), BSA stopped the production of motorcycles and concentrate back on producing weapons for the war. After the war, it resumed production of bicycles and motorcycles and with the help of Harold Briggs, formerly an engineer from Daimler.

Among others, Briggse designed a new “sporty” bike and it was named as model Sloper. The name was such because of the “sporty” forward inclined engine which reduced the centre of gravity, with less vibration and helped in better road handling and responses.

This extremely rare and featured 1927 grand dame BSA Sloper model S27 was owned by Chan Kwan Yen from Subang, Selangor.

He acquired this rare beauty a few years ago in Kuala Lumpur for a princely sum. Although it was a running bike, he bought new parts locally and from overseas, and with the help from a master restorer, Vincent Kong, this bike went through a complete restoration process.

It came standard with a two-gallon tank on a triangular duplex frame and fitted with a 80 x 98mm configuration single cylinder 493cc overhead valves (OHV) air cooled engine that partly contributed to the mass dry weight of 300lb for this grand dame beauty, with cast iron cylinder and head with light alloy push rods powered by 3-speed hand change gearing through the constant mesh gearbox fitted. Stopping power was engineered by the seven-inch front and rear drum brakes.

Neither speedometer nor electrical lighted head lamp was fitted as it was in the post WW1 machines then. Original lighting was by a carbide powered headlamp but due to the scarcity to source for carbide and being an environmental friendly person, Chan decided to fit in an electrical headlamp inside the original carbide head lamp to retain its authenticity.

Instead of a speedometer, a bronze compass which was a standard item for this Sloper was fitted in its place for guidance of direction. Claimed power of no less than 25bhp @ 5,250rpm made it a quite powerful machine from its era. In the 1930s, every one in four bikes on the road in the United Kingdom was a BSA.

To start up this beauty, firstly one has to tickle the Amal pre-Monoblock Type Six carburetor, then either retard or advance the factory fitted Lucas magneto which is located behind the cylinder. Then pull the de-compressor lever to adjust the piston compression before kicking the kick starter to turn the massive steel flywheel.

Once this big thumper was kicked to life, it emitted a subdued sweet and slow monotonous thumping sound from its 2-inch exhaust to the fishtail silencer. Even with its exposed valve spring, which was in constant touch with the cam profiles, it was an exceptionally quiet engine

When we rode this grand dame into the horizon, the 3-speed gearbox attached to the final chain drive could still provide a top speed of around 70 to 75mph (110 to 121km/h).

The vintage front girder fork suspension was working well as it absorbed all the bumps and humps on the road during the test ride. Coupled with the low riding position of only 24 inches from the ground, it was easy to ride the bike with a low saddle seat, and we could fling the Sloper into bends or corners with full confidence.

With power at our fingertips, it was never a boring bike to ride.

Perhaps Chan can consider installing a gun saddle in front to emulate the famous 3 Rifles BSA marquee.

It was definitely a show stealer whenever it made an appearance a classic bikes event and Chan would definitely bring home either first placing or best in its category prizes for his mint conditioned beauty.

In 2009, it made its first public appearance at the Melaka International Classic Bikes Fest and took home the Best BSA Category top prizes.

Last year, Chan decided to ride this vintage piece to the inaugural All Bikes Concours 2012 (ABC) in conjunction with the New Straits Times-Maybank COTY2U Autoshow and bagged the first prize in the Classic Continental Category.

For those classic bikes buffs and enthusiasts who wantd to have a first hand look at this grand dame, Chan is slated to showcase this bike at this All Bikes Concours (ABC) in conjunction with the 2013 New Straits Times Autoshow to be held on Oct 5 at the Matrade Convention and Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

This concours event is expected to see participation from all other makes and models of bikes for different categories as set out by the organiser of ABC 2013.

Tentatively, the categories are divided into Classic Continental, Classic Japanese, Retro Bikes below 500cc, Retro, Superbikes, Tourer, Cruisers, Easyriders etc above 500cc, Customs and Cafe Racers and Americana (this new category is expected to bring in scores of Harley-Davidsons and Indians as well).

For more information, visit www.allbikesconcours.com

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