My Introduction to Classic Motorcycles

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

Motorcycles have been part of my life for a long time.

From going to the Northwest 200 in Northern Ireland with my father since I was a child. Trips to the Ulster Grand Prix, just up the road from home. Riding my PW50 round our field. Watching World Superbike in the 90's and early 2000's. Seeing my friends all get their first bikes while I wasn't allowed one. Throughout it all, a few bikes have stuck in my head - my dads C90, a Susuki he had around the same time, and my grandfathers old BSA Bantam.

The first two I remember working. Apparently there are pictures of my siblings and I as kids getting a ride on the 90. The Suzuki I only vaguely recall, from seeing my dad riding off to work on it. And the Bantam, well, I have never seen it running. I don't even remember it having inflated tyres. I remember that bike because it has been sitting at my parents house for as long as I can recall.

It didn't look glamorous, it didn't look fast but It was a bike that I could sneak round the back of the garage and sit on (well at least until the seat fell apart), and exercise my racing fantasies with an actual real motorbike.

Here she is in all her "original" glory. Coated in oil and grime to stop her from rusting completely.

My introduction to classic bikes had actually started long before I was aware it had.

I had seen the beautiful polished Velocettes, Matchless and Nortons at shows through the years. My dad would always point out some little quirk in how something worked, leaving me perplexed as to how basic these things were, and amazed at the simplicity of some of the designs.

When I finally got my own motorbike I would come into contact with even more classic bikes, whether they where restorations, beautifully maintained or used as the base for a retro custom build. The Bantam would always pop back into my head.

I have always wanted to see the Bantam going again, not because she will be fast or exciting to ride, but because she has been stationary for longer than I have been alive. She deserves to feel the road again. She has survived this long, through snow drifts, blizzards, storms and heat waves, most of it uncovered. She has been soaked, dried and buried in snow countless times, but she is all there and hopefully we can make her move again.

We thought it was about time to see what can be done.

The start was made to move her inside so that we could look at it more closely and see what needed to be done to get her back on the road.

We actually had to tie the front tyre together with string and remove the front mudguard to get it to roll, as the tyre had disintegrated to the extent that it would catch on the forks and mudguard.

Now that It is inside we will give her a wash to remove that oil, try and find some Whitworth spanners and start stripping her down.

So I guess that's how I've started restoring a BSA Bantam D1. Not the most glamorous of vintage bikes but that's how and why.

Follow the blog to keep up to date with our progress as we try to do justice to this workhorse of the British Motorcycling industry. Feel free to comment below, or message me if you have a story to tell about one you have had or worked on in the past, or even if you are working on something at the moment.

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