Thoughts on a BSA Lightning Clubman

DRY 739 C

I had many happy days riding the bike on club runs

- Wishbone

I know this should be about favourite bikes and if I am honest that was my 350cc Triumph Tiger 90 traded in for the BSA Clubman. The Tiger 90 was the bike I had when I joined the Leicester Phoenix MCC with two buddies from work, Paul Draycott (Dirty Eddie) and Alan Jarvis (Herbert). Two people who have been friends for nearly fifty years and ... but I digress.

I decided to trade in my Tiger 90 for something bigger and that was a 650cc BSA Lightning Clubman with racing seat and low handlebars. This was bought for the princely sum of £364 3s 6d, £60 cheaper than the Austin Healy Sprite sports car, a close run decision.

When the BSA was on song it was a dream to ride, leaning over going round traffic islands, accelerating past anything else on the road. It was good for going down motorways at over 100mph - no speed limit or cameras - with my face cheeks wrapped round my ears and my helmet being forced off my head. Sweet memories but, as with most things, there is a dark side.

The bike had so much power that I remember driving out of the grass car park at Mallory Park after a race meeting and a tweak of the throttle and the back wheel went sliding into a car. Entrance angry car driver. Exit, rather rapidly, one motorcyclist. After waiting at traffic lights for them to change I had to be careful not to put too much power on or the back of the bike would decide to slide away - and that was when it was being run-in!

In 1966 a group of us decided to tour Europe visiting Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxemburg and France all in two weeks. We had quite an adventure what with faulty Velo chains and one of our party falling asleep on his airbed in the sunny mountain air of Austria to be woken up with a bang - his airbed did not like the heat in the sun. On the way back we got into Belgium and the BSA broke down. Ever tried to get the Belgian version of the AA/RAC by talking broad Leicester/ Belgrave lingo? Anyway between us we found one of the pistons had seized so someone - I think it was Dave Parry - suggested removing the sparkplug from the faulty cylinder and transferring my pillion (Paul Draycott) to another bike.

We got back to England and I remember riding through London at 3am with a bike sounding like a tractor and going up the M1 at about 50mph being passed by Tony Bradley at speed with Paul Draycott fast asleep on the pillion.

When I got home the bike was stripped down and the piston replaced but it was never to be the same bike. Later I was to learn that there was a design fault with the bikes. Something to do with the oil circulation but I am still not sure if that was the reason.

I had many happy days riding the bike on club runs but strangely it's the problems I remember the most. Maybe I should have gone for the Austin Healy Sprite but on second thoughts I am glad I didn't.

Cannot remember what order things happened after that but a woman came into my life, later to become my wife, and I sold the bike.

My next bike was a 125cc BSA Bantam which took us both to Woburn Rally ... but that's another story.

Peter Wright