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Bike Profile - Posted 5th July 2011

BSA Bantams, Part Three
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John Walton owned a trio of Bantams back in the day. After moving up in the world to a 175, his final bike was a D1 125...

After learning to ride on a Bantam D7 and then graduating to the sheer speed of a D14/4, I passed my test and moved onto bigger things. Fast forward to 1981.

I had a couple of bikes at the time; a TriBSA which I had spent a lot of time on, and a Suzuki 185 (maybe better not go there). Looking around the ads I saw a D1 Bantam for sale not too far from me. The D1 was the original Bantam, first built in 1948. It produced a monster 4½ bhp from its 123cc two-stroke motor and originally came without any rear suspension. From 1950 you could buy a D1 with plunger suspension and six-volt Lucas electrics - but it still didn't go much faster than 45mph.

'The obvious choice for daily transport'... BSA Bantam D1 - 1961 Brochure

The D1 stayed in production through to the early 1960s. Throughout its life it retained just three gears, a cast iron engine barrel and alloy cylinder head. overall, the Bantam was one of BSA's most successful models and more than 500,000 were built between 1948 and 1971.

The one I found back in the 1980s was a great little bike. It really only needed a good clean up. The usual paint and decals had worn off the petrol tank, it had a torn seat, which was a funny brown colour so maybe was not too standard. And it had a flat rear tyre.

A deal was struck -- I paid the asking price! £195. How much are they worth now? (About £1000 for a D1 in decent condition, in fact).

'The small machine with the BIG performance'... 1949 BSA Bantam D1 Brochure
Bantams on Right Now......

I asked for the rear tyre puncture to be fixed and said I would collect it in a week. I wanted to ride it back home and figured that would be a good test. So I got my father to drive me over there. But of course the puncture hadn't been looked at. 'You're going to ride it back?' I was asked by the seller. So said puncture was patched, and not best pleased about that he wasn't.

The D1 fired up instantly. off we went with father following. I think it lasted about ten miles then ground to halt. Hmm, check plug, oiled up. Cleaned it and off again. Ten miles on… and again…and again.

Got home eventually. It had the wrong spark plug in it (sigh). With the correct plug fitted it never failed again. In fact that engine never let me down in any respect, so there's no sorry story to relate to here.

At the time I was working in Rover's trim shop and a guy I knew there was well known for making seat covers for bike at home. I gave him the seat as a pattern and an excellent cover was made in black. This was actually a dual seat D1. I must admit I would have preferred a single seat. A single saddle looks better on a D1 but standard it was going to be. It had the rear footrests for the pillion so the dual seat must have been correct.

This machine had plunger rear suspension which worked very well. No leaks or any funny noises! It was the same for the front suspension. Leg shields came with the bike, which gave it a period look. And it also had a standard windscreen, complete with extension piece. I didn't fit this on. I just kept it as it was part of the bike's history.

As the paint work was so good I only had the cream tank panels re-painted with new Bantam decals. A friend of mine hand painted the coach line and that was it.

I quite often used it to go to work and made sure to take the long way through Oxford city centre. The D1 was far too slow for a major road. I would quite often have tailback of cars behind me waiting to overtake. Bet they loved the stream of two-stroke smoke billowing out as well!

'Youth gets away to a wonderful start with a Bantam'... BSA Bantam D1 - 1950 Advert

Eventually needs must and I sold it on to a guy in the next village. Probably for what I paid for it…

So which was the best of the three Bantams I have owned? Probably the D14/4. But it was new so it should be.

Would I have one again? I doubt it but the last of the line B175s look vastly improved with the heavier front forks and separate headlamp…

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The BSA Bantam Club welcome anyone with an interest in these bikes: www.bsabantamclub.org.uk

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