Street Legal

Two weeks ago, I rode the BSA up to get it inspected. In total I’ve probably put about 60 mile on it since then.

To get the bike street legal, following electrical repairs were  done:

  • Replaced the universal brake light switch with an Emgo clone of the OEM switch.
  • Replaced the horn.
  • Replaced the handlebar electrical controls for high/low beam and horn.
  • Several new bulbs.

Additionally, these repairs were done:

  • Repainted the hubs
  • Polished the spokes & rims
  • Replaced both tires with new Kenda K70 clones.
  • Installed a mirror


There was a strange bit of plumbing that made no sense. Barb connectors had been added to the intake rocker cover and primary cover. A hose ran directly between these connectors. According the britbike forum, this served no useful purpose. Sometimes venting is added to the rocker box and/or crankcase to help prevent leaks. It makes no sense to pressurize the primary by venting the rocker box into it. I removed the single hose and replaced it with two short sections of hose to vent both parts of the engine.

Gas Tank Liner

The fiberglass tank had a liner in it when I purchased the bike. It was flaking around the filler and I didn’t trust it to protect the fiberglass from modern ethanol laced gas. After the tank set for a few weeks with race gas, I noticed the liner was peeling away from the sides of the tank.  The entire liner came out when I pulled on it.

It’s Alive

My friend Doug, had quadruple bypass surgery and then hernia surgery this summer. As a result, he made slow, intermittent progress on the BSA over the summer. His health is finally improving and he’s spent the better part of two full days time sorting out several niggling problems.

  • The carburetor needed to be cleaned again. The fuel filters I’d installed were dirty (as was the inside of the carburetor). The float and needle settings were way off.
  • New points and condenser were installed using the updated setup where the backing plate from a twin is used and the condenser is relocated under the gas tank.
  • The valve clearances were off enough that the one of the valves was not closing all the way.
  • Several almost stripped case screws were heli-coiled. This fixed the worst of the oil leaks.

With these work, the bike is almost ready for the street. It starts easily, runs well and is ridable. To be street safe it needs a bit more attention:

  • The tires are very old.
  • The front brakes are dangerously weak.
  • Brake light switch doesn’t work.
  • Needs a mirror.
  • Needs new swingarm bushings.
  • And?…

It Runs (poorly)

My first goal is to get the bike running. I’ve never owned or worked on an old British motorcycle, so I’ll be floundering more than usual.

Purchased a battery, changed the oil, cleaned the carburetor and added fresh gas. With this, I got the bike running poorly.

Next, I tried to set the timing and couldn’t make the procedure described in the shop manual to work. My Ohm meter would not show the points opening and closing. Also, the spark advance didn’t seem to be working the way I expected it to.

I decided there might be multiple problems and rather then spend the summer floundering, I took the bike to Don Hutchinson Cycle, a shop specializing in old Triumphs and BSA’s. After waiting 3 weeks and hearing several excuses about vacations and the like, I picked the bike up and took it to a mechanic friend with lots of experience with British bikes.