BSA motorcycles were added to bicycle products by the Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited (BSA), which was a major British industrial combine, in1910. The 3½ hp bike was exhibited at the 1910 Olympia Show, London for the 1911 season. The entire BSA production sold out in 1911, 1912 and 1913.
In 1919 BSA launched their first 50 degree vee-twin, Model E, 770cc side valve (6-7 hp) motorcycle for the 1920 season. The machine had interchangeable valves, total loss oil system with mechanical pump and an emergency hand one. Other features were Amal carburetor, chain drive, choice of magneto or Magdyno, 7-plate clutch, 3 speed gear box with kick starter and a new type of cantilever fork
As the result of increased post war demand the Small Heath, Birmingham factory was turned over entirely to motorcycle production, and by the early 1950’s, BSA was the largest motorcycle producer in the world, with one out of every four bikes sold being a BSA.
BSA motorcycles were sold as affordable motorcycles with reasonable performance for the average user. BSA stressed the reliability of their machines, the availability of spares and dealer support. The motorcycles were a mixture of sidevalve and OHV engines offering different performance for different roles, e.g. hauling a sidecar. The bulk of use would be for commuting. BSA motorcycles were also popular with "fleet buyers" in Britain, who, for example, used the Bantams for telegram delivery for the Post Office or motorcycle/sidecar combinations for AA patrols (The Automobile Association breakdown help services). This mass market appeal meant they could claim "one in four is a BSA" on advertising. Machines with better specifications were available for those who wanted more performance or for competition work.
Initially, after the Second World War, BSA motorcycles were not generally seen as racing machines, compared to the likes of Norton. In the immediate post-war period few were entered in races such as the TT races, though this changed dramatically in the Junior Clubman event (smaller engine motorcycles racing over some 3 or 4 laps around one of the Isle of Man courses). In 1947 there were but a couple of BSA mounted riders, but by 1952 BSA were in the majority and in 1956 the makeup was 53 BSA, 1 Norton and 1 Velocette.
In 1953 the motorcycle business was moved into BSA Motorcycles Ltd, and BSA produced its 100,000th Bantam motorcycle, a fact celebrated at the 1953 motorcycle show with a visit by Sir Anthony Eden to the BSA stand.
To improve US sales, in 1954, for example, BSA entered a team of riders in the 200 mile Daytona beach race with a mixture of single cylinder Gold Stars and twin cylinder Shooting Stars. The BSA team riders took first, second, third, fourth, and fifth places with two more riders finishing at 8th and 16th. This was the first case of a one brand sweep.
The BSA factory experienced success in the sport of motocross with Jeff Smith riding a B40 to capture the 1964 and 1965 FIM 500 cc Motocross World Championships. It would be the last year the title would be won by a four-stroke machine until the mid-1990s. A BSA motocross machine was often colloquially known as a "Beezer".
In 1968, BSA announced many changes to its product line of singles, twins and the new three-cylinder machine named the "Rocket three" for the 1969 model year.
In 1973 BSA-Triumph motorcycle operations were taken over by Norton-Villiers, later known as Norton Villiers Triumph. When Norton Villiers Triumph was liquidated in 1978, a new business, the BSA. Company was formed.
Birmingham rocker Steve Gibbons released a song "BSA" on his 1980 album "Saints & Sinners" as a tribute to the Gold Star bike. He still plays this song with his band and often performs on the Isle of Man at the TT races.
The BSA Company was purchased by Indian billionaire, Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group with plans to restart UK production of BSA motorbikes in the middle of 2021.
A research facility is being built in Banbury to develop electric motorbike technology, before launching motorbikes with internal combustion engines closely followed by an electric battery model by the end of 2021.
BSA trademarks and logos, together with the classic BSA motocycle images and vintage advertising have inspired licensees from around the world in their innovative designs.
With production of bikes restarting, this is the ideal time for licensees in Japan to take advantage of this licensing opportunity.