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Hugh Janus

2022 BSA Gold Star First Ride

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BSA’s 2022 Gold Star is a wonderful bit of ton-up nostalgia.
BSA’s 2022 Gold Star is a wonderful bit of ton-up nostalgia. (BSA/)

Birmingham Small Arms, the iconic British marque more commonly known as BSA, is back with an all-new single-cylinder Gold Star. The name has been dormant since the early 1970s, but now, under new Indian ownership, the Gold Star rides again.

At first sight, the 652cc single looks fresh out of BSA’s 1950s heyday. But don’t be fooled; it’s fuel injected, liquid-cooled, and Euro-5 compliant, has Brembo brakes and ABS, modern handling, and quality Pirelli rubber. Also, sadly, no kickstart.

Fuel injection, liquid-cooling, and modern brakes; the 2022 BSA Gold Star evokes the spirit of the 1950s but with modern rideability.
Fuel injection, liquid-cooling, and modern brakes; the 2022 BSA Gold Star evokes the spirit of the 1950s but with modern rideability. (BSA/)

The original Gold Star was a performance and design icon, produced from the late 1930s through the early 1960s. That run spanned whole eras of design and performance, and the Gold Star was beloved across all of them. We tested the new version at the Millbrook Proving Ground, a short ride north of London, to see if it was worthy of its prestigious name.

An iconic tank badge.
An iconic tank badge. (BSA/)

BSA was, in the 1950s, one of the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturers, and as respected a name as Triumph or Norton. Of course, if you’re under 60 years of age, you may be wondering what all this nostalgic fuss is about. So: BSA is actually an initialism for Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd. Yes, the company originally made ammunition and firearms—there’s still a rifle symbol on the Goldie’s side panel today—along with cars, transit vehicles, auto and truck components, hand tools, machine tools, sintered and cast metal of all sorts, and so on. Think of it as Birmingham’s version of Yamaha or Kawasaki Heavy Industries. And much like those concerns, the company made and was most celebrated for motorcycles, with its first powered two-wheeler unveiled in 1910.

Of course BSA’s most famous model was the Gold Star. It was available as a 350, but the 500 was the one to have, very much a halo bike of its time. It was a genuine ton-up machine, capable of topping out at 110 mph. Its speed and handling were proven on the track, and it scored 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 has plans to move production of the Gold Star from India to the UK, back to Birmingham.
BSA has plans to move production of the Gold Star from India to the UK, back to Birmingham. (BSA/)

Sadly, despite such success, executive mismanagement led to BSA falling into financial difficulties, and in 1973, the former industrial giant was forced to cease production. Decades of rumored restarts proved fruitless, but in 2016 the brand was purchased by Classic Legends Private Ltd., a subsidiary of the Mahindra Group, a manufacturing giant whose list of interests reads like a 21st-century version of BSA’s. And in 2021, the beans-new BSA Company Ltd. unveiled its first model, the rebooted, re-suited modern Gold Star.

The 2022 Goldie is currently made in India, with production intended to move back to its spiritual home of Birmingham in due time. The bike features a fuel-injected water-cooled 652cc single producing a claimed 45 hp at 6,500 rpm and 40.6 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm. As you’d expect, BSA claims the motor is good for 100 mph, just like the original 500.

Although liquid-cooled, the Gold Star’s cylinder has cooling fins to better look the part.
Although liquid-cooled, the Gold Star’s cylinder has cooling fins to better look the part. (BSA/)

Most will be happy to hear that there is now an electric starter instead of the notoriously difficult kickstart of old. But that is about it for modernization; there are no electronic rider aids or riding modes to worry about. Get on, turn the key, and ride.

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. BSA also wanted the engine to please 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. Then the fuel tank and seat could be aligned to allow the line from the bottom of the fuel tank to flow to the underside of the seat.

On the Road

Turn the key and the analog counterclockwise clocks come alive. The warning lights, set above in a neat round dial, are also handsome and perfectly retro. Shame, though, about the slightly cheap ‘80s-style switch gear.

Counterclockwise gauges throw back to the original Smiths units on the original BSA Gold Stars.
Counterclockwise gauges throw back to the original Smiths units on the original BSA Gold Stars. (BSA/)

Press the electric starter button and the single burbles with energy. A few blips of the throttle reveal that, 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 fueling is a little sharp, not exactly snatchy but not as fluid as would be expected as the throttle is opened and closed and opened again. Call it a B+ effort. 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 2,000 rpm to 4,000 rpm. The engine is as friendly as a pub landlord’s old sheepdog. New riders, or those of more senior years coming back to biking, will love this single’s ease of use.

It’s not slow, either. Strangely, the original Goldie, designed shortly after World War II, is faster, but the 2022 bike is more than capable of keeping up with and passing modern-day traffic. In top gear 4,500 rpm, which is just above peak torque, equates to 70 mph; hold 5,000 rpm and the Goldie will happily cruise at 80 mph. The ton, 100 mph, 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 could see an indicated 109 mph.

The 2022 BSA Gold Star will do the ton, just barely.
The 2022 BSA Gold Star will do the ton, just barely. (BSA/)

The BSA tops the scales at 437 pounds dry, relatively light compared to other bikes in this category. It comes equipped with Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp rubber on 18/17-inch spoke alloy rims. The 41mm fork, with its traditional shrouded stanchions, is nonadjustable, but the rear twin shocks have adjustable preload. Brembo brakes and Continental ABS complete a simple but pleasing rolling chassis.

As might be expected, the Gold Star is set up for a comfortable ride with an accommodating flat seat, but this is no wallowing waterbed. It’s a fairly calm and serene performer; the rear doesn’t squat excessively under acceleration and normal use of the brakes won’t get the fork in a twist. Hit aggressive bumps or undulations and the rear reacts, sitting down a little too much, though how much will depend on the weight of the rider and/or pillion. A little preload added to the shocks will be beneficial for carrying any sort of weight.

A flat seat is comfortable for short rides and looks great.
A flat seat is comfortable for short rides and looks great. (BSA/)

It’s pleasantly surprising how well the front turns at low speed; maneuverability in town should be excellent thanks to what feels like a low center of gravity. At higher speeds, however, when braking toward 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 from the Pirelli Phantoms. There’s no complication to riding the Goldie briskly and new or inexperienced riders should relish its ease of use.

Cornering clearance is excellent on the BSA Gold Star.
Cornering clearance is excellent on the BSA Gold Star. (BSA/)

Comfort-wise, the bike’s natural ergonomics appear to work for all sizes. The seat is comfortable enough, at least for our admittedly short riding session, and the single-cylinder engine is relatively vibration free at speed. However, the speedo needle did like to bounce around on test when above 70 mph, which could be interpreted either as charismatic or annoying depending on your level of nostalgia.

BSA quotes 70 mpg, and the low-revving engine should indeed be frugal. Combine that with a 2.6-gallon tank and you’re looking at 182 potential miles before the BSA runs dry. It’s hard to say, given our limited time at the proving grounds, 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 320mm disc brake up front, with 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 the bike’s 470 fully fueled pounds down from speed. The ABS is a little intrusive, especially on the rear, but our initial feel is good.

A single 320mm disc mated to a Brembo twin-piston caliper has plenty of stopping power.
A single 320mm disc mated to a Brembo twin-piston caliper has plenty of stopping power. (BSA/)

An incongruous USB-A and C charger is actually useful, but looks like it’s been thrown on at the last minute and doesn’t match the classic look of the bike. Those who don’t love this will remove it immediately. BSA is working on an array of accessories, including luggage, screens, crash protection, and obviously, branded clothing. The BSA looks like it will be easy to modify; we’d like to see some dropped bars and a racy exhaust, and maybe some setback pegs to edge it toward a cafe racer look.

Oh, nearly forgot: no electronic trickery and rider aids on this one. They are simply not required.

A left handlebar-mounted USB charger is out of place on the Gold Star.
A left handlebar-mounted USB charger is out of place on the Gold Star. (BSA/)

Prices start at a very attractive 6,500 pounds sterling (USA availability and pricing is yet to be announced) for the base Highland Green Edition, rising to 6,800 pounds for the Insignia Red, Midnight Black and Silver edition, with the top-spec Silver Sheen Legacy priced at 7,000 pounds.

Despite being an air-cooled twin-cylinder machine, the closest British (or British-inspired) rival to the BSA is probably Royal Enfield’s INT650 twin, priced at $5,999–$6,699. Triumph has the much more powerful Bonneville T100 for $10,795, and Kawasaki’s classy-looking W800 is $9,199.

The Gold Star is keenly priced in the UK, 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 1990s Casio-keyboard switch gear and the odd placing of the USB charger on the bars tarnish the effect.

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 gauges and twist-off fuel cap, and even the remote oil tank, are cool touches.

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

No traction control, ride modes, or TFT dashes here, just a good old-fashioned riding experience with modern rideability.
No traction control, ride modes, or TFT dashes here, just a good old-fashioned riding experience with modern rideability. (BSA/)

Some purists may wish the new makers hadn’t used the prestigious Gold Star name. This is not a legendary racebike like the original. But at the price riders can afford to have it lovingly stored in the back of the garage for the odd evening or Sunday blast, their jackets, jeans, and open-face lids at the ready. If this is the start of a new BSA era, it’s off to a flier.

2022 BSA Gold Star Specifications

MSRP: TBA (£6,500 UK)
Engine: DOHC, liquid-cooled single; 4-valve
Displacement: 652cc
Bore x Stroke: 100.0 x 83.0mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Transmission/Final Drive: 5-speed/chain
Claimed Horsepower: 45 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Claimed Torque: 40.6 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
Fuel System: Fuel injection
Clutch: Wet, multiplate; cable actuation
Frame: Tubular steel
Front Suspension: 41mm telescopic fork, nonadjustable; 4.7 in. travel.
Rear Suspension: Twin shock, preload adjustable; 4.3 in. travel
Front Brake: Brembo 2-piston caliper, 320mm floating disc w/ Continental ABS
Rear Brake: Brembo 1-piston caliper, 255mm disc w/ Continental ABS
Wheels, Front/Rear: Spoked aluminum alloy; 18 x 2.5 in. / 17 x 4.25 in.
Tires, Front/Rear: Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp; 100/90-18 / 150/70R-17
Rake/Trail: 26.5°/3.9 in.
Wheelbase: 56.1 in.
Seat Height: 30.7 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gal.
Claimed Average MPG: 70 mpg
Claimed Wet Weight: 470 lb.
Contact: bsacompany.co.uk

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1 hour ago, Hugh Janus said:

It’s not slow, either. Strangely, the original Goldie, designed shortly after World War II, is faster, but the 2022 bike is more than capable of keeping up with and passing modern-day traffic.

Nick Offerman Smile GIF

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I like the look of it until you catch a glimpse of that radiator , that spoils it completely for me 😏

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5 hours ago, boboneleg said:

I like the look of it until you catch a glimpse of that radiator , that spoils it completely for me 😏

yes it would have been better left air cooled ☹️ and does it have a centre stand ?

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6 hours ago, skyrider said:

yes it would have been better left air cooled ☹️ and does it have a centre stand ?

They wouldn't have got it to euro 5.

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35 minutes ago, Buckster said:

They wouldn't have got it to euro 5.

Funny enough that, BMW said the same thing with the oil/aircooled boxer when they went watercooled, but then the R nine t came along, and 10 years later using some clever injection patterns and airflows they’re still using that. If they make a proper GS with that boxer and a big front wheel I’ll buy one.

What you can’t get without water cooling while complying with euro5 in modern engines is power, which is what BMW needed to keep in the same neighbourhood of performance once KTM and Ducati woke up to touring trailies, but that’s clearly not a concern to BSA. 

Water cooling is also what probably makes that cylinder look so big, even for a 650, not the prettiest engine ever but the bike has got a pretty rear. If ever there was a bike meant for people who like ass over tits…

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4 hours ago, Catteeclan said:

Is it not an oil cooler?

 

The bike features a fuel-injected water-cooled 652cc single producing a claimed 45 hp at 6,500 rpm

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16 minutes ago, boboneleg said:

The bike features a fuel-injected water-cooled 652cc single producing a claimed 45 hp at 6,500 rpm

Didn't expect me to read it did you.

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3 hours ago, Slowlycatchymonkey said:

Says the rider of the number one selling girls brand..

 

 

Sportsters are girls bikes, I've upset a few guys saying that including a couple of local MC guys but they will get over it. My bike is hyper masculine however.

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10 minutes ago, Buckster said:

Sportsters are girls bikes, I've upset a few guys saying that including a couple of local MC guys but they will get over it. My bike is hyper masculine however.

Of course 

talking GIF by South Park

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10 minutes ago, Tym said:

I had a sportster. :littleguy:

Thanks for confirming what I said.

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Didnt comfirm anything, define what a woman is, our latest supreme court pick couldnt do that.

 

Liberalism is a mental disorder.

 

 :banana121or:

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A woman is an adult that was born female. It isn’t rocket science.

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11 minutes ago, Buckster said:

A woman is an adult that was born female. It isn’t rocket science.

In the US they're having problems understanding babies' responses when asking them how they identify.

 

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