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Bike Review - Posted 10th May 2013
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BSA Bantams go Westward Ho! Part Two

Spring Chicken Week Finale: A trio of BSA Bantams set out on an ambitious overnight navigation trial. The first one didn't last the night. Will the other two reach the end? Phil Keast continues his tale...

In the freezing cold of the middle of the night, one thing that proved very useful on my D1 was the throttle friction damper. I could set the throttle for the bike to plough along merrily in second at about 25 to 30mph, and wiggle my fingers on my throttle hand to try and get some circulation going. On this stage we had our only route mishap. We came to a crossroads where there was a signpost… but only the post, with no markings whatsoever ! At the next junction Rick pulled out his collection of OS maps to identify the correct route.

After crossing a ford we continued on and I noticed part of the sky was turning from black to a very dark blue: the welcome sight of dawn was slowly breaking. Quite a few other riders were already at Cullompton when we arrived. The breakdown wagon turned up, now with three bikes in the trailer. They were all BSAs! As well as Alan's D1 there was an A7 with a broken throttle cable (what no spare?) plus a BSA Fleetstar that had hit a pothole and gone sliding down the road…

Roadside fettling. Or so hungry that the wicker basket looked appetising...

Rick had a ten minute power nap. We had the final stage up over Exmoor to go and it was now daylight. The sun was out - this shouldn't be too difficult... One bad sign was that our bikes had gained a layer of frost! The sun coming out hadn't made it any warmer. We were advised to make our own route to the finish at Lynmouth, due to reported ice on some of the minor roads. Surely not a good sign. Rick and I worked our way up the Exe valley to cover the final 60 miles. It got progressively colder and colder, and we passed over a few icy patches but with no drama on our light, low powered machines.

Other bikes on Dartmoor...

My D1 did its usual dance on the gearbox between second and top as we climbed and climbed. This last stage was really the coldest part of the entire ride, even though it was light and the sun was out. I had to change down to first gear on the really steep parts to get up on to the top of Exmoor, and the first signposts for Lynmouth came as a welcome relief. The first one showed 20 miles and subsequent ones showed the distance decreasing. If this had been a summer's day then it would have been perfect - but after riding all night all I had in mind was the finish at Lynmouth. At least we appeared to be the only things on the road and could buzz along with only the sheep to worry about.

Simonsbath was a welcome sight as it is at the head of the valley that runs down to Lynmouth: only a few miles to go. This was the crucial moment to keep concentrating, as the road down the valley is very twisty with huge drops down to the river below. After safely covering all the twists and bends of the night it would be tragic to lose the plot on this final stretch…

So we rolled into the car park at Lynmouth to the welcoming sight of the tea and coffee table laid on by the organisers. We quickly warmed up and were thankful that we had completed the run on the Bantams with no problems. Some riders were already there and more arrived as we completed our final defrost. The look on the riders' faces was a picture: tiredness combined with relief.

'The look on the riders' faces was a picture: tiredness combined with relief' And a bit of PhotoShop magic...

We moved up to our hotel for breakfast and some much needed sleep. There were four of us in our room; to get an idea of what it's like, imagine a school weekend away but for grown-ups!

After a few hours' sleep we came up with a few ideas about Alan's Bantam which was now in the hotel car park. We tried blowing through the main jet on the carb, using my bicycle type pump (handily located under the fuel tank on a D1). Gave the Bantam a try - blimey, off it went, no problem. It was going like a good 'un, so we hoped that was the job done.

After a good dinner and a pint or two we wisely decided it was time to hit the sack. Needless to say, we slept like the dead…

After breakfast on Sunday morning it was time to load our gear back on the bikes. Alan's D1 fired up easily and looked good. We filled up with petrol and went our separate ways. Rick went most of the way back with Alan, and I went away on my own - this time choosing to avoid Dartmoor as it was still very windy and these D1s don't like that much. The final test for me was getting from Lynmouth to Barnstaple as there are some first gear hills on the route, but the little critter ploughed on merrily as usual. I covered the 90 or so miles back home in about three hours with a couple of stops - the normal pace on a D1.

Super Shell...

All three of us arrived home safe and sound with no unplanned stops or mishaps, and even Alan's D1 went well. Maybe it was a good thing that Alan pulled out of the actual run, as his headlamp can only be described as a 'dull yellow glow'. Although he had quite high powered auxiliary cycle lights it would have been hard going, finding his way down those country lanes in the dark.

We proved that with the right preparation these little bikes can cover a big mileage and - impressively - keep the pace with larger machines on this sort of event. So if you think a Bantam and even a D1 is only good for a 30 mile run on a Sunday then perhaps it's time to think again. The D1s can be ridden as hard as you like. If the bike itself is in good condition it won't give you any problems. They are tough little critters.

Our Bantams and general info:

  • Rick was riding a D1 with B175 190cc Suzuki piston engine, standard ignition but with a 12 volt system.

  • I was riding a D1 with 150cc barrel/piston/ head and Rex Caunt ignition/ generator with a 12 volt system.

  • Both bikes were using Mitas tyres.

  • Both bikes used QH headlamps bulbs with LED rear lights.

  • Both bikes ran a 32 to 35:1 pre-mix ratio

  • Fuel consumption was hard to gauge but for each fill up after 50-60 mile stages we both put in the same amounts near enough of around three litres.

    Both bikes ran well and never missed a beat.

    The only minor problems I developed were:

  • Near side footrest came loose and as the retaining nut is underneath the footrest rubber and difficult to get to I secured the footrest with some bungees.

  • Speedo stopped working on the trip up after making a clicking sound for miles, although strangely the mileometer continued working

  • Due to the extra tools and weight I put in my wicker basket when I got home I found it had a top and sides but virtually no bottom left!

  • Long Distance Bantams on

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    The BSA Bantam Club is the ideal place to start if you'd like to learn more about these plucky British two-strokes. See www.bsabantamclub.org.uk

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