BSA Motorcycle For Sale

BSA is an old-school motorcycle brand that predates the motorcycle itself. They began as Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited (BSA), a prominent British conglomerate that manufactured various products. Before motorcycles, BSA already manufactured firearms, cars, train bodies, and even bicycles.

In 1910, the company added a “motor bicycle” to their product line, and it was a major success. With 3 ½ hp, it was blazing fast for the time and sold out for the next three years. Starting in 1914, BSA would switch entirely to firearm production for World War I. But after the war, a boom in sales led to further growth in motorcycle production. It was this growth that created the brand that many collectors know and love.

BSA Motorcycle Buyer’s Guide

BSA manufactured motorcycles from 1910 to 1972, a remarkable 62-year run. That said, pre-WWII models are almost impossible to find. If you are looking for a bike from that era, you need to go through an antique dealer or a broker specializing in classic vehicles. We will be focusing on post-WWII BSA motorcycles manufactured between 1946 and 1972.

BSA acquired the Triumph brand in the early 1950s and continued to grow throughout the decade. However, this success masked some underlying issues with the company. Their smaller bikes were getting squeezed out by European mopeds, and the two-stroke engines were starting to dominate the trials.

BSA would make several necessary changes. For example, even as electric starters exploded in popularity, BSA brass insisted on kick start-only designs. Throughout the 1960s, they began offering a more comprehensive array of V-twin bikes focused on the mid-sized market. But even there, they often missed the mark.

In 1968, BSA announced what would become their last new design: the Rocket 3. This new three-cylinder bike was identical to the Triumph Trident, and it became very popular, particularly in the North American market. However, these efforts would prove insufficient to save the company.

Despite a reorganization in 1971 and a significant cash injection from outside investors, the last BSA motorcycle rolled off the assembly line later that year. In 1972, the nearly-bankrupt BSA was rolled into a larger company and renamed Norton Villiers Triumph. Production of some models, like the Triumph Trident, would continue until 1975. Unfortunately, the BSA brand had come to an end.

What If I Am Buying A Used BSA?

It goes without saying that any BSA bike you will be buying, you will be buying used. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but you will need to be careful to ensure that the bike is in good working condition.

First and foremost, look at the condition of the forks. Unless you are willing to spend a small fortune, replacing rusty forks on a classic motorcycle could be prohibitively expensive.

Check the gas tank for sediment or water build-up, and check the condition of the oil. Yes, black oil is easy enough to change. But if the oil is filthy, you can bet the owner has been neglecting other maintenance tasks. Finally, check the brakes before you take the bike on a test ride. If they don’t work, you want to find out before you are rocketing down the road.

The Best Places To Buy A BSA Motorcycle

BSA manufactured a wide array of motorcycles with several variants, many of which were only sold in the United Kingdom or Europe. Others were limited production runs that would be very difficult to find today.

On the other hand, there are still three BSA models in circulation: the Thunderbolt, the Lightning, and the Rocket 3. Here’s a quick overview of each, as well as some ballpark prices:

BSA Thunderbolt

The BSA Thunderbolt was produced from 1962 until the company’s demise in 1972. It was conceived as a touring motorcycle, but most modern observers refer to it as a cruiser. It has a single long, straight seat, rear passenger footpegs, and a twin-cylinder 650cc motor. When properly tuned, it is capable of reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. And with a 4.2-gallon tank, it has a range of 210 miles.

Beginning in 1968, a handful of improvements were built into the Thunderbolt’s design. The original carburetor was replaced with a concentric model to reduce flooding, and the kick starter was lengthened for easier starting. Also, the suspension was stiffened for better control.

Unfortunately, quality control issues dogged the Thunderbolt starting in 1970. Late models gained a reputation for rusting and leaking. As a result, pre-1970 Thunderbolts generally tend to garner the highest prices, with the most valuable of all being the 1968 and 1969 model years. Depending on the year and condition, you can find a Thunderbolt for between $5,000 and $15,000.

BSA Lightning

The BSA Lightning was a sporting version of their 650cc bike, roughly modeled after the Thunderbolt. The gearing and some aspects of the motor were modified to improve reliability in exchange for top-end speed. Technically, the Lightning can still achieve speed records of at least 108 MPH. However, above around 5,500 RPM, you start to experience significant vibrations. This bike is best for long-term cruising at medium speed.

Designed primarily to serve the North American market, the Lightning was only manufactured from 1965 to 1972. You can buy one for $5,500 to $15,000, depending on the condition.

BSA Rocket 3

First released in 1968, the BSA Rocket 3 was one of the most technologically advanced motorcycles of its time. Among the first triple-cylinder bikes, it was designed for exceptional power and torque across a wide-speed band. While it was only produced for a few years, it carved its own legacy in motorcycle history.

The Rocket 3 is often harder to find than other BSA models, and you will pay at least $20,000 if it is in mint working condition. This hefty price tag is primarily the result of the bike’s rarity. You can also find a 1968-1975 Triumph Trident — an identical bike with a different imprint — for as little as $6,000.