The BSA Bantam is a motorcycle driven and loved by everyone in the world; from sheep farmers in Australia to servicemen in the army and navy. Even postmen in Britain used the Bantam for their deliveries. Many people around the world have fascinating stories about their experiences with the Bantam. It is one of the best motorcycles that not everyone has heard of.
It’s a classic British motorcycle that we’d love to throw a leg up on. The BSA Bantam was one of those classic lightweight bikes with its 2-stroke engine and 23-year production history. Let’s see what makes the BSA Bantam so special.
ten BSA and their motorcycles
The Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) began in the early 1860s when the manufacture of firearms was its focus. Almost 20 years later, they got into making bikes.
The company started making cars in 1907, then moved into motorized bicycles. Their Model E was launched after World War I. It was a 770 cc V-twin, which developed around 6 horsepower. They quickly ventured into airplanes. We first saw the BSA Bantam in the late 1940s.
9 BSA Bantam – British by heritage, German by design
The BSA Bantam design modeled the DKW RT 125, a two-stroke motorcycle produced by DKW. DKW was a German brand that started as a result of an unsuccessful toy engine, which would turn into a motorcycle success story. Just need to check out some of the most desirable motorcycles from the 1940s.
The competition was on. With the end of the war, motorcycles became more and more popular. Even Harley-Davidson took advantage of their 125 two-stroke model, which came out around the same time as the Bantam two-stroke.
8 The BSA Bantam is distinctive
The BSA Bantam has its own unique character. It’s a lightweight bike that has had some racing success. It was made tough and was a first bike for many young riders.
The Bantam has evolved from the first D1, with its sturdy frame, to the Bushman, which is attracting the attention of collectors. But one of its most distinctive features is its 2-stroke engine.
seven The BSA Bantam and its 2-stroke engine
It may have been based on the DKW RT 125, but Bantam engineers reversed the engine design. This meant that the gear lever, which was on the left in the German model, was now on the right side.
But that was only the beginning. Over time the engine evolved, where at the end of its production in the 70s the Bantam was a 175cc producing just over 12 horsepower, certainly unlike the first D1 Bantam with its 4-5 horsepower.
6 The BSA Bantam D1
In its appearance, the Bantam D1 was certainly a reflection of its time. He was solid and looked solid. For starters, it had stiff rear suspension. Three years later, the suspension was upgraded.
When first released, it was only available in Mist Green. Production continued into the 1950s. 1963 was the end of the line for the BSA Bantam D1.
5 23 years in the making
The BSA Bantam has certainly had a long life cycle with its 23 year production run. He saw some changes during this period. The D1 may have been able to accelerate to 45 mph, but by the late 60s the D175 was reaching speeds of up to 65 mph.
Not only that, the appearance of the BSA Bantam has certainly evolved into a more refined bike, modernized for its time. But it wasn’t all about looks.
4 BSA Bantam and its racing past
The BSA Bantam has had its success in the racing world. This is not surprising given its lightweight frame. Eric Walsh was an Australian racer, but he was well known for tuning his Bantams, which quickly became champions. Known as the ‘Walsh Bantams’, they were a force to be reckoned with.
In the 1950s the BSA Bantam also raced in the Isle of Man TT. The Isle of Man TT may be the most ridiculous race of the year, but the BSA Bantam should definitely be taken seriously as a light and nimble race.
3 Evolution of a Bantam
The BSA Bantam has evolved over time. In the early 1950s the 150cc D3 arrived, increasing power to over 5 horsepower and increasing speed. It was offered in black, brown or grey. The D5 and D7 also saw increases, with the introduction of a new look, with the 175cc D7 Bantam featuring blue and red paint, with chrome highlights. Its framework has been updated.
The success of the 60s. We saw the D10 for the first time in 1966. The power has been increased. There were other variants too, with the D10 Sports looking lean, mean and ready for business and the D10 Bushman. The B175 was arguably the pinnacle of Bantam evolution. Handling and power have been much improved. Of course, we can’t forget the Bushman, with its distinctive bushfire orange and white paint job.
2 The end of the BSA Bantam
The dominance of Japanese motorcycles would shake the industry. It was a highly competitive market. The British bikes were falling behind the peloton.
BSA was facing its own financial difficulties. After 23 years and so many great models, the Bantam’s run was over. But it hasn’t been forgotten, with many riders today still in love with their BSA Bantams.
1 In the market for a BSA Bantam
The BSA Bantam is definitely worth a visit. If you’re in the market for a BSA Bantam, you can pick one up at auction for less than $3,000.
The BSA Bantam has a long history, starting with the D1, with its distinct Mist Green appearance. But then it evolved over time. We’ve seen some great patterns in its 23-year run. It not only has a fascinating racing and production history, but has also stood the test of time as a reliable vehicle. Some would say it is one of the most impressive British motorcycles of all time.