Bridgestone Motorcycle For Sale

Most of us are familiar with Bridgestone as a tire manufacturer. While they have been producing tires since the beginning, they also got an early start with motorcycles. 

Bridgestone was founded in 1945 by Soichiro Ishibashi, whose last name translates to “stone bridge” in English. Following World War II, many Japanese were living in poverty. But the country still needed a way to get to work and get their economy going again. In addition, there was a high demand for affordable personal transportation.

Ishibashi produced his first bicycle in 1946 and started offering a motorized model in 1950. For the first two years, the motors were sold separately as an add-on unit. But in 1952, the BS-21 Bambi motorized bicycle was born. This early effort wouldn’t even require a driver’s license today, with a small 26cc motor. Still, it was perfect for the postwar Japanese market, and sales soared. Throughout the 1950s, Bridgestone would release upgraded 38.5cc and 49cc variants, all of them built on a bicycle frame.

In 1958, Bridgestone would produce its first actual motorcycle. The original Bridgestone Champion was built on a pressed-steel frame and sported a 50cc two-stroke engine with surprisingly good acceleration. Later variants include the modified US version, called the Super 7, and the scooter version, the BS-50 Homer.

Bridgestone Motorcycle Buyer’s Guide

Ironically, it was Bridgestone’s stellar success that created the first problems for their motorcycle division. Since its inception in 1949, the motorcycle production line had operated in the same Tokyo-area factory as the tire division. But what had started as a handful of motorized bicycles had turned into a full-blown street bike factory. The tire business was also growing by leaps and bounds, and the facility was no longer large enough for both of them.

Rather than open a second factory, Bridgestone opted to expand the tire manufacturing division and scale back on their motorcycle division. As a result, the motorcycle division stagnated. Most research and development was going into custom track bikes and prototypes without any new models actually being released. Through the late 1960s, most of Bridgestone’s latest developments were cosmetic or minor in nature. For instance, they released BS-100 and BS-200 motorcycles, which were just improved versions of the BS-50.

At the same time, Bridgestone was facing pressure on two fronts. On the one hand, the Japanese market was flooded with bikes by this point, and most of the new sales were in America. And while two-stroke motorcycles were still not heavily regulated in Japan, increasing environmental regulations made two-strokes increasingly difficult to acquire on the other side of the Pacific.

Simultaneously, other Japanese motorcycle manufacturers were putting pressure on Bridgestone to stop sales. These companies had leverage since many of them used Bridgestone tires on their own bikes. The threat was implicit but crystal clear: “Stop making motorcycles, or we will find someone else to make our tires.”

Which factor was more important is difficult to judge. What we can say for sure is that the last Bridgestone motorcycles were manufactured in 1970. That said, imports continued for several years. In the US, it is not uncommon to see a Bridgestone bike with the model year of 1973 or even 1975. This is because imported motorcycles received a title based on the date of import, not the date of manufacture.

The Best Places To Buy A Bridgestone Motorcycle

All Bridgestone motorcycles are styled as straight bikes, so you won’t find any cruisers, racing bikes, or other design variations. That said, there are some significant differences in the performance and handling of each respective model.

As you might imagine, the only way to buy a Bridgestone motorcycle is to find a used one. For more common models, you will be able to find listings in online marketplaces. You will have to scour auction listings for less common models, probably for several weeks or months, in hopes of finding a listing. Regardless of where you find one, remember to never pay for a motorcycle you haven’t been allowed to inspect.

Smaller Bridgestone Models

From 1958 to 1970, Bridgestone produced several motorized bicycles and small motorcycles in the 50cc to 90cc range. Starting in 1970, they also made a superior version of their 90cc engine with a 100cc capacity. The key thing to remember about all of these smaller motorcycles is that few of them were sold in the United States. You can find some at auction or through brokers who deal with rare bikes. But you will need to be patient, since the vast majority were sold in Japan.

Bridgestone Scrambler And Variants

First introduced in 1965, the Bridgestone 177cc Dual Twin was a significant milestone for Bridgestone. At nearly twice the displacement of their 90cc engine, it was their most powerful model yet by a longshot. It was also the most technologically advanced. It sported twin carburetors, mounted on both ends of the crankshaft, and rotary valves controlling the inlet.

The Dual Twin was also the first Bridgestone engine to use their new oil-injection system. Similar to a fuel injector, this system kept the oil separated from the gasoline and pumped it directly into the cylinders, as needed. Not only that, the Dual Twin engine came with a specialized gearbox. In standard mode, it was a four-speed transmission, with neutral located both in the standard position and again above fourth gear. By pulling a second lever, the rider can instead shift up into fifth gear.

There were several Bridgestone bikes in the 175cc range. The most popular model by far, though, is the Scrambler 175. The base model Scrambler 175 is readily available online, and it will cost you only about $2,500 in good condition. Other variants include the Street Scrambler, which featured raised exhausts, and the 175 Racer, with more advanced machinery and some hand-polished parts.

350cc Bridgestone Models

Released in 1967, the 350 GTR was Bridgestone’s most powerful motorcycle. In fact, the 345cc motor is one of the largest two-stroke bike engines ever produced. Riders could also enjoy a six-speed transmission, along with reversible gear shift and brake pedals. While it has many appealing features, it was not without its faults. Some riders complain about the location of the reverse gear, which is above sixth instead of between first and second.

The 350 GTR costs a minimum of $3,000 on the used market, although models in good condition can cost a fair bit more. Like the Scrambler 175, there was also a modified street variant, the 350 GTO, but it is very rare.