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Hi all,

My first post here. I am a biker of 30 years but have never riden or owned a Brit bike confused I am now looking to buy a BSA for restoration and ride but which one should I get? My mechanics and electric knowledge is good but this will be a shed build. I am looking to spend about £500 or so for the bike and whatever it costs for the restoration. I am ideally looking for a 50's bike and like the flat track types or single seat style.

Any advice would be great but my BSA knowledge is limited so quoting just numbers to me may get me confused.

Thanks!!

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Hi Project,

Welcome! My name should be a clue as to my suggestion---B44. wink

A '50s bike for a Fiver--I don't know your market there, but the planned purchase price combined with this being your first Brit bike would lead me to suggest a somewhat later unit single BSA. I mean, in our fantasies, there is that barn-fresh DBD34GS Goldie just waiting for us to rescue, but the sad truth is that most of us have to settle for more mundane but still very nice bikes, like---yep. The B44. Or if you prefer something smaller, a B25 or B40. I don't know what kind of a B50 you could get for the money. Obviously, as with anything, the more you spend going in, the less you spend later on, but if the idea is to get a rolling wreck and learn about the bikes as you build, then any of the above should do the job.

"Equal time under the law" requires that, while the guys all cover their eyes, I suggest that others are available, for example, the G80 Matchless. More of a mechanical challenge (pre-unit construction, magneto ignition, etc.) but very viable bikes. And it's a single, very vintage-looking, rock solid and simple. Heavier than a BSA and the bits might be more expensive, because, as we all know, BSA was the best and there are so many of them around.... clap

Whatever you choose, be prepared to lavish it with special tools, many hours, several skinned knuckles and a wee bit of money, and you'll emerge at the end with a beautiful, functional bike of which you will be very proud!

And, most of all, welcome to the club!

Barb, the Shed Girls, Big John & "XS"


Barb (Three MustGetBeers)
"Midnight girl in a sunset town.."

Britney the B44
Bella the '69 T120
Pip the Triumph (I have "Great Expectations!")
Jaelith the '77 XS650/chair
The unnamed '79 XS650 with...potential
Millie the R80 BMW--she's "Thoroughly Modern"
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Hi Barb,

No, not a fiver. Around five hundred or so pounds ($1000).

The B44 Shooting Star looks great.

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I have no idea whatthe market is like over there , this may not be available , or it may be costly?but based on your description , for a road bike that will be restored and ridden occasionally , I cantthink of a better looking bke than an early 50's plunger framed A-7 or A-10 model. Supremely classic style , run great , ride OK on a smooth road . The same basic style was also available in single cylinder versions(other than Gold Stars)Some prefer the look and personality of these singles . As far as the 50's scrambles style , that would likely get into the swingarm Gold Star arena, for the money you are talking about it wont likely happen anywahere on this planet at the moment, even the A-10 scramblers are commanding huge sumsof cash these days , the unit singles , as Barb mentions , would be a better alternative , but the style tends to be more modern . Personally , I have a few things but I cant seem to get away from the A-65. they have some nice classic style butthe engine is more futuristic, I think it was the jealous Triumph types who referred to it as the "power egg", it isnt as classic looking as the earlier twins , but it grows on you .

In short , they all have good/bad points to them , butthey can pretty much all be sorted out and reliable ,, I think you should take some time and look atthe pics on this site , you'll probably see something that gets your attention , check your local sales to get an eye for what is available , maybe get in touch with a local bSA or British motorcycle club , they would have a good idea of who has what in the area , then simply drg somethinghome and get dirty, it'll be loads of fun , but beware these things are known to be habit forming, ittakes a strong will to stop at just one .

FWIW-BONZO

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Hi Bonzo,

Thanks for the reply. At the moment I am taking inspiration from
http://www.vintagebike.co.uk/Bike%20Directories/BSA%20Bikes/BSA%20index.htm
The A65 looks to me like a Triumph and I like the one pot (single) style. The B44 looks great but there is a picture of a Gold Star Scrambler which looks fantastic. Did they do these in road versions?
Is is an interesting comment about what is available here. I would hope that, as the home of BSA, we would be supportive of the marque. I already think that my £500 to buy something is going to be £1000 or more but that is fine. Barb's post is steering me towards the B44 so far.

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Project,
Good comments here. I too would lean towards a B44. A lot of them around and parts are universally available. Once you get one and get it sorted out you'll know if you have the disease and you can start looking for a twin. Then comes the rarer bikes, Gold Stars and A10(the pre unit bikes) if thee is still room in your shed.

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Hi there,

Starting from scratch on the bottom rung of the ladder can be a daunting and expensive experience. I would suggest that you tried to find somebody in your area with similar interests who could advise you on the old bike scene.

Do you have a branch of the BSA Owners Club close to where you live?

Alternatively, and providing you are available, the BSAOC is holding its Open Day at Billing Aquadrome near Northampton on Sunday 10th.June. from 10am. There will be literally hundreds of bikes there and you will be able to compare all the different models. The owners will be able to give you advice on how to restore, maintain and run an older machine.

There is a lot to learn so take your time. Don't jump in with both feet. Make sure you know what model you want to own and find out the availability of parts for that particular model.

Finally, it is often more expensive to buy a box of bits and purchase the remainder than to get a non-runner complete bike. Also renovating a bike can run away with your cash if you are not careful. Keep a tight hold on the purse strings. You don't want to end up spending £4000/£5000 on a bike that is only worth £2000 when it is finished.

Good luck with your search and keep us updated as you progress.

Beezageezauk.

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Hi Mr Mike,

Thanks. There are a couple of B31's on the brit eBay at the moment which look good. One is a basket case. How are these? I have had the bike disease for ages and have always taken things apart (and more importantly) put them back together again. My youngest son recently sold his Triumph Spitfire car circa 1974 which I was always tinkering with including a clutch replacement so I am not new to mechanics.

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Project -
I would have to back up a second and answer some basic questions...
• What do you want to do with the bike when you're finished? You wouldn't buy an Apple II computer because it was cheap, if you wanted to compute national weather patterns. As you already know, bikes are the same way.

• Do you want to restore a classic or just throw something together that looks good to you? If you really want a classic, then you have to hunt for a bike that has most of its parts intact. Finding ancient sheet metal can be the longest part of any restoration.
• Do you want to ride off-road or on road? While you might stumble on a great trials bike, if you're not into competitive off-road, then the find won't do you much good.
• How far do you want to ride? If you dream of round-town up to 100 mile rides, then a single will do very good. If you dream of John O'Groats to Lands End every weekend, a twin will be smoother and hold up better.
• Do you want to ride "2-up" or solo? You mentioned solo seats, but if your life includes a "significant other" then "she who must be obeyed" probably has other plans. A single will seem under-powered riding 2-up.
• Are you hooked-up with a local Club and what do they ride? A 350cc bike won't do you any good if all your mates ride 3-cyl 750cc machines.

Joining a local Club can also help you locate a bike and make parts contacts, saving you 3 or 4 times the price of club membership each year. Most owners have 3 or more of these bikes that they can't possibly ride or maintain. Often members will let one of their projects go to a friend because they know it will stay "in the neighborhood". And, these bikes could be right around the corner and you'd never know it. This board is also a great place to meet new friends. (In fact one of the first things I'd do is post a thread in the "Brit Bikes in General" Board and say "want to meet new friends and find Clubs in Essex".) The point is, if you buy all your bits from advertisements, you'll soon bust your spending budget. Through a Club, things can be borrowed or bartered.


For a first time Brit bike, riding up to 100 miles on back roads up to 60 MPH (no M roads), 2-up 5% of the time, then a "unit construction" BSA single would be a good choice. For main roads or 2-up I'd consider a 500cc unit construction twin minimum.

Although you said 1950's, I would direct you to a 1960's bike. The reason is that motorcycles made a quantum leap in technology about 1961 or so. "Pre-unit" bikes from the 50's generally have a magneto ignition and generator for lighting, which by itself could run your total budget to get operational. Later bikes with an alternator are 1/100 the complexity. (Read "complexity" here as the anonym of "reliability"!)

Any unit construction BSA wound be a good bet. Of the singles, there are zillions of parts because a lot of the parts for a 250, 350, 441 and 500 are interchangeable. Now, I wouldn't scoff at starting with a 250, but you have to remember that an engine rebuild costs about the same for a 250 as a 500. So you'll find dozens of 250's and your choices will decrease as the displacement increases.

Last thing is not to spend all your cash on "the bike" because you'll need special Whitworth spanners, new tires and a lot of other asides.

Generally though, if you like sleuthing around, rummaging though piles of parts, tinkering on old bits, testing your skills on nursing old technology, and generally learning stuff that most of the world couldn't wait to forget, then you're in the right place! beerchug


Don't hide 'em, Ride 'em !!

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Thanks for the comments. There were a lot of questions in the last couple of posts. I am already glad I joined the forum. Especially as it seems to has the most posts.

To answer a few of the questions -

Beezageezauk

Alternatively, and providing you are available, the BSAOC is holding its Open Day at Billing Aquadrome near Northampton on Sunday 10th.June. from 10am
I will now be there. Thaks for the info.

Make sure you know what model you want to own and find out the availability of parts for that particular model.
Exactly why I wanted some feedback from the experts in this forum.

You don't want to end up spending £4000/£5000 on a bike that is only worth £2000 when it is finished.
I wouldn’t want to but I would not be the first or last person to do it! If I spent £3k on a bike worth £2k and got £5k’s worth of grins out of it, it would be worth it.

RF Whatley

What do you want to do with the bike when you're finished?
Ride it weekends and sometimes to work (round trip through London of 60 Miles)

Do you want to restore a classic or just throw something together that looks good to you?
An interesting question. I am not a purest but as original as possible.

Do you want to ride off-road or on road?
On road only. I like the off road look

How far do you want to ride?
Around 40 Miles normally plus the occasional 100 Mile trip.

Do you want to ride "2-up" or solo?
I do have a "she who must be obeyed" who has been on most of my other bikes but I like the style of the single seat.

Are you hooked-up with a local Club and what do they ride?
No club membership or rides out yet.

Although you said 1950's, I would direct you to a 1960's bike.
I agree.

Last thing is not to spend all your cash on "the bike" because you'll need special Whitworth spanners, new tires and a lot of other asides.
I have a decent on going budget fund. I could cry at the amount of Whitworth, AF and general Imperial tools I have disposed of.

Generally though, if you like sleuthing around, rummaging though piles of parts, tinkering on old bits, testing your skills on nursing old technology, and generally learning stuff that most of the world couldn't wait to forget, then you're in the right place!
Oooooh YES smile

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B44's are very scarce in the UK, most were exported for example the Victor Special was export only from 68 onwards and sold out in the US 68 to 70. What B44's eg Victor Roadster/Shooting Star are are snapped up by the Scrambler mob who nick the engine to go into for example a Cheney frame and go twin shocking/pre 65. Same goes for the B50, so you may have to settle for the 350cc B40 or the B25. You could get a B25 and then buy the B44 engine bits from the US, with all those US sales the spares are plentiful in the US but rare in the UK.

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Hi Kommando,

Thanks for the advice. What about the B31?

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Project, you obviously know what you like.
There have been one or two B44 Victors for sale here in the UK in the past months, around the £2-2500 mark. Finding an unrestored one, thats a bit more tricky. I haven't seen one in a couple of years.
Out of interest, would you not be interested in 'cutting your teeth' on an A-65 ? the spares are as available and plentiful as any Ford car, plus they are a forgiving bike and reward you with endless fun. Also, for your requirements, unrestored ones come up most weeks for between £500 and £1000.
Well worth considering..... wink
I would always consider having another bike ASWELL as my A-65, but never INSTEAD of. smile
Anyway, whatever you get, make sure you tell us !


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B31 is magneto and dynamo, these will both need restoration and will cost big bucks, as you have already been told 60's bikes have alternators and coil ignition. For these new parts are being made and electronic ignition is available too.
B31 is also 100 lbs heavier than a B44 and less power, you will find it hard keeping up with modern urban traffic.

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Thanks. That's a no then wink

Cheers.

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Hi Project,

Just to muddy the waters a bit, having cried the merits of the B44 and unit singles in general, I have to admit that the twins are really nice, especially a single carb T-bolt or (if you get really lucky) an A10. My first real Britbike was a 1959 A10, and I loved it. Smooth, with lots of usable power, easy to work on--A10's had it all! On the down side, people snap them up like candy and thus they are expensive. A great alternative would be an A50 500 unit twin. The 500 doesn't stress the crank with it's plain bush, and is a sweet engine.

Something you might consider also is braking. The guys didn't mention it, but the later TLS brake is SO superior that it's in a whole different league than the older brakes. Gemini, my cafe bike, has a Triumph front end and TLS brake, and it is wonderful. Just another reason to not rule out the later 60's bikes.

Funny about that "home market/export" paradigm. I've been looking for years for a basket A50 twin to restore, but the "B" unit singles seem to drop out of the sky. I picked up a rolling B25 last winter for $150.00!

Another thing that will eventually be an issue: this is an addiction. If you get one, plan on having a shed full of the things some day. Seriously. They multiply in the night, and they will affect you like a box of new-born puppies--you just have to take one home! So prepare your S.O.--tell her now that she will soon have a serious rival! wink

And, as the guys have said---enjoy!

Barb, the Shed Girls, Big John & "XS"


Barb (Three MustGetBeers)
"Midnight girl in a sunset town.."

Britney the B44
Bella the '69 T120
Pip the Triumph (I have "Great Expectations!")
Jaelith the '77 XS650/chair
The unnamed '79 XS650 with...potential
Millie the R80 BMW--she's "Thoroughly Modern"
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A good B31 (350CC) will prove to be fairly reliable though. And don`t forget B33 (500CC) it`s practically the same bike. It depends on what kind of looks you`re after. Do you like the sound of a single or a twin?
Cruising at 45 mph can be very much fun and it puts a big grin on my face. But 80mph is fun too..

A magneto can work very well. If you like the 50`s style: go for it. It`s not like a 60 bike will give no troubles and a fifties bike will give you tons of problems. If you build it well take good care the riding distance you`re talking about seems doable on many Bsa`s. I would advise you to go for the looks, the sound and the power you want.

By the way, Bsa lied about how much hp their engines is putting out :-)

If I where to choose between B31 and B33 i would go for the B33.
And between A7 (500cc) and A10 (650cc) I`d go for the A10

Personally I love my A10, the engine sounds amazing, it`s a real nice ride and the A10 Golden Flash is known to be a fairly reliable bike if the timing side bearing is set up right. I would have to advise you to check the A10 out carefully before deciding on not getting one :-)

It seems to me that most of us are having the same troubles:

- Bad charging
- Engines leaking oil
- Bad brakes (not on the late A65 though)
- unstable clutches (slipping and dragging at the same time)
- Leaky gas tanks

There`s good cures for all of this and you`ll get very good help here from the people on Britbike ! What a fantastic bunch of people.
If you get these issues sorted out well in the beginning you`ll have a great bike.


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Wow - Too much info in a short time but thanks. I will get my head around it.

beezageezauk
I will visit the show you mentioned and look (and hear) what excites me - Great info!

I have looked at a previous thread here
http://www.britbike.com/ubb/noncgi/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/10/t/006149.html
2 early pics from the thread from BrianFromOz & Fisherman's 66 A65 look so good!!!!

Confused at the moment eek but this is not something I woke up and thought of. It has been there for a few years. As a clue my first bike was a Suzuki TS90 from '74 I owned one as a youth from '76 My best rebuild was a Z1 Kawasaki chop. I used to ride it to work in London every day.

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Couldn`t agree with you more, those bikes look soo well built and right !


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Welcome: Be sure to check eBay and also the UK eBay..there's a couple on in your price range now..in the EK...Beezerbill

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Hi Beezerbill,

I am watching eBay. But I might try and wait until the BSAOC day on 10th June as suggested to see what I like. I am glad there is no "Buy it now" buttons on what I am watching smile

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Well, since there have been a few comments in this thread.....BSA twins (A10 & A65) get some flack about the main bearings, particularly the RH main bearing. With careful/correct assembly, a good oil pump & piston type OPRV, and an oil filter, this is a moot point. Contrary to popular opinion, they not only work, but work quite well.

Here's some of my thoughts about your search:

A7/A10 - both are sweet bikes if you can find one relatively intact. Both plunger & swing arm bikes will work well for what you want to do. See my comments above for what needs done to the engine. The electrics will be pricey to make right, or update to an EI and alternator (Alton). Brakes with some work can be upgraded to the later TLS.

A50/A65 - As you are in the UK, you may be able to find an A50 at reasonable cost. Same with a less popular versions of the A65. Again, see my first paragraph about the engine. You will talk to a number of people who are going to slag the unit twins. Mostly due to ignorance. When sorted, the dry frame A series unit twins are amazingly reliable and competent, even on today's roads. The electrics are easy to upgrade (and relatively cheap too!), the engine is sweet, the handling is superb. And they do well commuting. Early unit twins are a little weak in the brake department, but can be upgraded. Late A series with TLS are quite good, the wide ½ width of the late twins also works well once bedded in. The late wet frame bikes are somewhat less desirable so cheaper. Don't rule them out either. They work too.

Pre Unit singles - The B series cast iron singles (B31, B33) are around. Same basic chassis as the A10's. A lot of the same comments apply. They are competent road bikes and a treat to look at. Alloy engines (B32, B32GS, B34, B34GS) are somewhat less common. Anything that is a true Gold Star will be pricey but fun.

Unit singles - kommando has given you the info you need on B44/B50 availability. Either one are a fun bike and quite capable. But like many BSA's, they can be improved. Lot's of information exists on how to improve them. The electrics can use the same upgrades as the unit twins. Don't rule out a B40. They work. IMO, they are best in a C15C type frame.

M20/M21 - the flathead singles can be fun to ride. Similar to the pre unit B series, pre unit A series on comments about electrics. They don't actually accelerate...they gain speed laugh . May not make some of your requirements.


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Thanks to everyone who has commented so far. I must be an expert by now laugh
Errr, just to test my understanding, and as a novice, why are there so many different looking bikes sharing the same model number? Is there a guide? I could type in a model number into a search engine and the pictures of bikes with the same model number range wildly. There seems to be so many styles for one model number. eek

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Hi again Project, I think that the difference between the British and Jap manufacturers was that when a Brit machine proved itself to be popular the basics didn't change for years. Take the Morris Minor for example.

An example of the BSA range is the humble B31. A 350 single cylinder engine which (sort of) remained the same from maybe 1946 through to 1959/60. Over the course of the years many things changed. It used Rigid, Plunger and Swing Arm frames. The style of fuel tanks changed. Some had single seats...others had twin seats. The swinging arm models from 1954 to 1959 used 3 different types of wheel variations and even the last model made didn't have a magdyno. It used coil ignition with an alternator.

Because of these variations, the more knowlegable can determine if a machine is more or less genuine and pinpoint its year of manufacture quite accurately.

I've never seen a guide to cover all BSA models, but there are many books on particular models that can be a good source of information.

For example, Roy Bacons book BSA Gold Star and Other Singles lists frame and engine numbers together with model changes from the 1930's to the end of production in the early 1970's. I believe that there is also one entitled BSA Twins and Triples in the same series.

I hope that this answers your question.

Beezageezauk.


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