“Blood, sweat and gears” is probably a suitable motto for the average non-professional motorcycle customiser. Motorcycle customisation is not easy, even for the professional but working in a home workshop with limited resources, tools and sometimes knowledge is a test of any person’s passion and patience. Yet the whole motorcycle customisation movement has its roots in home garages and workshops. Even the best known international builders learnt their magic in far less glamorous home workshops than their present custom palaces.
We love the passion of the “amateur” bike builders. Barry, the owner and builder of the featured BSA 250cc cafe racer typifies this passion. Although I had seen the BSA on display at the 1000 Bike Show, I had never met Barry personally before phoning him to get the story and the facts surrounding this cafe racer. I love making these calls. The reception is always warm and enthusiastic; the information is always plentiful, interesting and sometimes amusing. Anyone tuning in to the conversation could not be blamed for thinking we were chatting about a real person, not just a motorcycle. These home customisers spend so much effort and time on their creations that the motorcycles develop individual characters.
As a thirteen year old growing up in Rhodesia in the early 1960s, Barry saw a BSA C15 250cc. Although the Hondas were more popular at the time, Barry liked the BSA and imagined how he would make the motorcycle more sporty, were he to own such a motorcycle one day. The BSA 250cc was anything but sporty, although the trials and off road versions were successful. The 15 horsepower its single cylinder engine produced was less than the equivalent Japanese models were putting out. It was the first BSA model to be unit construction, meaning that the engine and gearbox were in one unit and not separate units linked by a chain. The UK learners licence or L plates allowed learners to ride motorcycles up to 250cc which made the BSA a popular choice for aspirant motorcyclists. The C15 was available from 1958 until 1967.
Turn the clock forward fifty years and Barry has eventually built the BSA 250cc cafe racer he envisaged as a boy. He bought this 1965 model a couple of years back for a mere R200. Although just about everything on this motorcycle is custom made, the frame is unmodified which allows the motorcycle to be returned to standard, if ever required. The headlight and the chrome tank with the glorious BSA badges are original, although the tank is mounted higher to suit the sportier lines. The Lucas taillight has been retained but has lost the original bulky mounting.The handlebars have been repositioned from behind to over the forks. The rear shocks are fully adjustable.The front and rear mudguards are also the originals which have been cut to size. The original wheels were 17″ in diameter. Honda 18″ rims have now been laced to the original hubs which make the BSA look bigger and faster.
The seats wooden base and the bumstop seat are all Barry’s handiwork. Polystyrene was shaped, coated with Polyfilla and fibreglassed to create the plug to mould the bumstop. The aluminium inlet manifold was specially fabricated to turn the carb inlet out to the left. A new toolbox cover was made to accomodate this attractive feature. Performance mods include an increased inlet diameter and an extra groove machined near the bottom of the piston which picks up oil and keeps the barrel lubricated, even at high revs. A KAG aircraft sparkplug ensures proper detonation. Chequered flag GT stripes have been making motor vehicles go faster for years!
Did I mention what Barry does for a living? Engineer? Mechanic? No. He owns a curtaining and draping business and does draping for events, hence the draping in the photos. He has always been fascinated by things mechanical and building this cafe racer is an expression of this interest. It is people like Barry and their passion for their unique motorcycles that makes our presenting these creations such a pleasure.