The iconic British marque, BSA, is back with an all-new single-cylinder Gold Star. And with NZ importer Europe Imports recently announcing they are bringing the new model downunder, we looked back at the launch report we ran in 2022 when the new model was released.

Words: Adam Child Pics: Gareth Harford

The famous badge has been dormant since the early 1970s. But now, under new Indian ownership, the Goldie rides again. At first sight, the 652cc single looks fresh out of the 1950s, but don’t be fooled. It’s fuel-injected, liquid-cooled and Euro-5 complaint; it has Brembo brakes and ABS, modern handling, quality Pirelli rubber – and no kickstart.

BSA Gold Star

BSA was, in the 1950s, one of the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturers, and as dear to lovers of Brit irons as any Triumph or Norton. But if you’re under 60 years of age, you may be wondering what all this nostalgic fuss is about…

BSA is actually an initialism of Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd – yes, the company originally made ammunition and firearms, and there is still a rifle symbol on the Goldie’s side panel today. Based in England’s second city, Birmingham, the company later manufactured cycles and eventually motorcycles, with its first powered two-wheeler unveiled in 1910. 

BSA’s most famous model was the Gold Star. Available as a 350 and 500 (from 1938 to 1963), the 500 was the one to have and very much the Ducati 916 and Honda Fireblade of its time. It was a genuine ton-up machine capable, in fact, of 110mph. Its speed and handling were proven on the track, taking wins at the Isle of Man TT and Daytona. In the ’50s, BSA was the biggest bike brand in the world, with one in every four motorcycles sold a BSA. 

BSA Gold Star

In common with many of us with biking dads, my father told me how a Goldie was his dream bike. “You’d never take on a Gold Star as it was a proper ton-up machine – and more,” he said. In the 1950s and early ’60s, long before you had to wear a helmet, there was no real speed limit out of town, and you can see why the Gold Star was so popular in Britain as well as the USA: flat cap on backwards, flying goggles, old wartime flying jacket… next stop: 100mph. 

Sadly, despite such success, BSA fell into financial difficulties and in 1973 stopped production. After decades of rumoured restarts, the brand was purchased by Classic Legends Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of the Mahindra Group in 2016, and in 2021 BSA Company LTD unveiled its first model, the rebooted and suited 652cc single-cylinder modern Gold Star. 

The new Goldie is currently made in India, with production scheduled to move back to its spiritual home of Birmingham in time. It features a 652cc fuel-injected, water-cooled single, producing 45hp @ 6500rpm and 55Nm @ 4000rpm. As you’d expect, BSA claims the motor is good for 100mph (160km/h), just like the original 500.  

You’ll be happy to hear that there is now an electric start instead of the notoriously difficult kickstart of old. But there are no electronic rider aids or riding modes to worry about. Get on, turn the key and ride.

BSA Gold Star

The DOHC single started life as a Rotax, previously used by BMW, with a conventional wet sump below the engine. However, little of that engine remains; the sump, for example, is now dry with the oil tank hidden behind a side panel, much like it was on the original. BSA also wanted to make the engine aesthetically pleasing ­to the nostalgic eye – and removing the sump allowed the engine to sit lower in the chassis, ensuring the cylinder block could be positioned proud and upright while the fuel tank and seat could be aligned so that the line from the bottom of the fuel tank flows to the underside of the seat.

Turn the key and the analogue, ‘anti-clockwise’ clocks come alive. The warning lights, set above in a neat round dial, are also pleasing to the eye and perfectly retro. But it’s a shame about the slightly cheap/1980s-style switchgear.

Press the electric starter button and the single burbles with energy. A few blips of the throttle and, for a Euro-5-compliant machine, there’s a nice rasp to it. For a standard production bike, it doesn’t sound half bad.

The fuelling is a little sharp, not snatchy exactly, just not as fluid as I was expecting as the throttle is opened and closed and opened again. It’s always a challenge to get low-speed fuel-injection right on a single, and BSA has done… okay. Call it B+. Once rolling, and with the throttle already open, it pulls effortlessly. Around town the Gold Star will be a doddle to ride, especially thanks to a relatively smooth gearbox and usable torque from 2000rpm (that peaks at 4000rpm before gradually tailing off). The engine is as friendly as my pub landlord’s old sheepdog and new riders, or those of more senior years coming back to biking thanks to the resurgent BSA, will love the ease of use of the single. 

BSA Gold Star

It’s not slow either. Strangely, the original Goldie, designed shortly after WW2, is faster, but the 2022 bike is more than capable of keeping up with and passing modern-day traffic. In top gear, just above peak torque at 4500rpm, equates to 70mph (112km/h); hold 5000rpm and the Goldie will happily cruise at 80mph (128km/h). 100mph (160km/h) is achievable, too, but for more, you need to tuck in, hold onto a fork leg, and drop your chin on to the chrome tank. With luck you should see an indicated 109mph. I did this several times. 

The BSA tops the scales at 198kg dry, so is relatively light compared to other bikes in this category. It also comes equipped with Pirelli Phantom Sportcomp rubber on 18/17-inch spoked alloy rims. 41mm forks, with traditional shrouded stanchions, are non-adjustable but the rear twin shocks have adjustable pre-load. Brembo brakes and Continental ABS, complete a simple but pleasing rolling chassis. 

As you’d expect, the Gold Star is set up for a comfortable ride (on an accommodating flat seat) but this is no wallowing waterbed. It’s a fairly calm and serene performer: the rear doesn’t overly sit down under acceleration while normal use of the brakes hardly gets the forks in a twist. If you hit some aggressive bumps or undulations, the rear does react and sit a little too much, though how much will depend on the weight of the rider or if you carry a pillion. A little preload added to the shocks will be beneficial should you carry weight, luggage or a pillion – or just enjoy good food.

I was surprised how well the front turns at low speed; manoeuvrability in town should be excellent, which I’m guessing is down to a low centre of gravity. At higher speeds, however, when braking towards a corner, the BSA is a little reluctant and wants to sit up. Far better to let the stoppers off early, steer positively and let it roll happily into sweepers like it’s 1956 all over again.

Once into the turn, ground clearance is impressive for this type of bike. You’d have to be pretty determined to get the pegs to scrape, especially on smooth surfaces. Throw in a heavier rider and a bumpier road and that may change but there’s always plenty of confidence-inspiring grip coming back from the Pirelli Phantoms. There’s no complication to riding the Goldie briskly and new or inexperienced riders will relish this ease of use.

BSA Gold Star

Comfort-wise, the ergonomics feel natural and appear to work for all sizes. The seat is comfortable enough (over an admittedly short riding session), and the single-cylinder engine relatively vibration free at speed. However, the speedo needle did like to bounce around on test when above 70mph, which could be interpreted either as charismatic or annoying – only time will tell.

BSA quotes 70mpg (4l/100km), and the low-revving engine should indeed prove frugal. Combine that with a 12-litre tank and potentially you’re looking at 300km before the Goldie runs dry. We don’t yet know how intrusive engine vibes will be after a few hours in the saddle or whether the mirrors are any good. But first impressions are positive. 

There’s a single disc brake up front, featuring a Brembo caliper, braided lines and ABS by Continental. BSA hasn’t cut corners in this department as the stoppers are impressive for this type of bike – progressive at urban speeds and certainly not intimidating for new riders, but strong enough to haul up 213kg (once fully fuelled) from speed. The ABS is a little intrusive, especially on the rear, but I came away from the test with good first impressions. 

The slightly incongruous USB-A and C charger is useful but looks like it has been thrown on at the last minute, and doesn’t match the classic look of the bike. Some will love this; some will remove it immediately. BSA is working on an array of accessories, including luggage, screens, crash protection and, obviously, branded clothing. The BSA looks easy to modify and, personally, I’d like to see some dropped bars and a racy exhaust, maybe some setback pegs too that edge it towards a café racer look.

BSA Gold Star

We’re yet to hear what pricing will be when the BSAs land in NZ. What we do know is that the Gold Star is going to be keenly priced but doesn’t appear or feel cheap. Quality Brembo brakes, excellent Pirelli rubber, and the anti-clockwise clocks will be pleasing to own – only the odd switchgear, which looks like it’s been borrowed from a 1990’s keyboard, and the odd placing of the USB charger on the bars, tarnishes the effect.

So it’s great to see BSA back, especially as they have done a great job with the Gold Star. The new Indian owners could have easily produced a vibrating and supremely average café racer, but instead have made a fresh and carefully designed reboot of a much-loved classic.

The motor looks handsome, is smooth for a single and has just enough punch. It’s fun to run through the corners, ground clearance is impressive for this type of bike, and the brakes work well. The period clocks and twist-off fuel cap, and even the remote oil tank, are cool touches. 

Some purists may wish they hadn’t used the prestigious Gold Star name, as it is not a legendary race bike like the original – and that’s my personal opinion, too. But for this money,you can afford to have it lovingly stored in the back of the garage for the odd evening or Sunday blast, open face lid, jacket and jeans at the ready. If this is the start of a new BSA era, we’re off to a flier.