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BSA Road Rocket 1958

22111

Make: 

  • BSA

Model: 

  • Road Rocket

Year: 

  • 1958

Power: 

40 bhp (30 kW) @ 6,000rpm

Top speed: 

175 km/h (109 mph)

Transmission type: 

Chain

Cooling system: 

Air

Category: 

Classic

Dry weight: 

190 kg (418 pounds)

Gearbox: 

4-speed

Fuel consumption: 

5.6 L/100 km (50 mpg-imp)

Wheelbase: 

54.75 inches (139.1 cm)

Fuel capacity: 

16L (3.5 imp gal)
The team at Shepsters Towers become a little lovelorn with motorcycles like the BSA Road Rocket. I mean, look at it. It’s wonderful! For a start it’s called a Road Rocket. Is there anything more to add? <Ed – We’re not paying you for two lines>. Onwards!
A quick glance across modern 650cc motorcycles will give you some compelling household names if your household happen to live in a workshop: the Yamaha FZ6; the Suzuki GSX650F; the Honda CBF600; the Hyosung GT650R. Whilst they may well be outstanding bikes in their own right, they’re all just so . . . numerical. They’re all so exacting rather than enticing. The Road Rocket was created in halcyon days when names had to capture the imagination of the would-be public, and the Birmingham Small Arms Company knew its market. In this instance the public being a retired RAF pilot equipped with little more than some a dashing uniform, flying-googles, half an imperial tonne of brylcreem and a whooshing white scarf scented with the sweet smell of bravado.

It was an air-cooled parallel-twin serving 646cc in a 191kg frame, designed by a Bert Hopwood, a legend amongst British motorcycling having worked at Norton, Ariel and Triumph Engineering. None of that helped British motorcycling though, as his book ‘Whatever Happened to the British Motor Cycle Industry’ would attest. Tell that to Triumph, we yell! Before adding in a whisper that they died on their arses in the 80’s and had to be resurrected sans Engineering moniker. 
 
The Road Rocket’s predecessor was the Golden Flash, another classic name of heroic heraldry.  Struggling to compete against upstarts like Triumph and Norton, BSA unleashed ‘undoubtedly the worlds greatest motorcycle’. And when did marketing ever not tell the truth? Exactly. Unlike the Flash it had the addition of an alloy cylinder head with twin carburettors if you wanted to fit them <Ed – erm…> otherwise it came with a single Amal TT racing carburettor as standard. With larger compression pistons and higher lift camshaft it rocketed to 109mph! . . . which you may have had to guess at because the tachometer was an optional extra too.
 
It copied its predecessor with the four-speed gearbox and chain drive, but increased the power by a whopping 5bhp and then expanded the tank from thirteen to eighteen litres to provide an extra twenty miles of range. Heeding the weight savings of lighter bikes, in 1956 alloy drum brakes were added, and a year later BSA introduced a new clutch to their savvy rocket. This bike had everything! Bar twin carbs and a tachometer, obviously.
 
Nowadays this motorcycle would be called something horrendous like the BSA 650RRXYZQWERTY-P, boasting a carbon fibre chassis, brakes made of diamonds and a seat of blancmange. As with all motorcycles, the Road Rocket came to an end in 1958, compelled to the back pages of collector’s magazines. To quote the ’56 brochure ‘to get the feel of this powerful 650 engine when the twist-grip is turned is to know the thrill of road supremacy at it’s best’. Sigh. Put away RAF jacket, fold up a third of the French flag, the Road Rocket needed to putter off into the distant garage at the end of the road to the sunset.
 
Fortunately, it had a successor: The Super Rocket. Bring out the flying goggles!
 

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