During the 51 years of its existence the Birmingham Small Arms Company has had to face and overcome many difficulties and has formed a close acquaintance with mighty national and international problems in its dealings with Governments. Its progress, from its inception by a combination of a few individual gunmakers to its present world-renowned position, has been marked by a continuity of sound principles with the happy direction of far-sighted, broad-minded and progressive business men. And well it has been so. For all those problems and difficulties of the past faded into mere nothingness before the appalling situation disclosed on that memorable day in August 1914, when war was declared between England and Germany.
– Munitions of War: A Record of the Work of the BSA Company During the Great War
BSA was the world’s leading supplier of military bicycles. Prior to 1910, bicycles were supplied as fittings only, to be assembled locally. With international orders, this avoided import tax. Australia, for example, published guidelines as to how rough the imported parts must be in order to qualify for import tax exemption. The Australian bicycle and motorcycle industry was founded on BSA Fittings, so BSA parts were the most common to be found in Australian bicycles. When war was declared, BSA bicycles were supplied to Australian soldiers by the British government. You can see a typical example in the photo below.
1915 BSA Territorial
with Military Fittings
Eadie Coaster Brake
BSA bicycles were supplied worldwide before, during and after the Great War, both as military and civilian versions. Some territorial cyclist battalions placed bulk orders with individual manufacturers; in others, cyclists supplied their own bicycles. It often depended on whether they would be posted overseas.
As well as the standard military models, officers also placed individual orders with the company if they wished for extra specifications above the standard issue. Hire purchase was available for officers upon enlistment. This BSA Roadster with coaster brake, War Office 2nd Pattern style rifle clips and Territorial fittings is a typical Cycle Volunteer Corps machine.
The bicycle is cosmetically unrestored and has been well used in its lifetime. The paintwork is faded but the head transfer is intact. It is fitted with interesting BSA handlebar grips, bell, frame bag, inflator pump, rear carrier rack and BSA pattern pedals. I rubbed down the headset and photographed the BSA Stacked Rifles logo there. The Brooks saddle is weathered but usable. This machine is ready to display and ride.
1914 BSA CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
ON WAR SERVICE:
This BSA Roadster has been designed as a souvenir to commemorate the recognition of the bicycle and motor bicycle as necessities in modern warfare with special reference to the wonderful achievements of BSA in the Great War.