During the first decade of the 20th century, BSA sold frames and fittings through the trade to cycle agents who could add their own transfers for resale to the public. Such a bicycle is now commonly described as a BSA Fittings Machine. If the bike included a BSA frame and was assembled by BSA themselves, it could be fitted with a BSA Piled Arms transfer. If all components were BSA except the frame it might have a transfer (fitted to the top of the seat tube) stating: ‘Guaranteed built with a set of B.S.A. fittings.’
BSA Fittings represent a very important part of cycling history – rarely acknowledged these days – because of their high standard and perfect standardization. In fact, BSA used the same high standards as in their arms manufacture when machining bicycle components. Bicycles could be ordered from a local frame builder, who would supply a set of parts from BSA according to the customer’s requirements.
This was an ideal arrangement for bike builders abroad, especially as components were cheaper to import than complete machines. In fact, BSA Fittings completely revolutionized the bicycle trade in Australia. The fittings allowed bike manufacturers to provide an endless supply of bespoke cycles to their customers:
‘As a result, the importation of complete bicycles gradually dwindled down, until it finally disappeared altogether, and, in reversed ratio, the name B.S.A. and the trade mark of the Three Piled Rifles became recognised as the hallmark of quality, as applied to bicycles. Nothing better was wanted, nothing so good was obtainable, and to-day the locally-built B.S.A. machine stands supreme as the only bicycle really worth having for Australian conditions.’* You can see the BSA fittings on the machine pictured below at Lewis Cycle and Motor Works in McHenry St Adelaide, around 1904. (Photo courtesy Leon Mitchell**).
The speed limit in Great Britain had been set at 14mph in 1896. In 1904, thanks to campaigning by the recently formed RAC and other bodies, it was raised to 20mph. But Australia had quite good roads extending through thinly populated districts, and the authorities did not object to speedy travelling. Bicycling News of 11th February 1903 reports: ‘According to this state of affairs, the world’s record of 460 miles in 24 hours on a motor bicycle has been set up by Mr. H.B. James of Melbourne’ riding a machine designed and made by local bicycle maker Ernest Beauchamp.
Malvern Star was established in 1898. At this time, companies took on agencies from British and American brands, importing bicycles in knock-down form for resale locally. They also imported BSA Fittings bikes and added engines to produce Australia’s first motorcycles.
But the guiding force behind Malvern Star was Bruce Small, an entrepreneur, promoter and salesman who bought the company and its small suburban bicycle shop in 1920, and developed it into one of Australia’s largest manufacturing and retailing enterprises.
One very important aspect of his business was the BSA franchise which Bruce Small obtained in 1935, after ruthless dealings with other competitors. This was essential to his company, as BSA was a manufacturer of quality bicycle accessories and components. The BSA franchise gave him a ready overseas and interstate market. The 1936 Malvern Star catalogue above displays the BSA ‘Piled Arms’ merged into the Malvern Star logo.