BSA Bantam Buyers guide

 

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BSA Bantam

History

D7 Specifications

D1 Specifications

Production numbers & colours

Video

D1, D3, D5, D7, D10, D13 and D14 Bantams

Swinging arm & General Post Office Bantams

Electrics

Riding the BSA Bantam

Links


BSA Bantam D7

 

1966 BSA Bantam D7 Specifications

Engine: Air cooled, two stroke single.

Capacity: 172cc

Bore x Stroke: 61.5mm x 58mm

BHP: 7.9 @ 5000rpm

Compression ratio: 7.4:1

Transmission: 3-speed, multi-plate clutch

Brakes: 5.5-inch drums, front and rear

Electrics: 6 volt, Wipac

Front suspension: Telescopic fork

Rear suspension: Swinging arm,

twin shock absorbers/dampers

Wheels/Tyres: 3.00 x 18-inch front
and rear

Weight: Variously quoted between

180-210lbs

Maximum speed: 60-65mph


BSA D1 Bantam

 

1948 BSA Bantam D1
Specifications

Engine: Air cooled, two stroke single.

Capacity: 123cc

Bore x Stroke: 52mm x 58mm

BHP: 4.5

Compression ratio: 6.5:1

Transmission: 3-speed, multi-plate clutch

Brakes: 5-inch drums, front and rear

Electrics: 6 volt, Wipac or Lucas

Front suspension: Telescopic fork

Rear suspension: Rigid

Wheels/Tyres: 2.75 x 19-inch front

and rear

Weight: Variously quoted between

180-210lbs

Maximum speed: 45-50mph


 

 

£22.99

 

 


BSA Bantam facts

1. The production of the 100,000th BSA Bantam was marked at the 1953 Earls Court Show.


 

BSA Bantam video

Check out our BSA Bantam video on YouTube if you'd like to see a little more of this bike. Click the image to go straight there.


Top BSA Bantam links

 

Bantam Bantam Racing

www.bsabantamracing.co.uk

 

BSA Owners Club

www.bsaoc.org

 

www.mistgreen.com

 

BSA Bantam Club

www.bsabantamclub.org.uk

 

 

 

THE CURRENT MINOR CULT STATUS of the BSA Bantam is a classic example of sentiment and emotion triumphing over reason and good judgment; a textbook paradigm of how, over the past ten thousand years or so, the human mind hasn’t really dragged itself out of the caves at all but is still down there grunting away in a paleolithic hole, intellectually speaking; just a small nuclear war removed from where we first learned to walk upright and got the primitive fire started.

Why? Because we ought to loathe with a passion these antiquated, best-used-before-1972, undersized, carcinogenic two-strokes. And if there was a single pragmatic Anglo-Saxon chromosome still at large in the post-Norman Conquest gene pool, we would have long since recycled these glorified pushbikes into washing machines or fridge magnets.

But we’re British, damn it, and we don’t merely like the Bantam, we love it; so much so that the lowly Tweezer Beezer has been hard-wired into our DNA. Come hell, high water, or white van man, we’re still not yet ready to give up on the most popular BSA—nay, the most popular bike—the British motorcycle industry ever built, never mind that these machines make about as much all-round practical sense these days as a perforated condom.

 

BSA Bantam D7 side view

Pretty D7 BSA Bantam. We road-tested this and found it hard to fault.

BSA Bantam history

 

And it’s appropriate that we’ve mentioned the Germans, because that’s where these Small Heath Dinky Toys were seeded.

We’re talking about WW2 reparations. We're talking about the famous Potsdam pow-wow. We're talking about a US$20 billion German apology to the allies for all the harm and distress caused by Hitler trying to undo the Treaty of Versailles. Because when the shooting stopped, the inevitable picking-over-the-spoils started. Which was why BSA, having helped the British government bomb the hell out of the Third Reich (and having profited handsomely from it), the company was now looking to line its pockets a little more and hoping to put some rainy day money in the piggy.

Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with such legalised looting. International armed conflict is an expensive business, and anyone with any experience of the Great War knew only too well that hard times were coming and that the Americans weren't giving us all those liberty ships and Sherman tanks for free simply because of a common linguistic heritage.

So BSA did what needed to be done and moseyed around the wrecked German factories searching for a little payback. The firm quickly recognised and appropriated a winning design in the shape of the German Dampf Kraft Wagon (DKW) RT125 (a design which was also recognised by the Russians, the American and the Japanese who, in due course, all built their own versions of the little Deek).

 

BSA Bantam Amal carburettor

Fuel economy for this 175cc two-stroke is around 70-80mpg. Or more.

BSA Bantam production numbers and colours

 

To disguise things a little, or maybe simply out of ordinary British perversity, the plans for the DKW archetype were flipped on the drawing board thereby putting the gear lever on the side that God intended it to be. Meaning the right side, of course. And various other detail changes were made; some of them actually very BIG details such as telescopic forks instead of girders.

Also fitted was a "shovel" front mudguard, a fishtail exhaust, a 27 watt Wico-Pacy magneto/generator and a dry cell battery inside the headlight to look after the parking lamp.

All that aside, by the time the 123cc D1 Bantam (nominally 125cc) went popping like a cheap champagne cork onto the BSA stand at the 1948 Earl’s Court Show, the bike was as British as the royal family and pretty much everyone was happy with the delusion that once again the nation’s engineers had shown the world that when it comes to anything, Britannia rules.

But let’s forgive and forget. We got the Bantam and happily built around 400,000 of them (depending on whose figures you believe). And being fundamentally German, it was a decent little bike, and at around sixty quid a throw, the little chicken was as cheap as chips and small enough that even the nation’s WW2 amputees could rest their bloody stumps on the deck. And for many it was either that, or the bus, or Shank’s pony.

It wasn’t bad to look at either. BSA, after all, was a solid, unadventurous company and recognised the fact that the route to the hearts (and wallets) of the average English (and for that matter international) labourer was a conservative one. So the Bantam stylists played it straight and simple and did almost nothing purely for art sake.

Even the Mist Green colour had just right the shade of austerity mixed into it making you wonder if it really ought to have been called Missed Green. But it was close enough for most riders and was, fact fiends, the same colour used for Erling Poppe’s famous/infamous Sunbeam S7.

On the move, the Bantam was equally fuss free and unpretentious. With its rigid rear end and softly sprung saddle, the D1 plodded along in a brisk, workmanlike manner and was comfortable enough all the way up to around 50mph (in a tail wind). But by 1950, plunger rear suspension was both optional and, to many, regrettable. The rigid frame at least had the virtue of clean lines and simplicity, whereas the plunger meant that you now had to get out the greasepot and lubricate something other than the drive chain.

 

Not a two-stroke fan? This one smokes little and is easy on the ear.

D1, D3, D5, D7, D10, D13 and D14 Bantams

 

Nevertheless, the Bantam burbled happily into a confident future and was joined in 1954, by a larger 148cc D3 brother (rather than a D2 - which proved that BSA, for all its technical prowess, couldn’t count). Braking horsepower went up from around 4.5 to a whopping 5.3 and the company bought some new paint and coloured the original Mist Green a fetching shade of Grey & Cream, or Maroon and Black.

In 1956, swinging arm suspension improved the ride for the D3 leaving the D1 to lope along on plungers until it was discontinued for the general public in 1963, and for the GPO in 1968.

The D5 Super Bantam appeared in 1958 offering a 174cc engine and raising the top speed bar to around 60mph. The wheels shrunk from 19-inch to 18-inch, and colours became Bayard Crimson or Black and Ivory.

The following year the D5 Super became the D7 Super (BSA still couldn’t count) and the stylists went to work and made the little bike look like a whole-lot-bigger bike almost propelling it from lightweight territory to middleweight country.

But it was still a Bantam at heart and still a huge seller, and the new headlight nacelle gave it exactly the right facelift for the burgeoning sixties.

Colours such as Fuchsia Red and Sapphire Blue added a touch of glamour to an otherwise fairly prosaic velocipede, and suspension and braking was uprated—at the expense of the (still) 3-speed transmission fitted as standard.

In 1967 BSA launched the D10 with even more power to cater for a populace that was fattening up nicely after a decade of rationing, and a Bushman off-road model was built featuring a high exhaust pipe and chunky tyres; perfect for the odd afternoon stump-jumping around Epping Forest.

Or perhaps not.

The D14/4 (4 for 4-speed) arrived in ’68 with a high compression engine. And the following year saw the introduction of the B175, aka D175 (which proved that BSA didn’t know its alphabet very well either). There was, incidentally, an interim D13 prefix that related to around 600 or so bikes, but you’re not likely to find many of those in the small ads.

 

BSA Bantam rear brake

The rear brake is very good. The front was even better. Ten out of ten.

Swinging arm and General Post Office Bantams

 

Of all the Bantams, the later swinging arm models (D14 onward) are probably your best bet for any “serious” riding. The earlier rigid D1 models see little practical use these days and are usually trailered from show to show picking up endless concours awards instead of living life on the edge.

Keep in mind too that pre-D7 models had pressed steel brake drums (as opposed to later cast-iron drums) and don’t actually stop until something stops them.

If you’re desperate to own one, you’ll likely be paying around £1200 for a decent D14 or B175 (at 2012 prices), and somewhere between £400 and £900 for everything else—except the original D1, the price of which is all over the place. Add ten to twenty percent for dealer bought bikes..

Overall, the humble Bantam did its civic duty with reasonable aplomb during the wonderful yah-boo We Won The War years, and gave a lot of pleasure to weekend joyriders who simply couldn’t afford anything else. And it’s a frugal machine too returning around 125mpg—and can be stripped and repaired on a kitchen table with little more than a big hammer and a little hammer. Moreover, there are plenty around, with new old ones being discovered from time to time.

The General Post Office (GPO) bought thousands of Bantams for telegram delivery duty, making the little red roosters a familiar site on British roads (and occasionally pavements). And Bantam racing was big news in the 1960s (and we’re talking about Bantams racing Bantams, rather than Bantams racing people).

These unlikely bikes have also trounced a lot of more plausible competition in any number of scrambles events and have even raced at the Isle of Man (in the Ultra Lightweight TT). And get this; some guys have cracked the ton on streamlined Bantam projectiles proving that there’s no limit to the ridiculous things motorcyclists will do at the weekends (and aren’t we all glad of it?).

BSA Bantam Electrics

 

Electrics, incidentally, are either Wico-Pacy or Lucas, and both systems are prone to misbehaviour and demand some electrical aptitude on the part of the operator.

In view of how simple and straightforward these bikes are, you can spend a disproportionate amount of your life familiarising yourself with the detail and ownership tricks, the concomitant of which is the fact that building one from parts is bound to end in tears for the inexperienced.

The last bikes rolled out of the factory in 1971. The spares supply is very good and reasonably cheap. Every neighbourhood has at least one resident Bantam expert capable of solving everything from the mysteries of budget British electrics to Fermat’s Last Theorem. And with the proliferation of GATSO cameras on British roads, you can actually be caught speeding on one even when you’re not really trying.

But keep in mind that restorations costs are disproportionately high, meaning that a decent paint job alone might well set you back more than the bike’s worth. Best advice is to just keep them rolling and let the patina of history have its wicked way. They always look better like that anyway.

 

Red BSA Bantam D7

Good handling and comfortable. If you're looking for a good buzz, you can happily buzz off on a Bantam. Count us among the fans.

Riding the BSA Bantam

 

But are they any use on modern roads?

Not a lot, if you want the truth. At least, the 125cc models aren't. It’s not so much that they don’t have the speed; they'll buzz along at a fairly steady 45-50mph under most conditions. But they don't have the grunt, acceleration or presence. To many drivers, they're all but invisible.

However, if you're tough and stubborn and brave and dedicated, you could yet travel tens of thousands of miles on a 125cc BSA Bantam and have a hoot doing it (see feature on John Storey and his amazing 300,000 mile D1 Bantam to see just how much masochistic pleasure can be wrought out of these bikes once you knuckle down to the agonisingly slow march of progress).

But for the vast majority of us (but by no means all of us), the 125cc Bantam, along with dozens of other 125cc British lightweights, has more or less come to the end of the road—save for the odd Sunday afternoon scooting around with whatever tribe you’re attached to.

Of course, if you live in rural Spain or France, or somewhere else where you can still find an empty stretch of tarmac, the piddly Bantam could be just the thing for zipping around the odd vineyard or dust bowl. But here in bumper-to-bumper Blighty, where people will murder you for another inch of highway, you’re living on borrowed time.

The 175cc bikes are different. These still have a fair amount of backroad zip left in them, and if you're not too heavily built, and are riding solo, you could use one of these for general commuting and for general days out. Just stay away from any fast roads and anything that looks like a headwind.

In good tune, they start easily and rev freely. The clutch is light and smooth, the brakes (when set up correctly) are good to excellent, and the handling is acceptable-to-good.

They're fairly comfortable too with everything within easy reach. And spares are everywhere, and reasonably priced.

We recently road-tested a D7 around the Kentish country lanes and had to be levered off the handlebars, such was the fun. And if you're used to lumbering four-strokes and haven't ridden a Bantam for a while, you might be pleasantly surprised at the sense of "liberation" offered by a decent little 175cc British two-stroke.

Keep in mind too that with the ever rising cost of fuel, and insurance, a 175cc BSA Bantam, returning around 70-80mpg, is about as cheap as practical classic biking is going to get.

 


 

 

Finally, BSA Bantam purists look away because this diesel BSA Bantam is likely to upset a few people. Click the link, or click the image for more information.

 









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