BSA did not supply complete machines until 1910. Prior to that, frame builders purchased BSA components to build a BSA Fittings Machine and add their own transfer (decal) or head badge. The BSA was the most successful model of spring-frame, with many supplied in knock-down form and exported around the world, in particular to Australia, where they were used for early Australian motorcycles.
The cushion frame patent was granted on 31 January 1899 to C L Travis and it became a popular option in the USA with many companies offered it as an option. In my opinion, the BSA Cushionn Frame was made purely to compete with American cushion frames.
Because it was sold in component form, primarily in export markets, it would have been much cheaper than the American models and would also have avoided the import tax in various countries that was applied to complete bicycles.
c1902 BSA Fittings Cushion Frame Roadster
Brown Brothers Paris Depot Badge
Bartleet provides the following description of the BSA Spring Frame that he had in his collection:
‘No. 45. B.S.A. spring frame. Invented by Dr. Mansell-Jones, “Sunnyside,” Lodge Road, Croydon, Surrey, Patent No. 17987/1900. Weight 10 lbs. Presented by Harry Green.
Two earlier patents by the same inventor, Nos. 28892/1897 and 7141/1899, show a similar result achieved by a system of spring-controlled toggles, which allowed the ends of the seat-stays to rise and fall, and the rear end of the top tube to drop without affecting the position of the saddle. These variations were not marketed.
As shown, the machine was made and sold in large numbers by the Birmingham Small Arms Co. Ltd., Small Heath, Birmingham, by whom it was first exhibited at the Stanley Show in November, 1900. The action of the springing device is self explanatory, and is plainly revealed by the photograph: hinge joints are inserted in the frame tubes at A, B, C, and D. Within the top tube, at E, and inside both seat-stays at F and G., are strong coil springs, so that as the smaller diameter tube slides within the member of larger diameter the springs are compressed and take up the shocks.
A drawback was that the distance between saddle and handlebar was not constant, but varied as the action of the concealed springs allowed the top-tube to change its length. It will be noted that no attempt is made to intercept vibration from the front wheel of the bicycle.
This identical frame was used by Harry Green when he beat the 50 miles road record in 1906, time 2 hrs. 6 mins. 46 secs., and the London to Brighton and back record, the same year, time 5 hrs. 20 mins. 22 secs. This being the only exhibit in the Collection representing the products of the B.S.A. Co., it must be made the excuse for a very brief reference to that extremely important Company. Without such reference not even an epitome of cycling history could pass the censor.’
HINGED BOTTOM BRACKET & BACK-PEDAL BRAKE
7 Great Eastern St, London
In March 1889, Albert and Ernest Brown rented the company’s first premises at no 7 Great Eastern St and began dealing in cycles, cycle spares and tools. In that same year, Dunlop patented and developed the pneumatic tyre. With the arrival of Starley’s Safety Bicycle in 1884 and, by 1990, practical tyres to replace the solid tyres previously used, bicycles suddenly became hugely popular.
The 1890s were the cycle trade’s first boom years and Brown Brothers were in an ideal position to capitalize when, in 1893, the Birmingham Small Arms Co decided to diversify from the manufacture of guns, and started producing bicycle hubs. Brown Brothers ordered 2000 hubs and convinced BSA to make bicycle pedals too, ordering 1000 as an incentive. Soon, BSA were making complete sets of bicycle fittings for sale by Brown Brothers.
This was an important development. Small engineering workshops and bicycle shops all over the country were starting up, and they needed components. Brown Brothers’ stock of every component necessary for making a bicycle streamlined the supply chain for the retail trade. Brown Bros had a sole agency for supply of BSA parts in France, selling both separate parts and complete bicycles in component form.
The BSA in AUSTRALIA
The BSA spring frame seemed ideal for mounting an engine. The 1904 example pictured below, fitted with a 1903 Minerva engine, is a typical early motorcycle assembled in Australia.
The high quality of BSA fittings and, even more important, their consistent high quality, allowed frame builders to sell BSA Fittings Machines as their own. This was a perfect arrangement for a country such as Australia.
A Fittings Spring Frame Machine would be imported in parts; engines would be imported in the same way. They would then be assembled by a local company and sold under that company’s own name. This arrangement actually started off Australia’s motorcycle industry.
Of course, BSA Spring Frame bicycles were also popular machines without engines fitted. A Spring Frame is offered for sale for £12 in the top advert seen below (from the classifieds of the 7th March 1903 issue of the New Zealand Star newspaper).
1900 BSA FITTINGS FRENCH CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
BSA CUSHION FRAME v BSA SPRING FRAME