Thursday, January 5, 2012
Motorcycle Throwback - 1950 BSA Bantam
There was a heck of a lot of reallocation of property after the Second World War and Germany was obviously hardest hit. So when it came time to give up the goods, Germany found themselves losing their DKW RT 125 motorcycle as war reparations. Harley-Davidson was the first to make their own version of the German motorcycle a few years later, mere months before BSA started producing their own. However, the British bike had a little better of a market and had more success.
BSA's first version of the German design was released in October of 1948 after having been converted into imperial measurements and painted a very minty shade of green. But BSA saw some serious areas of improvement in their little Bantam and, two years later, started producing a new version of the model. The 1950 BSA Bantam D1 was instead fitted with a plunger rear-springing rather than the rigid rear end that the Bantam was originally produced with. Of course, this made the bike a heck of a lot more pleasant to ride and also changed much of the frame of the bike.
But the BSA Bantam hadn't gone unnoticed by the competitive motorcycle industry. Many who bought one in the first two years had modified the handlebars and sprockets in order to make it a decent racing bike. BSA didn't want to lose that spirit of the new 1950 Bantam and so they released both the new plunger model as well as the original rigid rear end for competition models. Of course, the misty green was kept.
Still, a few things remained the same and would carry through the many changes that BSA would later make to their Bantam. Each of the BSA Bantam D1's was a 125 cc engine that could reach up to 50 miles per hour while managing 100 mpg fuel efficiency while being operated off of a three speed gearbox fed through a wet clutch. The bikes were light and perfect for competitions such as trials, which were traditionally competed in with larger bikes.
The bikes were a hit and the BSA Bantam found itself being remodeled and produced into 1971. Over the years, BSA managed to sell somewhere in between 250,000 to half a million of the bikes, depending on who you ask. And, even today, the BSA Bantam is well known as being the "truly British" lightweight motorcycle.