NATIONAL CYCLISTS UNION ROAD TEST, 1902
New Designs & Devices: The B.S.A. Spring Frame.
The roads, in many parts being in the condition of frozen and muddy ruts, afforded the most favourable opportunity for extreme trial and testing quite thoroughly the new design of spring frame made by the B.S.A.Co.
The springs affecting the rider are actuated by means of a telescoping arrangement, and are contained in the two back seat stays below the seat pillar lug. These springs are made of strengths to correspond with the weight of the actual rider, and no doubt much importance should be attached to this point in order to obtain the very best results. To allow for this telescoping arrangement of the back seat stays, a telescoping immediately in front of the saddle of the horizontal top tube is provided, which latter is hinged at the forward end, and seat pillar lugs are also hinged at the brackets of the front down tube and seat tube, so that vertically the whole frame is flexible, except that part of it to which the driving power is applied. All this is successfully carried out, the object of counteracting vibration being fully attained, and the rider who desires the utmost lightness without the incidental vibration – a concomitant of small, lightweight rims, tyres and saddle – will find, when riding the new B.S.A. Spring Frame, that he is as comfortably, or even luxuriously, seated as if he were on a weightier framed machine with one-and-three-quarter inch tyres, and a coiled saddle.
The ‘raison d’être’ of what, at first glance, appears to be elaborating an expensive design to eliminate vibration as much as possible, will be more readily understood when one realises that to reduce weight, especially at the wheel peripheries, which means vibration is an ever present makers aim at solving, so that the B.S.A. are to be congratulated in at least having made a move in the direction of- without adding to the weight of the frame – Securing less weight at the peripheries and immunity from effects of vibration. To sum up, one has but to be reminded of the sensation felt after a long railway journey to understand what vibration means, and, though lest able to realise it, that it is a well proved fact that for ease of propulsion, one ounce of weight at the periphery is equal to sixteen ounces on any other part of a machine carried on it.
Since my notes on spring frame bicycles, I have had the opportunity of trying the B.S.A. speciality. It is a very comfortable and easy running mount, and by reason of its special construction no power is wasted in the drive. The B.S.A. is the lightest of the spring frames. The makers state the weight to be 28lbs., I found it to be three-quarters of a pound heavier. This weight is for a machine complete with mudguards and two brakes. I may, however, add that 26 inch wheels are fitted, and these help towards the reduced weight. The benefit of the reduced vibration is chiefly experienced from the saddle , comparatively little from the handlebar. The rear portion of the machine is practically isolated from shocks of an uneven road, but the construction does little towards removing the vibrations from the riders hands and arms. The reason for this is that there is no spring in the front fork, it is rigid, as in an ordinary machine. Consequently most of the vibration from the front wheel is transmitted to the riders hands and arms as usual.
I admit that the vibration is lessened somewhat by the telescoping actions of the top tube between head and seat pillar, but the vibration has to pass the handlebar first. If a spring fork was fitted the vibration would be largely absorbed before reaching the handlebar, and in my opinion the machine would thereby be improved for its purpose.
The BSA Spring Frame was received with much acclaim at its launch in 1900. Of all the bicycles featuring springing in its frame or forks, the BSA Spring Frame was by far the most successful.
The BSA spring frame also seemed ideal for mounting an engine. The 1904 example pictured below, fitted with a 1903 Minerva engine, is a typical early motorcycle assembled in Australia. The high quality of BSA fittings and, even more important, their consistent high quality, allowed frame builders to sell BSA Fittings Machines as their own. This was a perfect arrangement for a country such as Australia.
A Fittings Spring Frame Machine would be imported in parts; engines would be imported in the same way. They would then be assembled by a local company and sold under that company’s own name. This arrangement actually started off Australia’s motorcycle industry.
Of course, BSA Spring Frame bicycles were also popular machines without engines fitted. When Francis Birtles set off across Australia on his famous cycle journey, it was a BSA Spring Frame that he selected for the journey.
1903 BSA Gents’ Spring Frame
BSA Patent Back-pedal brake
The Spring Frame is the rarest and most sought-after BSA model of the twentieth century. Normally, the company supplied fittings rather than complete machines; a frame builder could buy all the components required to build a BSA Fittings Machine himself. However, the Spring Frame was sold including the frame, for a trade purchaser to assemble to their customer’s requirements. Exported spring frames were sold totally in component form, in order to avoid import tariffs in the destination countries.
This example, featuring BSA’s patent backpedal brake, is in sound condition all-round. There is some play in the pivot bushes, and one of the original handlebar grips is damaged, but still usable. It has been recently fitted with tyres and tubes and is ready to ride.
As you can see in the photos below, the BSA ‘three rifles’ logo can be seen on components all around the bicycle.
THE 1899 PATENT BSA BACK-PEDAL BRAKE
FRANCIS BIRTLES’ BSA SPRING FRAME BICYCLE
On 26 December 1905, Birtles left Fremantle, Western Australia to cycle to Melbourne, an achievement which attracted widespread attention as it was the first west to east bicycle crossing of the country. After a short stretch as a lithographic artist, in 1907-08, he cycled to Sydney and then, via Brisbane, Normanton, Darwin, Alice Springs and Adelaide back to Sydney, where he based himself.
In 1909 he published the story of his feat, ‘Lonely Lands’, which he illustrated with his own photographs. That year he also set a new cycling record for the Fremantle to Sydney continental crossing. In 1910-11 rode around Australia. In 1911 he was accompanied from Sydney to Darwin by R. Primmer, cameraman for the Gaunt Company: the resulting film ‘Across Australia’ was released the following year. Birtles had continued on to Broome and Perth, then broke his previous records by riding from Fremantle to Sydney in thirty-one days. By 1912 he had cycled around Australia twice and had crossed the continent seven times.