The Little BSA That Started It All

The Little BSA That Started It All

1965 BSA C15 SS80


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.

Corsa Motoclassica 2008 Poster

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.

From that experience on I was hooked - the bug had bit me. I now wanted a vintage British motorcycle more than my beloved Honda 450! Low bars, rear sets, hump seat, dolphin fairing - that's what I desired.


1965 BSA C15 Sports Star


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. 

Rummaging through his many motorcycles he stated to me that he had a 1965 BSA C15 SS80 that might be of consideration to get running because it would require little work.


As we inspected the bike we felt that this BSA 250 was a perfect candidate to get running again.


BSA C15 Advertisment


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.

As the C15 was running we check the oil return in the tank and we also made some adjustments to the original Amal Monoblock carburetor. The carburation wasn't perfect but for it sitting for over 2 decades it was not too bad either.

BSA C15 Poppy Flowers

 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.


  • Gerryh

    Hi there, My first bike back in the fifties was a Ariel 500 Red Hunter 1933. I wrote it off and with the insurance money bought a 47Garden Gate Manx Norton. Three years later that was sold to buy my fiance an engagement ring. No more bikes until I retiredand bought a box of rusty BSA bits that I eventually found out was a 1965 BSA C15FT Trials Pastoral. Took me seven years to find the missing bits such as, flywheels, conrod, piston, rocker box, clutch and clutch cover and the very rare coffin shaped air cleaner. I have been riding her with the local BSA Club ever since I finished her, what a joy to ride.

  • ed

    I’d love to have a BSA or NORTON but with 8 triumph’s and a sportster it’s a full time job keeping up with service and polishing and doing some updates someday i’ll find a BSA !!!!!!!!!

  • Dan

    I have a 1965 C15F. I am also collecting parts. Hope to restore it before gasoline is banned in California.

  • Sluggo

    A must have book is “Rupert Ratios guide to BSA Singles” He wrote the agony columns for the singles and is a leading expert in these. He has several books in that series and they are a must have. They document EXACTLY how to make these reliable and easier to start and run as well as more power if you want it. There is 250cc race classes and he documents how to really up the performance. But for reliability, there is some simple mods and parts swapping to make a bulletproof little single. I highly endorse his books and have used them myself. I am downsizing now, but I have a ton of Unit singles and selling them off. 250-350- 441. Keeping one 250 for our cabin (A triumph T25) and one B50 (Styled like my DBD34 Goldstar) and one 441. All the rest gotta go. These little plonkers are loads of fun.

  • Dave

    My very first bike was a 1957 BSA Bantam. Shoved an empty Campbell’s soup can with a few nail holes in the end of it up the muffler to quieten it down enough so that my Mother wouldn’t have a fit when I started it up in the carport.
    My Dad wanted me to buy better bike so I saved up all my money from the carwash and bought a brand new 1970 BSA 250 Starfire. It was a toss up between that and a 1970 Triumph 250 but I liked the looks of the BSA more . At least I could take girls around the neighbourhood on that one. That was a really fun bike to ride especially when I took off the muffler one morning and blasted around the streets of North Vancouver. The bike suddenly had more pickup and top end! But my Mother told my Dad about it and I got grounded for the weekend. Wish I still had it…

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