|Owning and Riding the M21|
Eight months on...
After 3,000 kilometres and eight months of riding the M21 has been generally an excellent bike. A group of friends rode on a 2,000 kilometre trip to the BSA National Rally and the big sidevalve carried me there faultlessly over different roads and even through torrential rain. Yes, I like it.
There have been a few minor problems. As usual I missed tightening a few nuts and bolts (how do I manage that every time?). The front forks are a bit "clunky" - this may be worn springs. I'm working on the problem. The brakes are probably more suited to a lightweight - hauling it to a stop can be an effort.
The rear stand fouls the muffler. Move the muffler to clear the rear stand and the muffler fouls the kickstart. I suspect this is another pattern parts problem (the stand) which will need my attention. It's annoying. I've had a charging problem with the dynamo which relates to the brushes. I have new brushes ordered which will - hopefully - solve this.
Riding the M21
This bike is very different. The huge flywheel gives the engine enormous torque and once moving very few gearchanges are required. The bike can be accurately described as ponderous. Comfortable cruising speed is about 50mph - I'm sure it would go faster but sometimes it is necessary to appreciate that the combined age of the rider and the bike is over a century. Gearchanges are slow - the BSA six spring clutch demands very considered, definite movements. Starting is (usually) one or two kicks. Vibration is about the same as most big singles and certainly less than a vertical twin of the same era. Handling is a little skittish. I think this is a combination of the tendency of the rider to wallow about on the seat springs and the bike's rigid rear end bouncing on any rough surface. Not a bike to grind the footpegs! In straight lines and on sweeping corners on decent roads it is comfortable and predictable.
The Best and the Worst
The best is without a doubt the exhaust note. Deep and resonant. It quite literally "thuds". The worst is the rigid rear end. My back does suffer a little.
Well worth the effort of the restoration. It has measurably more power (up hills etc.) than its predecessor M20 model. The bike is fun to own, spares are plentiful (it shares many parts in common with the M20), it is economical and attractive in a staid sort of way. I'd really like to see how mine went with a sidecar attached - a project for the future.