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Bike Profile - Posted 20th June 2011

BSA Bantams, Part One
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John Walton recalls his time with two-stroke tiddlers. First he encountered a D7...

How I remember as a frail 14 year old gazing at the bikes in the showroom of the now defunct Kings of Oxford. Memory is a selective route: it's the fork gaiters that 'spring' to mind… Those BSA Bantams seemed so big at the time, little did I know I would own three along my biking journey.

Fast forward a year and pamphlets of various mopeds, scooters (gasp) and the like mysteriously began to scatter around the house. My parents were not impressed. However, I heard of a bike for sale in the village. A Bantam D7, the year escapes me now, but it was blue with cream panels on the fuel tank. And a hint of the Bantam decals not quite worn away.

Just like John's... 1960 BSA Bantam D7

The 125cc D1 was introduced in 1948 and over the next decade the design was improved and upgraded. The D7 arrived for 1959 with a 175cc engine, tele forks and swinging arm rear suspension and a choice of electrical systems, with or without battery.

Of course I had to have the D7, regardless of the fact that it did not actually run, and was old and scruffy. But the guy wanted £10 for it, was that a lot in 1968? I emptied my Post Office savings account for that. Hmm, good deal? Not so sure really.

The machine was purchased and duly pushed home. I spent a fair time cleaning and polishing the rust. 'But it's not running' said my older and vastly more knowledgeable brother, stating the obvious. It turned out that a wire was adrift from the generator. Said brother was quite useful with a soldering iron, and away she went -- sort of.

I was 15 and we didn't break the law in those days. The D7 was restricted to riding up and down the driveway for a couple of months until yours truly attained his 16th year. I wanted to start riding on the queen's highway. 'Not a chance' said father. 'There's an old track that runs along the A34, use that for practice.' That's a two mile push from our house. I was soon tanking up and down that track, up and down the gears, easy.

I came out of the track onto the A34 and headed home. Now there was a right hand turn by the pub: what to do? Err… hand signal and throttle control: how? Panic! Pull over to the left, get off and push it around the turn. What a wimp. Only did that the once though, soon found my feet.

I don't remember having any trouble with that bike ever. Used it every day for work and the usual messing about that 16 year olds do. I even got into customising. A leopard print plastic seat cover. Well it was the swinging Sixties.

Better Looks, Better Performance, Better Features. Better carry a spare plug, too... 1958 BSA Bantam D7 Brochure

Rapid acceleration, controlled power.... 1960 BSA Bantam D7 Advertisement
Bantams on Right Now......

I was soon taught about the mysteries of de-coking. I'm not sure what I used for scraping the top of the piston, but it would not have been wood. Oops; no harm done.

I only came off it once, completely misjudged a corner, hit the kerb and… hurt pride. Got back on straight away of course, hence the term about getting back in the saddle.

My first winter was amusing. We had proper winters back then. I entered a roundabout in a foot of snow (it seemed that deep at the time)and lost the steering. The handlebars were flapping left-right left-right. I started to panic. Do you know - the Bantam kept a perfect straight line and gently coasted across and bounced into the kerb, somewhere in the direction I was going!

Then after a few months of working, with pockets jingling, I started to think I needed something newer, brand new in fact…

Marvel at the chrome tank... 1961 BSA Bantam D7 Brochure


Next episode: John moves up to a D14/4

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