1902 BSA Spring Frame Roadster
Built by Haviland, Richard & Co, Small Heath, Birmingham
The Spring Frame is the rarest and most sought-after BSA model of the twentieth century. As you can see in the caption under the Spring Frame illustration above (from BSA’s 1903 catalogue), the company did not supply complete machines, but frame builders could buy all the components to build a BSA Fittings Machine.
After four years of negotiation and payment by instalments, I’ve eventually collected this BSA Spring Frame Fittings Machine from my friend Ricky. We have now fitted new tyres and tubes, recommissioned the spring joints, which were very worn, and also installed an earlier BSA Fittings 2nd pattern ‘Y’ chainwheel, as per the catalogue illustrations. A ‘Pattisson Hygienic’ saddle, early BSA inflator pump and Silver King lamp complete its list of accessories. I dare not ride it with this original saddle fitted – I’ve already broken too many delicate, rare, valuable saddles by using them. But I’ll fit a usable saddle to it in due course, add a video to this page, and record my impressions of how it rides.
BSA SPRINGFRAME VIDEO
Though BSA did not manufacture complete machines, the Spring Frame was unique in that they did supply the frame along with all the other components. See below…
So rather than a frame builder manufacturing their own frame and adding BSA fittings, with a Spring Frame they had to assemble the whole kit supplied by BSA. In such circumstances, the bicycle was allowed to bear BSA’s own transfer on its down tube:
‘If it is desired to purchase a machine with our Frame, this must be distinctly specified, and cyclists may identify Frames of our own make by the BSA Trade mark, in gold, on the down tube.’
As you can see, over a century later, the BSA trade mark is still clearly visible on the seat tube of this bicycle.
HAVILAND, RICHARD & CO
Herbert Rd, Small Heath, Birmingham
It is believed that the proprietor of this small business was Mr. Richard Haviland. According to Kelly’s Directory for Birmingham, the company was located in Herbert Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, from 1890-1903. They also made the ‘Haviland’ milk carrier. Being close to BSA’s own factory at Small Heath, I assume that building a bicycle from BSA Fittings was a logical option.
BARTLEETS BICYCLE BOOK
Bartleet’s descriptions were not always correct, but they provide a useful source of reference. Bartleet provides the following description of the BSA Spring Frame that he had in his collection, corresponding to the picture above:
‘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.’
CLOSE-UP SPRING FRAME DETAILS
On another page (1904 Light Roadster Bicycle built from ‘B’ pattern BSA fittings), I’ve detailed the various components supplied with a BSA Fittings machine, and compared each with the BSA Fittings catalogue.
Here, I’m illustrating the unique fittings for the Spring Frame, to compare with Bartleet’s description.
On all BSA Fittings machines, the BSA logo is to be found at the top of the steering head (below).
Above and below, by the steering head lock, is the hinge joint (‘D’ in Bartleet’s picture).
Below you can see the coil springs in the rear stays (‘F’ and ‘G’). Also, the coil spring on the top tube (‘E’ in Bartleet’s illustration).
Observe the BSA patent stamp and logo below on the top tube coil spring.
And, below, hinge joints (‘A’ and ‘B’) can be seen behind the chainwheel.
Although Bartleet marks a hinge joint at position C, there isn’t one there! I assume it’s a mistake, as I checked it against a picture of another Spring Frame, which also had no hinge joint at this location.
1898 PATTISSON HYGIENIC SADDLE
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).
After riding this BSA Spring-frame, I do not consider that it was at all suitable for using as a motorised machine. I can see that for the first few years of motorcycle assembly (1902-1904), the advantages of the frame and components being supplied in break-down form made it an ideal candidate. But a motorcycle engine is far better fitted to a rigid frame and, by 1904, builders would have realised this and started making their own frames. It’s interesting that all the sprung parts of this bicycle were not included in motorcycle design; the only sprung part of a motorcycle was the front forks, whose successful development was still a few years away.
It is my opinion that BSA experimented with the spring-frame model while ‘motor bicycles’ were in the developmental stage, and tried them out on the public to fill a gap until improved motorcycle frames could be manufactured. The ‘shock-absorber’ style of suspension on the rear seat stays of the BSA was already in use by 1900 on some American bicycles; obviously BSA would have seen this. American bikes used one ‘shock-absorber’ while BSA used two. American bicycles using this arrangement were known as ‘cushion frames’ (1904 Columbia, below).
BSA SPRINGFRAMES: GENTS v LADIES