THERE WILL ALWAYS BE an England, and there will always be an English motorcycle industry. We have seen a marvelous blossoming of lightweight motorcycles in the 50 to 90cc groups, brought on by the spurt of handsome little machines made in Japan. Throughout this period there has been no competition from the British motorcycle industry since, as the opposite of the case in Japan, there was little demand from the "home" market. Birmingham Small Arms Co. may have the answer to at least part of the threat from the East.
Called the Beagle in England, the newest BSA is known as the Starlite on this side of the Atlantic, an improvement we might point out. The new ultra-light member of the illustrious BSA line is a radical departure from its brethren. To start with, the 75cc engine, a single-cylinder overhead valve miniature in unit with the fourspeed gearbox, is as different an engine as one will find on a British machine, at least in size anyway.
Total weight is only 140 pounds, achieved in part by the use of a pressed metal frame backbone. The engine is mounted in contemporary style, supported at the back and "hung" as a structural part of the frame. Front suspension is via the leading link system, action is dampened with coil springs. This method offers advantages to the manufacturer in being simple to make, though it does not offer much movement on a vertical plane. Of course in the use for which it was intended, the Starlite is comfortable and handles very well.
One impression the little BSA makes at once is the "different" appearance the use of 19-inch wheels gives. We are accustomed to seeing 17 and 18-inch wheels on machines of this size and the larger wheels make the whole bike seem a trifle larger. We are certain owners will like the marvelous array of tire sizes available for 19" rims and some might desire something larger than the 2.25's fitted as standard, especially if they wished to make a dual purpose trailing touring machine of it.
Primary drive to the gearbox is by gears, the simple and obvious method in so small an engine. Power for the lighting is created in an engine shaft driven alternator; no battery is used. Amal designed and built a special carburetor for the Starlite and their associate company, Triumph and Ariel's Pixie.
No power ratings are given, a BSA practice we approve of, but it is a sufficient amount to make the Starlite perform satisfactorily and well up to its displacement capabilities. Colors are two-toned red and yellow, a mite gaudy. Paint and metal finish are only satisfactory, but the workmanship and engineering are above reproach.
We are told that BSA spent an enormous amount of time and money in the design and development of the Starlite, including an extensive series of tests that amounted to a two-week marathon of testing conducted by apprentices on the BSA assembly staff. Reasons for using the novices in place of BSA's staff of professional test riders was to obtain results that would be comparable to those they could expect newcomers to achieve. The results seem well worthwhile, and the $349.00 P.O.E. price makes it a substantial bargain.
Though vibration dampening could be improved, the engine buzzes to maximum revolutions effortlessly and produces a useful measure of torque through most of the power range. If one wonders where to find manifest benefits derived from the pressure of competition, he need only visit his nearest BSA dealer and see an example of a darn fine answer to what you do to fill a growing demand.