Desert Beezer: 1967 BSA Victor Enduro 441

 BSA Victor 441

Rock drummer Jorma Vik builds and races a classic Beezer…

In the 1960s, BSA motocross star Jeff Smith convinced the factory that it was time to develop a lighter, all-new machine to replace the aging Gold Star. The result was the Victor GP, a 441cc unit-construction single that weighed 225 pounds and put out 32 horsepower. Aboard the Victor GP, Smith would win the 1964 and ’65 500cc Motocross World Championship, securing his place in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and holding off the wave of two-stroke motocrossers yipping at his heels.

BSA Victor GP
Ex-works Victor GP

BSA soon brought production versions of the Victor 441 to the States in street, trials, motocross, and enduro versions. Although these big British singles could be ornery, drippy, and hell to kick-start, reviewers loved the machine:

“The 441 single is a rare jewel of simplicity and a masterpiece of performance.” —Cycle, April 1968

BSA Victor 441

Enter our new friend Jorma Vik, a rock-n-roll drummer who grew up riding dirt bikes and playing music on an island in the Pacific Northwest.

“At a certain point I came to a realization that either my dirt bikes or my instrument were going to require my full devotion if I were to pursue them further. I chose to follow a career in music and moved to Los Angeles.”

BSA Victor 441

After a decade and a half of traveling the world in rock bands, the Eagles of Death Metal drummer rediscovered his love of two wheels aboard an ’03 Bonneville, which he outfitted for off-road adventure:

“The love I had for riding in my youth came back instantly.”

Jorma's Bonneville
Jorma’s Bonneville

However, Jorma quickly realized the limits of a 500-lb twin in the desert sands of California. The start of the pandemic offered a unique opportunity to build a street-legal, vintage thumper that better suited his needs. His donor machine? A 1967 BSA Victor Enduro 441 that hadn’t run in over a decade:

“The goal was to build a vintage ‘dual sport’ that I could ride around town and blast trails on…. I thought it would be fun to try and get it somewhere nearish to the mid 60s ‘works’ scrambles (motocross) bikes.”

BSA Victor 441

Jorma’s upgrades were extensive. He ditched the spindly stock forks in favor of a Betor front end from a Bultaco Pursang, fitting it to the BSA frame with the help of his buddy Kyle at Classic British Spares, and welded some grippy bear traps to B40 pegs for a better riding position.

He also deleted the battery in favor of an energy transfer type ignition system, fortified the clutch with an extra friction plate and heavier springs, welded a rear frame loop, built a new seat, changed the gearing, made a chromoly bash plate, and more.

BSA Victor 441

Jorma built the bike as a street-legal vintage dual-sport, not a competition bike, but then he heard about the Biltwell 100, a desert race on BLM land outside Ridgecrest, California, organized by the good folks at Biltwell:

“The 25-mile course we’ve laid out is very Baja like– fast, lightly whooped out and not very rocky or technical.

Biltwell 100Both Jorma and his girlfriend — WARGIRL bassist, Disneyland engineer, and all-around badass Tamara Raye — decided to race.

“So a week out from the race I had to prep two angry old British bikes and try to make sure they didn’t cannibalize themselves or the desert didn’t eat them alive.”

BSA Victor 441

But all the stress and last-minute prep was worth it. Soon, despite being aboard “the lone BSA thumper in a sea of fire breathing Triumph twins,” Jorma found himself cutting his way through the dust of the pack, fighting his way toward the front:

“I fought some great battles up front to the point where I started laughing in my helmet cuz it felt like a bad 80s movie. It was awesome.”

BSA Victor 441

Unfortunately, a last-lap electric glitch — we’ll let Jorma tell you the full story below — kicked him down from second to fourth. Still, it was a victory for Jorma and the Victor, well worth the beating to both bike and body. What’s more, one of his other bikes, a 1975 Triumph TR5MX motocross, took home the gold with Tamara at the helm:

“Oh. And my girlfriend brought home the #1 plate for us on my Triumph!  She’s a badass like that.”

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

Below, we get the full story on the build, the race, and the heart of the two-wheeled life from Jorma. But first, we’d like to share what he told us when we asked him what it was like to ride his BSA.  A poetic ode to Beezers, British bikes, and these vintage machines we love (and love to hate) so much:

It sounds like a rapid fire machine gun.

It shakes you like an angry babysitter.

It’s temperamental and moody.

You have to listen to it. It tells you when it’s pissed off. I’ve saved the motor from seizing a number of times by letting it tell me who’s boss.

I absolutely and unconditionally love it. Except for when I hate it. But I love it then too.

It’s honestly pretty boring to ride a modern bike for me now.

BSA Victor 441: Builder/Owner Interview

Jorma and Tamara at the Biltwell 100.
Jorma and Tamara at the Biltwell 100. Photo: @hankhateseverything
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your garage or shop.

I grew up on an island in the Pacific Northwest riding dirt bikes and learning to play music in a cabin in the woods. At a certain point I came to a realization that either my dirt bikes or my instrument were going to require my full devotion if I were to pursue them further. I chose to follow a career in music and moved to Los Angeles.

After 15 years of traveling the world in rock bands I got back into motorcycling as a hobby during down time between tours. The love I had for riding in my youth came back instantly. I purchased a 2003 Triumph Bonneville as a reintroduction bike and went to work on customizing it to make it more capable off-road. The project eventually turned into a 1960s type “desert sled” tribute which was a lot of fun to build. But despite my best efforts it wasn’t long before I realized the shortcomings of a 500 pound street bike in the California desert sand.

Last year in my downtime at the start of the pandemic I thought a good way to occupy myself would be to do another build, this time starting with a vintage Brit bike as the platform. The goal was to build a vintage “dual sport” that I could ride around town and blast trails on.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

1967 BSA Victor Enduro 441.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

In the 60s the BSA unit single motor came in many displacements and was the platform that the factory race department used in their off road bikes with great result. I thought it would be fun to try and get it somewhere nearish to the mid 60s “works” scrambles (motocross) bikes.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

• What custom work was done to the bike?

The first issue was the front end. The steering geometry felt like you were driving a school bus and the forks were absolutely useless. I sourced an early 70s Betor front end from a Bultaco Pursang and adapted it to the frame with the help of my good friend Kyle at Classic British Spares.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

Next was the riding position. The foot peg position back then was much further forward and up than I’m comfortable with. I took the peg hangers from a BSA B40 (the 350 model that preceded the 441) and welded some bear traps to ’em, which brought me back down to where I could stand comfortably to use the suspension my mama gave me (my legs) and help with the lack of travel on vintage bikes.

The motor is still fairly stock, though I have a sneaking suspicion someone stuck a spicier cam in there at some point in its life cuz it pulls like a pissed off donkey. It’s still running points/condenser but I converted it to an energy transfer type ignition system to get rid of the battery.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

The clutch/primary on the stock B44 wasn’t changed from the previous 250cc C15 motor so it wasn’t up to the task of what I was asking of it. I got away with slipping in an extra friction plate and some heavier springs to remedy this.

Then just kinda typical stuff. Cut and welded up the rear frame loop to bring the fender up and give some clearance to the rear tire — made a new seat — changed the gearing — quick throttle/magura levers.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

In preparation for the desert race I made a chromoly bash plate similar to the ones you see on most desert sleds which is quite possibly responsible for me finishing the race. It took an absolute pounding during one particularly hazardous high speed encounter with a ditch that my spine is still fairly bummed out about.

A funny side note — spoiler alert: I made a kill switch out of a hacksaw blade that grounds a hot wire to the handlebar — an old desert hack as normal switches/buttons are notorious for failing. Last lap of the race the bike dies. Guess what the culprit was. My cute little kill switch.

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

It sounds like a rapid fire machine gun.

It shakes you like an angry babysitter.

It’s temperamental and moody.

You have to listen to it. It tells you when it’s pissed off. I’ve saved the motor from seizing a number of times by letting it tell me who’s boss.

I absolutely and unconditionally love it. Except for when I hate it. But I love it then too.

It’s honestly pretty boring to ride a modern bike for me now.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

• You recently raced the BSA in the Biltwell 100 – how’d it perform?

I hadn’t built this bike to be a competition bike but when I got news of the race I couldn’t pass it up. I’d always wanted to race when i was a kid so it was somewhat of a lifelong dream.

I knew my single cylinder BSA would be outgunned by bigger/more capable machines and riders in the vintage class but I figured if the bike I built, having just learned what a zener diode was, even finished that was a win for me. Of course that feeling changed once I was there amongst it all.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

My girlfriend planned to do the race as well but the motor on her Triumph T100c shit the bed a couple weeks out. Not long ago I acquired an almost unridden 1975 Triumph TR5MX motocross bike, which I let her take on its maiden competition excursion.

So a week out from the race I had to prep two angry old British bikes and try to make sure they didn’t cannibalize themselves or the desert didn’t eat them alive. To say it was a stressful week is a huge understatement. Of course I opened up many cans of worms and was still tuning carbs and ripping parts off the bikes trackside the day of the race.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

I knew I wasn’t gonna holeshot the bikes that were nearly twice the displacement of my thumper off the line so I hung back a bit and let everyone jockey for position up front. Then I started slowly working my way up, using the agility of my lighter bike to my advantage and found myself amongst the front of my class.

I fought some great battles up front to the point where I started laughing in my helmet cuz it felt like a bad 80s movie. It was awesome.

During the last lap I’m tearing thru the back section and the bike dies without warning. I pull to the side and examine the electrical. Everything seems to be intact. I see 2nd and 3rd place rip by me. I’d had absolutely no idea I was in second when my bike died.

BSA Victor 441

Exhausted, dehydrated, and pissed off I ripped my shade-tree kill switch up and gave the bike a Hail Mary kick. Fired right up!

At that point I’d lost a couple more positions but was able to gain ’em back before the finish line on some wing and a prayer type “fuck it all” wide open, fingers crossed frustration. The sportsmanship at the finish line was so cool to see. Everyone congratulating each other and making sure everyone else was ok.

It was an absolutely fantastic time. Spending time with friends and making new ones is the coolest. I hope that I’m lucky enough to have some time off to do it again next year!

Oh. And my girlfriend brought home the #1 plate for us on my Triumph!  She’s a badass like that.

BSA Victor 441

Some closing words:

I started this project with almost zero knowledge of vintage bikes and how this machine worked. There is an absolute plethora of information and literature out there at your fingertips should you have any desire to do this. And there are wonderful people who are more than willing to help out and lend a hand.

  • I built this bike for less money than a modern motorcycle rider spends on their shocks.
  • If you’re reading this — you can do this and you should. It’s about as much fun as you can have on two wheels.
  • The people you meet and friends you make along the way are worth it alone.

BSA Victor 441 Scrambler

Thanks to:

Moto Chop Shop: @motochopshop
Classic British Spares: @classicbritishspares
Bell Powersports: @bell_powersports
Dunlop Motorcycle Tires: @ridedunlop
Biltwell Inc.: @biltwell

2 Comments

  1. Elam Blacktree

    Bloody awesome article! More like this, please.

  2. 100% agree, Elam! Fantastic story.

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