After many years of supplying top quality fittings worldwide so that local builders could make their own machines, BSA started making complete bicycles in 1910. The point of BSA ‘Fittings Machines’ was that they could be tailored to a customer’s individual needs and that the fittings were half the price of a ready-built machine. But such was the demand for the company’s top quality products that more than enough customers were content to buy a BSA bicycle at full price.
Compare the 1910 illustration of the BSA assembled from ‘A’ Pattern Road Racer Fittings, above, with BSA’s Road Racer below, sold as a complete machine. The only difference would appear to the the transfers (decals) and BSA’s style of box lining.
It’s impossible to date BSA bicycles from this era with accuracy; Fittings Machines are even more problematic, though this style of chainwheel was introduced in 1908. BSA frame numbers are not consecutive, and no records are held (apparently destroyed in German bombing during WW2). 1910 is my best estimate. If the example featured here was BSA’s own machine, fitted with an Eadie Coaster, it would be Road Racer ‘Model 5A.’
1910 BSA Road Racer built from ‘A’ Pattern Fittings
24″ Sloping Top-Tube Frame
Standover Height 33″ drops to 32″
26 x 1 3/8″ Wooden Rims
Nickel 21″ Wide Handlebars
BSA Front Rim Brake with Short Pull-up Lever
Eadie Coaster Rear Brake (1898 patent)
This BSA Road Racer is in excellent condition all round. The wooden rims are superb. The nickel 21″ wide handlebars are unusual. All bright parts are nickel (i.e. hubs, handlebars, chainwheel, pedals) except for a later (1920s) front brake; it works very well, so I’ve left it on the bike. It has recently been fitted with new tyres. The Brooks saddle is an early style though I’m not sure of its age. All other parts are correct for 1910. It’s ready to ride.
The East London Rubber Co was just one of dozens of British companies that took advantage of their existing distribution network (in this case, for selling tyres) to offer complete bicycles built from BSA Fittings. This was primarily a mail order business. Their sale prices were halfway between buying a frame plus BSA fittings from a local shop (around £5), and BSA’s own ready-built machine (around £10). Below is a photo of a New Zealand shop selling BSA Fittings.
The bike at the top of the shop picture, on the right, has the first pattern BSA Chainwheel (‘Y Pattern’), manufactured between 1899 and 1903. The BSA Fittings bicycle in the front left of the picture is most similar to the machine featured here. It appears to have the shop’s own head badge fitted. Here’s a close up…