Motorcycles are surrounded by myths. “Triumphs don’t handle”, “Royal Enfields leak oil” – it’s part of the folklore. Sometimes separating fact from fiction is difficult, and the further back you go, the harder it gets. Accurate technical information can be particularly difficult. From the 1930s onwards, publishers such as Pearson and Pitmans produced what today would be called ‘workshop manuals’ but for machines built before the early ’30s, information can be harder to find.
Prior to this, many manufacturers offered only parts lists and servicing information. From a restorer’s point of view, a parts list is invaluable; the ‘BSA Motor Cycle Replacement Parts 1929 Models’ shown lists every nut, bolt and washer, and has been an invaluable resource in restoring SM7741. Some details remained a challenge, though, eg: whether parts such as handlebars and exhaust were chrome- or nickel-plated. The parts book does not help here, and I had to turn to period advertising material and contemporary magazine reviews to find the answers. Eventually I found what I was looking for; BSA’s 1929 brochure refers to ‘highly polished nickel-plated silencers’ while ‘Motor Cycling’ states in its 1929 Show Edition of September 12th, 1928 that ‘Every 1929 BSA model ….. (has) smart nickel-plated silencers and fishtails.’
Items like the ‘BSA Motor Cyclist’s Pocket Book’ shown – this one dates from 1924 – have not helped directly with the restoration, but give a fascinating insight into what riding a motorcycle in the 1920s was like. Even more intriguing are the hand-written notes of the owner; my 1936 edition describes riding a newly-purchased BSA C10 250 side-valve from Sussex to the Peak District – 221 miles in nine and a half hours of squally winds and heavy rain!