As you can see in the photo above, this was one of the types of machine used during the Boer War, in this instance being employed by a dispatch rider in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Volunteer Rifles. As cyclists were volunteers at this time, presumably it was the officer’s own machine.
Dozens of companies purchased BSA fittings and assembled them to supply their local markets. BSA fittings were the best available. So a bicycle could be built in this way that was of similar quality to those made by the leading manufacturers, but without the frills and at half the price. The supplier usually fitted their own shop transfer (decal) to the steering head…although, like the one in the photo, the BSA featured here does not have a transfer.
In 1899, BSA introduced a new chainwheel design – the ‘Y pattern’ – and expanded their supply of cycle fittings worldwide. The ‘Y pattern’ design coincided with the introduction of ‘motor bicycles’ and the start of the Boer War in October 1899. As it was current until 1903, most BSA Fittings bicycles that have survived are of that era or later. Examples of the previous style – with the 5 bar chainwheel – featured here are now the hardest to find.
1898 BSA Fittings Machine (Roadster Frame)
It’s not easy to determine the precise age of a BSA Fittings machine as the parts were available through the cycle trade even after certain items were updated. For example this example does not have the BSA patent steering lock or a freewheel clutch, introduced in 1898, so it could be 1897. But in my opinion the fork crown is a more lightweight design than I’ve observed on 1896/1897 examples, so I reckon it’s an 1898 model. This 5 bar chainwheel designed was replaced in 1899.
I bought this bicycle among a lot of others, in 2013, from a museum that had closed down in Devon. I sold the rest and kept this one, but I’ve only recently got round to putting it on the road. The frame is covered in surface rust but is solid throughout, and it rides well.
In the entry below for July 1898, it mentions the new steering lock. As this machine does not have one, perhaps it means that it was supplied in early 1898.
1898 BSA FITTINGS CATALOGUE
BSA PATTERN PEDALS & CRANKS
1898 BSA ROADSTER v 1897 BSA ROAD RACER with SIMPSON LEVER CHAIN