The Birth of a spark


 “She’s been with us for about 40 years now,” Anjala Karunanayake shared as we admired her in the light of the setting sun. The colour of the motorcycle set the perfect tone for the evening light.

Of course, we were talking about this gorgeous 1958 BSA BB31 motorcycle, a stallion that has weathered the test of time, and perhaps a bit of sea breeze too. The love and care Anjala has for this motorcycle was evident as we learnt more about how important she is to his family, especially his father.

Regularly used by Anjala’s father in his younger years, this motorcycle shared many memories with him, travelling miles and miles, in both short and long distances, cruising and commuting. But with the passing of time, the motorcycle unfortunately had to spend some time in the garage. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t noticed, especially by a much younger Anjala. “I remember when I was a kid, I would sneak into the garage and peek under the cover to look at the bike,” he reminisced.

Although several years later, she had been brought back to running condition, “the tyres were shot, and finding tyres for this particular motorcycle is a bit tough since its rare now,” he explained. “And there wasn’t really anyone to ride it like before, so while we brought her back to running condition, she was back in the garage before long,” he recounted.

But with the arrival of youth, the BSA’s call was too tempting for Anjala to refuse, “And I asked my dad if we can bring the bike back out and see what needs to be done to it.”

His request was heard, and when the family mechanic was tending to some other vehicles, this BSA was also looked up and after some attention, was back in running condition. But it wasn’t long before a ground-up restoration was undertaken.

“She wasn’t as handsome as she is now at that time,” Anjala commented. “We took care of all the rust and other issues. My father had to scour through all of Colombo to find a pair of tyres that were close enough to the original for use, the result of which you see today.”

Being a motorcycle from a different era, certain quirks exist that give this 1958 BSA a little bit of personality. For example, “These don’t come with a key. Because these bikes come with what’s called a ‘magneto’, which provides the current to the spark plug through a governance,” which means no matter what a potential thief could try, the thief wouldn’t be riding away with this motorcycle.

Starting the motorcycle up is also a bit different, another point for anti-theft.

“Ever since I got familiar with this bike, I’ve learnt so much about motorcycles, and I’ve been crazy about them ever since,” Anjala shared.

Today, this 350cc overhead valve single cylinder champion, the BSA BB31 has stood the test of time, and continues to have a strong fan following thanks to its reputation to being a sturdy, dependable and exciting machine that simply works.

“My father told me about this time he was stopped while riding the bike by a person who said that he literally built his home thanks to a bike like this. The man had lugged all the materials using a bike like this,” he recounted.

As did his father, it is now Anjala’s time to make memories and share experiences with this BSA BB31. Countless fond recollections of experiences now occupy Anjala’s hall of memories, times with friends to road trips, as well as a handful of ‘adventures,’ the likes of which are expected when owning and riding a classic motorcycle.

It goes without saying, we’re confident that this beauty of a bike will continue to live on with Anjala and his family, and we’re all the happier knowing it. 

“When you’re riding a motorcycle, especially a classic like this, you truly do feel alive. There’s no other way to express that feeling. You’re not going fast, but you feel like you’re truly living in the moment while riding one and the world is just a blur. All that’s there is what’s ahead.”

(Pix by Venura Chandramalitha)

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage