Friday, December 10, 2021

#BSAisBack, but is the 2022 Gold Star a good start?

2022 BSA Gold Star unveiled.
The 2022 BSA Gold Star is a blast from the past.

 BSA is back, reborn last weekend in the form of a retro-style 2022 BSA Gold Star created by Classic Legends, a subsidiary of India's big Mahindra Group.

 Classic Legends means "to reintroduce once iconic, but no longer existing motorcycle brands to the world. We've already witnessed the revival of Jawa, while BSA and Yezdi are the other notable bike brands on the brink of being brought back to life," explained OverdriveIndia.

 VisorDown was happy to see a 2022 Gold Star evocative of past glory.

 "Placed next to the original, you can hardly tell them apart," it wrote.

"This 2022 model is classically styled, with spoked rims, a rounded headlight with DRLs, chrome used throughout and a classic teardrop styled tank. Stylistically, it stays true to the Gold Star..."

It's true to the past in other ways as well, with a big, single-cylinder motor like the one that made the original BSA Gold Star the Bad Boy of British motorcycles of the 1960s. It's water cooled now (although meant to appear air cooled). 

The old ammeter position in the headlight nacelle is now used for warning lights. The reverse-sweep speedometer and tachometer are an interesting retro touch that probably will take some getting used to for today's riders.

2022 BSA Gold Star, front view.
2022 BSA Gold Star has fins as if air cooled, and a big radiator.
One critic complained the radiator looks like it came off a lorry.

The most emphatic claim to originality came from Anupam Thareja, co-founder of Classic Legends:

“The new BSA Gold Star was designed in the UK, engineered in the UK, industrialized in the UK but most importantly, imagined in the UK. We have envisioned this bike as an ode from UK to the world," he was quoted, in LiveMint.

"BSA is not a motorcycle, it's a thought, a liberating feeling, a philosophy, it's love. That's a love we want to transfer to you. This is an avatar that celebrates BSA's true motorcycling spirit."

That certainly speaks to sincere effort to create a Brit-style bike. But the 2022 Gold Star is, of course, built in India. Mahindra acquired the BSA name back in 2016, and its first BSA motorcycle emerges only now.

They've opened production with the Gold Star, a famous name for a famously outrageous motorcycle of the past. It's a superb move to attract media attention, but will it work for customers?

Royal Enfield took a different approach to reaching 650ccs, with the parallel-twin INT 650 and Continental GT 650. The Royal Enfields are retro looking products that behave like modern motorcycles. They have, for instance, six speed gearboxes (the 2022 Gold Star has five speeds) and their speedometer needles swing in the now familiar direction.

BSA made attractive, practical twins back in the day. The reborn BSA could have chosen those for inspiration. 

And then there is this: BSA has been "back" before, a famous name alone is not DNA, and there are others with a direct claim to descent from the motorcycles of Birmingham.

"BSA is Back" ad from 1979.
BSA is back, this 1979 ad proclaimed.
(Courtesy of John Donlon)

Reader John Donlon, of Illinois, notes that Japan's Meguro, now part of Kawasaki, built original BSA motorcycles under license. There is the chain of DNA, John believes.

His thoughts: 

"Hello: I just saw the 'new' BSA Gold Star revealed to the press today on YouTube. I'm still shaking my head that anyone would do something like this. They (whoever they are) made a machine for 2022 that is supposed to emulate a machine last produced in 1963...

"They just put Kawasaki's Meguro K3 right in the driver's seat as the 'real BSA' legacy bike and don't think for a second  Kawasaki will not exploit that fact. The laughing in Tokyo can be heard here in LaGrange Park. Yep, they are going forward with the bike and a full court press marketing effort that will show when you drop your money on a Meguro K3 you ARE buying the real deal of a BSA pedigree and legacy and Kawasaki already has the material to back it up...

"Where the new BSA really screwed up IMHO is that they could  have taken the engine/gearbox/frame platform and easily have made three machines from that platform; four if you include the 'Gold Star' redux. Those three  machines are based on the 1971-72 BSA B50 SS, MT and RS models...

"This is not the first time there has been a BSA 'resurrection.' I was at the 1979  Earls Court Motorcycle Show and picked up a Daily Mail motorcycle special edition in which it was proudly proclaimed that 'BSA is Back.' Those pieces are attached. They are from the  Daily Mail Motorcycle Show Review magazine I picked up on my way out of Earls Court Exhibition Hall in 1979.

Circa 1979 advertisement for BSA.
1979 attempt to revive BSA with small but willing looking bikes.
(Courtesy of John Donlon)

"What I witnessed today in the new BSA rollout are prime examples of poor research on the product, undercapitalization and short-sighted goals; screw it, just get the damn thing out there already. Sorry folks, but it's been done before and failed before...

"No, BSA ain't back and if they insist on building 'repli-bikes' like Jawa, Yezdi (especially the new Yezdi ADV which is a blatant copy of the Royal Enfield Himalayan) and BSA then at the very least they've already pigeon-holed their operation into a niche market...

"What probably bothers me the most is that these folks worked very hard to produce the new BSA Gold Star; so much so they could have spent the time and money better going after what BSA was working on when it collapsed that never really saw the showrooms. That would have built a continuum of thought, more machines on a same platform and more options for potential customers."

Here's BSA's Gold Star release video. Notice the attention it gives to the history of the make.

4 comments:

  1. Mr Donlon clearly despises Mahindra's attempt at reviving BSA. That's too bad, as I think the bike is a fine modern take on a vintage style machine. My main criticism is in bringing out a big single. I don't expect the market for such a configuration to be very popular in the USA. The engine is based on the Rotax previously used by BMW, a reliable but extremely vibration riddled engine that turned me off minutes after trying it. I can only hope it has been significantly re-engineered to be much smoother. But as attractive as it is, it faces an uphill battle against the Enfield twins which I expect will share the price point.

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  2. I have not read a word about a counterbalancer, that may be the kiss of death for a general appeal machine. First I've heard of the engine being a Rotax derivative too, I thought it was a "clean sheet" design. Anyway, I need to see a few road tests. We'll see how much it shakes then when the "young tigers" throw a leg over.

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  3. Well, these comments answered my question about a counter balancer ! Seems like such an obvious "must have" for a big single to be user friendly. The new BSA may be competition for the RE single, but certainly not for the twin. They will have to come out with something comparable like a Lightning or one-up them by reintroducing a new Rocket 3. But since Triumph uses that name, they may be forced to call it something else.
    What would have really been interesting IMHO, would be for them to revive the 350 DOHC twin Bandit. That seemed like it had potential but came too late to the party .

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  4. I think it looks like a great machine, and I will definitely give one a ride when they go on sale here in Berlin. Looks like a well-thought-out bike (except for the radiator!), and i'm sure a counter-balancer is in there. And as for the first model Mahindra decided to produce, why not start with a 650 single? I'm sure they have done their homework, and they had to start somewhere, and that size and type of bike will be very popular in India as well as in Europe and the US. Whether it's a "real" BSA or not, it's a lovely addition to the range of neo-classic bikes on offer.

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