The art of the bitza in all its splendour
In April 2020, I had the pleasure of sharing with you a compilation of bitza combos chosen from images taken in the 1960s and 70s at the annual Elefantentreffen gathering.
I thought now might be a suitable time to compile a second collection, this time presenting not sidecars, but unusual solo bitzas.
I had originally wanted to do this follow up quickly. However, with the pandemic still very much with us in many parts of the world, especially here in S E Asia, the imperatives of daily life and the desire to favour certain stories in preference to others, I had to wait more than a year before I got around to it.
So finally today, I'd like to present a compilation of machines designed by their talented owners. They don't claim to be the most beautiful in the world, but their sheer originality deserves a closer look. So let's dive straight into this enigmatic selection.
TRIBNOR - The art of making new from old: start with a good old engine from 1958 and build in all the pieces you could imagine to create the perfect cafe racer. It would be difficult to make it more beautiful and neater. Its owner did a great job.
TRIFIELD (1965) - An unusual creation:a 500 cc Triumph Daytona engine having found refuge in a Royal Enfield Crusader frame, one of Royal Enfield's biggest-selling bikes during the 1950s and 60s.
ROYAL ENFIELD/BSA - More pieces of Royal Enfield with this time a good old 700cc Super Meteor engine fitted by its owner in a BSA chassis. The aesthetics of the whole are so successful that the novice might wonder if this artisanal creation is not actually a British classic straight off the assembly line.
NORTON/SQUARE 4 (1963) - In 1949 brothers Rex and Cromie McCandless invented the featherbed frame and offered it to the British Norton motorcycle company to improve the performance of their racing motorcycles. It was considered revolutionary at the time and the best handling frame that a racer could have. Later it was widely used by builders of custom hybrids, (such as the Triton), becoming legendary and remaining influential to this day. This splendid cafe racer above, (one of my favourites from this collection) has a featherbed frame to support a Square Four engine.
NORTON/SQUARE 4 (1963) - Another 1000 Square Four bitza, in touring version this time, photographed at the Cannon Hall Classic Car and Motorcycle Rally in Barnsley, Yorkshire.
NORDIAN - A Transatlantic mating between a Norton Featherbed frame and an 84 cu.in. Indian engine. According to its owner, a certain Neil Grieve, the frame is a 1959 Norton 'Wideline' Featherbed, the gear box a Norton / AMC. The primary drive is dry belt. Hunt magneto with Miller collar. RGM front disc operated by a BMW master cylinder which is cable operated. The bike has an electronic rev-counter fitted and shows the motor to be running at 2500 rpm @ 70 mph.
NORTON/B.S - The purist Brough Superior collectors and owners are unlikely to approve of this kind of transformation seen here in August 2014 at the Brackley Festival of Motorcycling. It might even be considered by some as a 'crime' against the marque...
HARLEYTON 45 - A rolling amalgamation consisting of a 750cc Harley-Davidson flathead V-twin, (found in a 1942 WLC model), housed in a 1960s Norton Featherbed frame. According to its owner much effort was expended on the primary case, lineage unknown, taking power from the Harley crankshaft to a Norton four-speed gearbox.
This machine claims to be a fully-fledged BSA, even though its Rocket 3 engine is significantly more modern and of a different generation than its apparent Rocket Goldstar chassis. Another magnificent achievement testifying to the ingenuity and talent of some of our fellow motorcyclists who are perhaps more mechanically gifted than most.
GREUMPH - The names of some bitzas are sometimes as bizarre and diverse as the machines themselves. Half Greeves half Triumph, this machine deserves a mention here for its name alone; at east for those who can actually pronounce it!
NORVELO-Another cafe racer-style creation using the remnants of the glorious British motorcycle industry of yesteryear. Once again, an excellent featherbed frame, this time supporting a Velocette single cylinder produced over five decades ago by the glorious factory of Hall Green in Birmingham.
ROYAL TRIFIELD (1965) - A cross between a Triumph T5 500cc engine and a Royal Enfield chassis results in this remarkable bitza.
NORTON/AJS - You have to expect the unexpected from the most eccentric of amateur motorcycle mechanics, especially among the followers of Victor Frankenstein, as evidenced here by this strange creation powered by an ancestral AJS engine.
NORJAP - "Nothing is impossible for the French" wrote Napoleon in July 1813 to General Le Marois, commanding the city of Magdeburg who considered it impossible to hold the city against the enemy. The same could be said for the British about mechanical challenges: "Impossible is not for the Brits". They are able to build anything and everything as demonstrated again, this time by this unusual bitza powered by a JAP engine.
NORBSA - To end this compilation today, I have chosen to close with this superb hybrid machine. The story is by no means over and I will return to this theme soon as I still have a number of pictures of beautiful machines to share. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed these pictures and that they will arouse the desire to tinker with your motorcycle....
- Jean-Francois Helias