BSA is back with its first new roadster for a quarter of a century and the 500cc Gold SR is such an authentic retro-bike that you even have to kickstart it!
With its clip-ons, rearsets and big polished aluminium petrol tank, the Gold SR is a dead ringer for the mighty Gold Star, BSA’s most famous model of the Fifties. But this time there’s a big difference the new British single is powered by Yamaha of Japan.
Its engine is the 499cc aircooled single from Yamaha’s SR500, which was launched back in 1978 and almost qualifies as a classic itself. Although the simple single was dropped by Yamaha UK years ago, production continued for some markets.
When Southampton-based BSA needed a suitable powerplant for a retro-style single, a couple of years ago, the SR motor was ideal. It’s simple and reliable, if not very powerful. The softy-tuned sohc single produces a maximum of just 32bhp less than the original Gold Star of 40 years ago! But at least the Gold SR, which was designed by former Matchless and Norton engineer John McLaren, is a lot easier to live with than the demanding Goldie.
One leap on the kickstarter was normally enough to get the motor firing with an evocative duff-duffing sound from its period-style pipe. Performance is gentle, to say the least, and like most big singles the motor is snatchy at low revs. But it smooths out in the midrange, and the SR’s light weight just 149kg dry helps give reasonable low-speed acceleration.
The five-speed gearbox is good, and the little Beesa cruises happily at 70mph. Even when you rev the single harder towards its 7000rpm power peak it doesn’t vibrate too badly, though there’s some buzzing through the footpegs and seat.
With my chin on the tank and the throttle wound back on a long stretch of road, the needle of the Gold SR’s tiny black-faced speedo crept very slowly towards an indicated ton. Allowing for some optimism, true top speed is about 95mph.
The chassis is based on a BSA-made tubular steel frame, which ironically resembles Norton’s famous Featherbed. Forks, shocks, wire-spoked 18-inch wheels and drum brakes are all from the SR500, which BSA says makes it easy for owners to get their bikes serviced by Yamaha dealers. Suspension felt pretty basic, but the Gold SR was enjoyably agile.
Its narrow Avon Roadrunners had a reasonable amount of grip, and even the front twin-leading-shoe drum brake worked well when given a firm squeeze of the lever.
Various options can be specified on ordering. There are three petrol tank shapes, different finishes, alternative seats and silencers. Trouble is, even the cheapest hand-built SR costs almost 6500 on the road, more than many infinitely more exciting and sophisticated superbikes.
At that price the Gold SR certainly wont put BSA back on top of the sales charts. But if you want a new bike and prefer classic style to high
performance, the reborn BSA is as authentic as you can get.
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- Classic Motorcycle Profile – BSA A65 Lightning – 1969 – RealClassic.co.uk