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21st October 2008

The 45th BSA International Rally, 2008
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The BSA Owners’ Club hold an international rally each year, and in 2008 the UK hosted the rally on the Isle of Man to celebrate the organisation’s 50th birthday. Bill Nelson and Peter Twyman offer two views on the event...

I joined the Club in 1998 on the personal recommendation of Carole Nash herself. I was just buying the first of my A65s. Carole said she would give me 10% discount off my premium, if I joined. The sums sort of made sense, so I did. With admirable fortitude I resisted the constant temptation to join in, reasoning that I’d always managed OK on my own. Gradually, I was drawn in by the St Albans Group, good friends to this day, meeting Mike Cheyne via what was to become the BSA Yahoo Group. Somehow, I got sucked in further.

2008 approached, the Club’s 50th Anniversary, my 10th year of membership and an International Rally on the Isle of Man. The Island is somewhere I’d always wanted to visit, but I had never had the opportunity. With gay abandon, I booked the ferry and my place at the event. My first International and my first visit to the Island – what a way to go!

'Some vibration was apparent at cruising speed...

Less than two weeks before departure, my first A65 rebuild was abandoned. Although it had been a runner before the internally butchered engine had dumped its oil, reassembling the rolling chassis was the problem. None of the new bits would mate up with the old, mostly because the professional restorer/previous owner was not only an expert at destroying even a simple BSA engine, but evidently was a master of the big hammer. More time than was available was going to be needed.

The other bike, my ‘1998 A65’, was running and sounding thunderous, so the focus was shifted to rewiring it and attaching the new headlamp unit and indicators.

Two days before departure, perhaps as punishment for the glee with which I anticipated my two firsts, the front wheel fell off. High tensile steel? That’s what the markings mean!

I may be risk-positive, but I’m not completely stupid, so the decision to travel on my main work bike was made and it was rapidly remodelled as a 1992 BSA CB500.

eBay BSAs a bit like Bill's...

On the day of departure, Mike Cheyne and Bill Edwards, from USA, called on their way to the National Motorcycle Museum and ate the sausage sandwiches I was making for the journey and then left, promising to wait for me at NMM, not least because I was the only one to know where we were booked for the night.

Once on my own again, I did one last safety check, before loading my stuff, only to find a twist grip retaining screw had decided not to come on the trip. Clearly it was time to meditate and consider if I really wanted to go through with this major life-changing experience. I thought long and deep, in fact just a long as it took to fashion a new screw in the shed with file and hacksaw.

Mike carefully hid the aerosol paint can behind his back while the photo was being taken... Mike Cheyne and Bill Edwards outside the remains of the BSA factory

When we left NMM, the place was already closed and we were going to be late for the rooms I’d booked, so we pressed on, but were distracted by the lure of the remnants of the BSA factory. The holiday mood had really set in!

The International Rally itself generated equal delight and pleasure in myself and the Manx Authorities. It was a stunning success achieved by the Club and by the organising team of Pete, Theresa and Steve in particular. How do you get well over 500 people in one place and all enjoying themselves at one event? Take part in a BSAOC International Rally and put your innocence behind you! That’s my recommendation.

Thank you BSAOC, my close companions, the organisers, the Club members, the Manx Authorities and the people of the Isle of Man, including Geoff, Chris and Princess Amy.

RC Reporter: Bill Nelson


As the International Secretary, the 11 days of the Rally were very hectic for me, and similarly so for Theresa and the other main organiser, Steve Southgate. Steve organised and led all the ride outs and visits, he did a fantastic job of this. We set up near the Manx Carvery unit and main marquee -- what an enormous size the marquee was! It could seat 500 people for dinner easily, with a large stage and dance floor area, catering annex and room for the bar. Okells beer was on tap and this certainly went down very well…

The marquee was open at all times to allow late arrivals a place to sleep until daylight. The ferry timetable meant there were people arriving at all hours of the night and early hours of the morning. Booking in went oh-so smoothly, thanks to Theresa’s organisation and the campsite owners, brothers John and Peter Quayle, officially opened the rally.

Just like the TT racers. If a little slower... The ride-out passes through Kirk Michael...

The Monday ride-out involved a world record attempt at getting 300 BSAs lined up. In the end we got 281 -- a good total, but in 1998 some 228 BSAs were counted.

Later that night we had a talk and slide show from Doug Fraser regarding the building of his 1120cc BSA Empire V Twin. After 700 hours hard work he ended up with a fantastic looking bike.

The week involved many activities on and off the site, including a barbecue, silly games (won by the Dutch who went about it in a very regimental way), film shows, more rides, live music, and the dinner buffet dance with a special Scottish piper, dressed in full Manx tartan. The IoM Government Minister of Tourism, Mr Martyn Quayle MHK gave a short but enjoyable speech of welcome and congratulation regarding the rally. Mr Quayle visited a few time during the week and was very impressed with the organisation.

Kay with a Bantam. See, the sun *did* shine...

This BSA Rally was the largest gathering of people on the Island in one place for a week-long event. The campsite owners took on a tremendous amount of extra work to keep us happy and allowed BSAs to be parked anywhere, even on the farmhouse doorstep! I just cannot think of a more agreeable family who would allow BSAs almost inside their front door.

I would like to thank every person who helped out in any way whatsoever and I’d also like to congratulate all of you who camped on site. I found it hard to believe that some rich and famous people were camped in that muddy field. Our most famous attendee was on a BSA A10 shipped over from the USA; former astronaut James van Hoften.

Some of the comments made by Rally-goers made all the effort worthwhile, so I’ll finish with this one:

‘We really enjoyed doing it. It was great to meet some very entertaining and interesting characters. Despite horrible rain at times spirits remained high. Your members are a really great bunch of genuine people united by a common passion - I think you're running a fantastic Club.’

What more is there to add?

RC Reporter Peter Twyman


The BSA Owners’ Club:


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