The Little BSA That Started It All
The British motorcycle fever hit me back in 2008 when I still had pimples on my face and when I was a dorky freshman back in high school.
I use to ride a Honda CRF450R at that time. I only weighed 125lbs and was 5'10. That Honda was quite a handful for me on and off the race track. Motocross was my passion since I got my first dirtbike. Living in the Antelope Valley (high desert) you are literately surrounded by off-road riding areas. Put your helmet on, roll up your garage door and ride in any direction you lay your eyes on.
Lancaster was / is home too a few "home town heroes" such as Bob "Hurricane" Hannah, Eddie Mulder, Kyle Lewis, and Kurt Casselli (RIP).
"I always noticed my Father had a lot of old motorcycles..."
Growing up I always noticed my Father had a lot of old motorcycles tucked away in storage and in his garage but I never really took any interest of them. He always told me that they where old vintage British motorcycles that he had collected over the past 20 years or so
My Father was born in England which is one of the main reasons why he collected vintage British motorcycles simply because it was familiar to him and to also his Father - its a family tradition.
In April of 2008 my Father and I attended the Willow Springs Corsa Motoclassica race which happened to be 15 minutes away from home. Attending the event and watching the vintage motorcycles race on the circuit was memorizing to me - the sound, the smell of race fuel, the smell of food cooking on a BBQ, and the loud sound of race-breed engines.
Soon after the Willow Springs Corsa Motoclassica event my Father and I started to take another look at the motorcycles he had stored away. We where both motivated by the local race to get at least one British motorcycle my Father owned to get running again.
Some motorcycles in his collection required more work than others. Either an engine overhaul or a ground up resto. Some where missing forks, wheels, and other major components.
As we inspected the bike we felt that this BSA 250 was a perfect candidate to get running again.
The BSA C15 was a popular model that was produced from 1959-1966 to replace the early BSA lightweight pre-unit singles. The C15 was known to be a "beginners" motorcycle as laws in the U.K. restricted new riders from going over 250cc.
SS80 stood for "Sports Star" and the "80" was to represent the speed in which the little BSA SS80 could achieve. As far as I'm concerned you could achieve 80mph on a SS80 - down hill.
After 1966 BSA discontinued the C15 line-up and in 1967 BSA launched the BSA C25 and the BSA B25 a year later. Featured was a new frame and engine design. Famous for the "square" cylinder head and barrel shape.
Although the B25 and C25 replaced the BSA C15 it was not the best designed engine - it had many flaws. BSA should have stuck with the C15 platform before the change was implemented.
"Straight open header which sounded glorious..."
Some electrical work, tires, valve adjustments, compression check, new seat cover, full oil flush, cleaned carb, and fuel - this little 1965 BSA C15 SS80 was ready to start again after sitting dormant for over 2 decades.
A quick tickle on the Amal carb and a good swing on the kick-start lever and sure enough the old BSA 250 started on the 3rd kick. What an amazing feeling when you can bring a motorcycle back from the dead.
There was no silencer just a straight open header which sounded glorious. The sound reminded me a lot of the motorcycles racing at the Willow Springs track.
The 1965 BSA SS80 in the poppy fields of Lancaster, California
Excited as I was I quickly ran into the house to get my helmet. As I put on my helmet on I quickly straddled my leg over the BSA. I pulled in the clutch lever and pushed down on the shift lever into first gear - off she went.
I purred on down the dirt road as the evening sun was quickly going down. I rode that BSA as long as I could until I could barely see the dirt road in front of me. It was a great feeling being on a vintage British motorcycle for my first time.
"I will never forgot how the little BSA made such a big impact..."
To this day my Father and I still have possession of the BSA SS80. It currently resides in the same shed in which my Father and I dragged it out from some years back.
Some day I'm sure my Father and I will restore the old BSA and get it back into its former glory. For now we have many projects that need attention.
Although riding the BSA C15 for the first time many years ago I will never forgot how the little BSA made such a big impact on me.