1969 BSA 441 Victor Special

The last great single

| March/April 2010

I can still remember opening my copy of Motor Cycle News and seeing BSA’s full page ad for its 1966 motorcycle range. I was 15, motorcycle crazy and hot for motocross.

Jeff Smith had just won his second successive world championship on the 441cc single-cylinder BSA Victor, and to cash in on its investment BSA introduced a street-scrambler version of the Victor. It was chunky, aggressive looking and had a shiny, polished aluminum gas tank with a sexy swash of yellow running across the tank. I wanted one so badly I could scream.

By the time I turned 16 and got my bike license, the girls I was interested in preferred scooters to motorcycles — more chic, I guess, and less likely to spray them with oil — so that’s what I rode. Then I discovered the even more significant advantages of four wheels for cherchez la femme, so I traded my Vespa for a 1955 flathead Ford Anglia. But the lusting for a BSA Victor never completely went away.

It wasn’t long before I was back into bikes, and after a couple of years commuting on a Honda SL125, I decided it was time to move up. I tracked down a used 1969 BSA Victor in the classifieds, parted with my money and quickly became acquainted with the concept of buyer’s remorse.

BSA reality

Actually riding the BSA after my little Honda was a major disappointment. Where the Honda was slick, sophisticated and easy to ride, the Beezer was stark, clunky and ornery. I pretty much had only to look at the Honda and it would start, while I sweated away trying to kick the BSA into life. The Honda ran like a Swiss watch; the BSA shuddered, coughed and misfired. Its favorite trick was stalling at traffic signals just as the light turned green.

Worse yet, I couldn’t find parts for it, nor could I find anyone who could help with knowledge or insight. And while Gold Stars and Vincents were becoming collectible, BSA unit-construction singles were just so much junk. The world had moved on, and the obsolete Victor was caught in the twilight zone between trash and treasure. I had become, I found out, a “victim.”

Roger Gregory
3/29/2011 8:58:27 PM

Like the author, I lusted after the 1970 441 Victor Special. During my freshman year at BU, I spent days at Boston Cycles in the fall of '70 dreaming of taking the beast on the road. Unfortunately, I did not have the cash and I wound up riding at 72 Yamaha RD350, a screamer by anyone's definition. I dumped the RD in the late 70's and turned to sport cars, but the yearning for the BSA never left. About 6 years ago, I finally succumbed and bought a '69 on e-bay. Like the author, buyer's remorse was close, but never set-in. A neighbor is a real freak about cycles, especially 60's Brit bikes, with lots of experience on the big singles and verticle twins. With his tutoring and experience, I learned the starting ritual. I had some experience on a '68 shooting star, but had never gotten the knack of starting it. I now realize that the compression was reduced on the '69 - mades a world of difference...I never need the compression release on the 69, while I almost lost my leg a couple times on the 68. Compared the RD, this is a beast, but I love the sound, the tree-stump pulling power, and the crazy vibration. Fortunately, I only buzz up and down the coast road south of Boston on weekends, hoping it does not stall. I'm always on the prowl for NOS parts...just scored a beautiful NOS tank a couple years ago...a real work of art, sitting my office. The BSA is parked in my barn next to an extremely low mileage '86 Vette convert. Imagine my dilemma on a sunny July Sunday morn.

12/17/2010 1:53:27 PM

I had a 1969 Victor. That was back in about 1972 or so. I think I paid $300 for it. I bought at a Honda shop and traded it back in for CB350 Honda, the orange one. What I remember was that it didn't leave black and blue marks on my shins starting it and it didn't have a compression release - just electric start. The BSA was fun but the Honda got to me work and back.

Chuck Sweede_2
2/11/2010 2:22:50 PM

I enjoyed your review of the BSA 441 Victor. I also wanted the Victor in 1966. After I returned from Viet Nam in 1969, I met a guy riding the Victor. I was riding the East German MZ enduro. We became friends and rode often with a group of guys riding Ossa, Bultaco and Yamaha IT; what a motley crew. My friend promised me that if he ever decided to sell the BSA, he would offer it to me first. I moved from Chicago to Phoenix in 1976 (more riding time in the desert). In 1979 he let me know that his parents were moving to Prescott, AZ and would sell the bike to me; including it in his parents move. I loved the BSA and have many great memories of it. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a fire which also took my MZ, a 175 Penton enduro, 125 Penton trials and a rare Honda trials bike. At least I have some great memories of these great bikes.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

Classic Motorcycle Touring and Events.

The latest classic motorcycle events and tours.