BSA Owners' Club Forum

The BSA Workshop => Singles => Topic started by: Phil C on 02 August, 2017, 21:41:38

Title: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 02 August, 2017, 21:41:38
I'm a new member. I've recently passed my motorbike test, retired (I'm 63), and bought a bike (2011 Bonneville T100). I have no experience of motorcycle maintenance, but I also fancy buying a classic to tinker with/try to maintain. I guess I ought to try to keep things relatively simple, and want to keep cost down, and I was wondering what bike to look for. What about a BSA B40? Would that be a good choice? I'm 6ft 4ins tall. A C15 would, I guess, be too small. A Starfire I think is a bit bigger (I had one long ago when I was about 17), but I don't like the appearance of that as much as the C15 and B40.  Any advice please?  Phil.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: TIGERJ on 03 August, 2017, 06:46:16
Hi Phil
         Welcome to the forum.
         I bought a C15 about a year ago, just completed a winter rebuild
         Great fun plus lots of help from members.
BSA bikes a great place to start.
By the way B40 to just a bored out C15.
Regards
           Tim
         
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 03 August, 2017, 07:40:15
Thanks Tim. I thought a B40's seat height was bit  higher than a C15's? Would a B40 or C15 be a bit too small for me, as I'm 6ft 4ins tall?  Phil.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Greybeard on 03 August, 2017, 10:08:48
Hello, Phil.
I know it's a bit heretical on this forum, but being of a similar, albeit not quite, stature, have you looked at the AJS/Matchless 500 singles of around 1960? I have a 1961 G80 which has a similar bulk/seat height to my modern Bonnie. It also has enough grunt not to be phased by hills when a larger pilot is aboard  ;) The physical size difference when standing alongside my Golden Flash or B31 is quite pronounced.
Sorry for mentioning the 'opposition', folks, but we love all, well most, old bikes don't we?  :)

Steve
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: JulianS on 03 August, 2017, 10:19:38
Thanks Tim. I thought a B40's seat height was bit  higher than a C15's? Would a B40 or C15 be a bit too small for me, as I'm 6ft 4ins tall?  Phil.

The B40 is a bit bigger all the way around than the C15. The wheels are bigger, the front brake bigger, slightly longer wheelbase, slightly more ground clearance and the forks more robust. The data books give seat height as 32 inches for B40 and 30 for C15. But it does not tell you the relationship between seat and footrest or seat and handlebars.

I am 6 ft 1 inch and found the B40 I had too small and uncomfortable. You might struggle at 6ft 4 inches. Especially if you intended to ride it more than a few local miles.

If you want to go for a small bike I think it would be best to sit on one and try it for size and visualise riding it for the purpose you intend it.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: cee-b on 03 August, 2017, 10:30:58
I am 6'2" and have just bought a trials bike - C15 engine (bored out to 290cc) in a B40 frame.

It is ideal size for me as a trials machine, but I wouldn't want to ride it any distance. I would say they are too small as a road bike for a tall guy.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: TIGERJ on 03 August, 2017, 12:37:06
Julian thanks for the update on the B40
Tim
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 03 August, 2017, 13:53:54
Thanks for all the advice so far - all noted. I'm sad that it appears both the C15 and the B40 are too small for someone as tall as me, as I fancied a BSA, especially given the obvious value of this site, and of Rupert Ratio manuals, and also the BSA's relative affordability.  But anyway, as things stand, it looks like my options are:  1. Get a B40 anyway and put up with being cramped , given that I would probably only use it for short distances (sit on one first of course, as advised by Julian, below);  2. Reconsider a Starfire (would that be any better for someone my height?);  3. Consider other makes (eg AJS/Matchless as suggested by Steve, below. Is it best to stick with a single to start with? What about the old 5/6/7 series BMW flat twins from the 60s/70s - I always liked the look of them, but maybe they're not ideal for a first classic for someone with no bike maintenance experience?). This is not simple, but I suppose I'd better get used to things not being straightforward! Any more thoughts? Phil.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Greybeard on 03 August, 2017, 20:45:32
You've certainly got some pondering to do, Phil. Whatever you decide, for a first classic I'd tend to go for something for which spares are plentiful and reasonably priced. Triumph, BSA and AMC appear to be well up in the vanguard in that respect, perhaps followed by Ariel, though with Triumph, you're probably going to be limited to twins. Nothing wrong with a twin of course, though there are twice as many big moving bits to repair should the unthinkable happen. A single keeps things simple and all are very easy to work on (and they also sound the best  ;)  ), most designs being based on 1920s or 30s technology.
The BMWs you mentioned are fine machines if you can find a good one. My first Beemer was a R75/7. A beautifully smooth engine, much better than the R100RT and R100RS that I had later. They always felt a bit rough/lumpy in comparison and I found the R100RS to be decidedly uncomfortable at anything below 70-80mph. I understand that the 600cc boxer was the sweetest of the lot. Naturally, spares are expensive and the bikes do have their mechanical foibles but if the bike is well sorted then you shouldn't need many  ::)

Good luck with your deliberations.
Steve
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 03 August, 2017, 20:59:23
Thanks, Steve - very interesting. Are the old /5/6/7 BMWs easy to work on? And are parts very available even though expensive? (I guess as this is a BSA forum I perhaps shouldn't be asking!)
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Greybeard on 03 August, 2017, 22:00:00
They are pretty easy to work on, Phil, as most things are easily accessible. Balancing the carbs (done on the cables) is an acquired knack, best done by ear rather than fancy gauges, but once set up tends to be reliable. Exhaust nuts need a proper spanner to loosen and it needs doing as soon as you get the bike to make sure they havent siezed on the threads - an expensive repair! Threads can be treated with optimol anti-seize compound for peace of mind. Valve gear can get noisy but is usually due to endfloat on the rockers which can be taken up by slackening the head bolts and moving them in slightly.
There were reports of valve failure around 60,000 miles at one time, though Ive no personal experience of that.
When I ran Beemers the 'go to' spares supplier was Motobins and I dont recall ever being let down, though in fairness, the bikes were largely trouble free, a starter motor being the biggest expense on one of the R100s.
On a more prosaic note, those cylinders sticking out as they do, can get in the way when the bikes in the garage - shin pads help  ;)
 Hope the BSA crew will forgive this little foray into German engineering.
Steve
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 03 August, 2017, 22:34:39
Thanks very much, Steve.  Phil.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 04 August, 2017, 10:09:44
And yet....I'm still tempted by a 1960s British single (maybe oily rag , and not electronic ignition)!  Given that a large part of why I'm planning to get a classic is to tinker with it, try to get to know how it works, how to service and maintain it, etc, etc, an inexpensive single with available, cheap spares, a good owners' club to pester for advice, good books (like Rupert Ratio), etc, etc, might be the best way to begin with? Maybe I should sit on a B40 and see if it's definitely too small even just for local miles. If not a BSA of some sort, then maybe Matchless, or what about, say, Norton or Ariel? Hard to please, aren't I?  Phil.

Title: Re: First classic
Post by: JulianS on 04 August, 2017, 10:41:29
Riding a classic can be very enjoyable and addictive and once mobile you may find yourself doing more miles (club runs maybe) than you currently envisage so it is worth factoring in this when choosing a bike.

Go back to the 1950s and the choice would include B31 and B33 much bigger bikes, or consider looking at the Starfire, I found mine was a better starter than my B40, was a better ride, more comfortable with better fork damping and a considably better front brake.

Dont forget the A7 and A10, both fine bikes.

Lots of choice out there.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 04 August, 2017, 18:18:35
Thanks for this, Julian. Good point about mileage. I'm not so keen on the Starfire's looks, and I think the A7 and A10 are twins, and maybe a bit more expensive? Maybe a single would be better to start with, both in terms of price and for ease of learning? Would you say that, or would a twin be fine for someone with no experience of bike maintenance? Maybe I'm just being too fussy/dithery, and I should just buy something and get on with it. Any other thoughts anyone? Phil.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Bess on 04 August, 2017, 19:08:56
Hi Phil,
            I suggest a A65/A70 oil in frame model. They suit taller riders, nice link below:

http://sump-publishing.co.uk/bsa-a70.htm

The bikes are easy to maintain, rebuild and personalise with a good supply of spares and engineering workshops (SRM provide a good service with general and specialist products). With no experience but a determination you would have no issues owning one or maybe two.

Best wishes...
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: JulianS on 04 August, 2017, 19:40:16
Phil

 I dont think the twins are anymore difficult to maintain than the singles though the A7 and A10 will probably cost you more than a B40.

Bess raises a good point about the A65.

It is best to take your time before deciding what to buy, and get it right first time.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: TIGERJ on 05 August, 2017, 07:15:41
Hi My C15 came to me via a friend.
It found me and as many of you know mainly in boxes.
I have had many happy hours working on this bike (not finished yet)
One thing to consider specially for me I am getting a bit old is the weight my bike is light and
easy to move around the garage.
Because this was my first classic I made my own wooden bike "table " not adjustable in height.
So getting it on and off is easy with the C15.
Although I am 6 feet in height I never considered the bike too small.
Probably when I finally ride out I may need something taller.
But I will still keep my C15
Good luck
             Tim
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 05 August, 2017, 14:00:32
Thanks Bess, Julian and Tim. I followed the link to the A70, which looks a nice bike but I'd say in appearance more 70s than 60s, more Starfire-style than B40, and - taking on board Tim's useful comment about size - a pretty big beast. A7s look nice also, but all these bigger bikes are of course upping the price. I guess I was hoping someone would tell me truthfully that they were 6ft 4ins tall and their C15/B40 was fine for them! Failing that, and unless I saw six inches off the bottom of my legs, which seems a bit drastic, or shell out more cash, which I don't really want to do, this is not easy. I guess I need to do as Julian advises, and take my time, but be ready to snap something up if it comes available - but it's difficult to imagine what might come available that would be suitable.  Phil.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: TIGERJ on 05 August, 2017, 14:47:22
AMC Singles may be worth a look.
A nice 350 went for 2500 in Stoke recently.
I think they are considerable bigger than B40 ???
Tim

Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 05 August, 2017, 18:22:24
Thanks Tim.

Bess, I think I was wrong in my earlier comment about the A65/A70 looking more 1970s than 1960s, as I expect you know. I was going just by the photo on the link (which I think is an early 70s bike perhaps), but looking elsewhere I see there are plenty of earlier A65 models which look what they are: 60's bikes - a bit like  the A7/A10 - or  a C15/B40 but bigger. Sorry about that, and thanks again for your idea and the link.

When I was set on a single, I envisaged using Rupert Ratio manuals - fairly easy to understand, even for me. Is there anything similar for twins, if I were to get something like an A65?

Phil.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: JulianS on 05 August, 2017, 19:06:36
There are factory workshop manuals for all the various years of unit twins. Quite useful.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Bess on 05 August, 2017, 19:53:49
Hi Phil,
           I use an on-line site for manuals, here's a link for the A65:

https://www.manualslib.com/products/Bsa-A65-Thunderbolt-3734300.html

Best wishes...
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 06 August, 2017, 14:06:20
Thanks Julian and Bess.  Phil.
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: om15 on 06 August, 2017, 15:33:21
Phil, rather than go for a bike that requires a rebuild, perhaps look at a runner that you can tinker with and fix as you go along. The BSA twins are rather expensive, I have a C15 that I potter about with, but if going for a bigger bike you might like to look at the AJS/Matchless twins that are available, comparatively cheap to buy, spares are ok to source and the manuals, wiring diagrams are available.

You might pick up a good AJS runner for 3K, but an A65 might be double that, which ever way you go I'm sure you will get enthusiastic help on here.

om
Title: Re: First classic
Post by: Phil C on 06 August, 2017, 16:28:02
Thanks om. Yes, I was thinking of a runner, that I could get to know by servicing, fixing, improving here and there as I go along. I'll bear in mind AJS. Why are they so much cheaper than a BSA, would you say? By the way, what about a Triumph 21/3TA, or are they too small for me at 6ft 4ins?  Phil.