A CALL TO ARMS: Everything We Know about the New BSA Gold Star

The new 2022 BSA Gold Star Motorcycle on a white backdrop

Nothing gives you street cred faster than riding on the historical coattails of a famous brand. From China’s new MG Motor to the rebirth of Norton and Brough, the branding ‘leg up’ you get by attaching an old and well-respected name to your new-born moto manufacturing enterprise is as undeniable as it is valuable.

In the moto world, the latest and possibly greatest example of this phenomena is the sudden reappearance of the legendary BSA (or Birmingham Small Arms because they used to make guns) brand from 1861. It was purchased by India’s Mahindra Motors; the very same suits that now own Pininfarina, Peugeot Motorcycles and SsangYong.

In India, Mahindra plays a kind of Ford to rival Eicher’s General Motors. And Eicher just so happens to be the company who owns and recently renaissanced the Royal Enfield brand. So is Mahindra’s foray into the moto segment just happenstance? Hell no! But you need to look at the new bike’s design and specs to understand what they are up to.

A Big Shot Across Royal Enfield’s Bows

The new 2022 BSA Gold Star Motorcycle on a white backdrop
Look familiar? Image Via BSA Motorcycles

Age-old foes in India, Eicher and Mahindra have been going at it tooth-and-nail in the domestic market there for many decades. But with Eicher’s Royal Enfield now seemingly making a pretty solid go of their previously-very-static brand, it’s clear to most industry observers that the reborn BSA brand is Mahindra’s attempt to help themselves to a slice of Enfield’s sales pie (or gulab jamun, as the case may be).

Royal Enfield 650 Twin Interceptor in orange crush colorway
Watch out Enfield. Image Royal Enfield.

Even the BSA’s new design seems to be heavily influenced by Enfields; if you don’t see the similarities between it and Royal Enfield’s relatively new Interceptor 650 Twin, then I’d suggest you get a fresh set of optic nerves in the very near future.

Yes, you could probably argue that it also looks like Triumph’s new Bonneville range or even a Kawasaki W800, but there’s very little doubt someone at Mahindra went on a bit of a shopping spree at their local Royal Enfield dealership and subsequently gifted the BSA R&D department a whole bunch of 650 Twins as presents.

The BSA: Better Specs than the Enfield (But Only Just)

2022 Gold Star 650 single motorcycle indoors at BSA headquarters in the UK
Better brakes and tyres, but fewer cylinders. Image via BSA Motorcycles

As they are following the leader, BSA had the luxury of 20/20 hindsight when designing the new Gold Star—and it really shows when considering what they chose to keep and what to ditch on the new design.

The first and biggest thing to note is that the bike will be water cooled. Water cooling gives BSA the ability to make a higher-tolerance engine than air cooling allows for, meaning it’ll be easier to get more power out of it and meet tough emissions standards globally.

But air cooling isn’t all wine and roses. It also makes the bike more delicate and higher maintenance. Not a biggy for your average westerner, but if the bike is used as daily transport in India’s hotter southern regions, you’ll no doubt see many a bike overheating by the side of the road after their radiators have been innocently neglected by a nation of riders who’ve mostly never had to contend with water top-ups before.

A detail shot of the new 2022 BSA Gold Star 650 single motorcycle indoors at the company's headquarters in the UK
The bike’s upswept crank case design echoes the original. Image via BSA Motorcycles

And whereas Enfield’s Interceptor comes standard with Ceat rubber and Bybre brakes, the new Gold Star is purportedly going to rock Pirelli tyres and Brembo stoppers. Of course, that’s all well and good, but if that puts the price of the bike above that of Enfield’s (a brand with a century of sales and marketing experience) then BSA can probably kiss their sales targets goodbye.

Yes, it’s a delicate balance. From all reports, the other tech specs will be pretty much on par with the 650 Twin, too. The engine, designed by Rotax, will have a 652cc single with twin overhead cams and four valves. Torque and horsepower specs are almost identical to that of the Enfield’s; 40.6 pound-feet and 4,000 rpm, compared to 38.6 pound-feet at 5,150 rpm for the Royal Enfield engine. Weight will also be similar at around 215 kilos (470 lbs).

It’s a Single (Just Like the Original)

Old and new Gold Star 650 motorcycles indoors at BSA headquarters in the UK
Everything old and new again. Image via BSA Motorcycles

No, not all classic British bikes of the ‘50s and ‘60s were parallel twins; unlike their Triumph and Enfield brethren, the old Gold Stars were two-valve singles. In practical terms, this would make the bike feel more torque-y and charismatic, but also a little ‘agricultural’ when compared to twin cylinder contemporaries.

Of course, harmonic balancing and moto engineering has come a long way since the 1950s, so It’s not like the new bike will bear an uncanny resemblance to its original namesake.

An original BSA Gold Star motorcycle outdoors on a driveway
An original Gold Star 500cc single. Image Via Classic Superbikes

The twin balancing shafts, water cooling, and the associated tighter tolerances will no doubt take the edge off the rough-and-ready feel you get with most air-cooled singles (including those in Royal Enfield’s back catalog), but the fact remains that it’s only been a few short years since Royal Enfield shocked its fans by announcing a parallel twin platform. Now, along come some brand new competitors who are suddenly occupying a segment in the market Enfield must have thought they owned for good.

It’ll Be Sold in India

a man riding a Royal Enfield motorcycle near the beach in India
It’s motorcycling, but not as we know it. Image Via Quartz

Royal Enfield’s Indian heritage is the epitome of a double-edged sword. While it allows them access to cheap labor and a home market with literally billions of potential customers, it also very much limits the kind of motorcycles they can potentially make and sell.

Unlike big Western markets such as the US and the EU, India has two very important characteristics that dictate the kinds of bikes locals will buy. The first is income and the second is their roads.

India’s average national income is a mere USD $1600 per year, and you can bet that much of this figure is pumped up by the nation’s wealthy elite. Put simply, their relative poverty drastically restricts their ability to buy things.

A traffic jam in New Delhi in India
New Delhi: zero ton-up opportunities. Image Via DNA India.

Then there are the roads—outside of the big cities, many Indian roads are bloody rough (both figuratively and literally) compared to their Western equivalents. Add some of the world’s worst traffic into the mix and what you’ve got isn’t exactly an Autobahn.

Any motorcycle maker that intends to bolster their bottom lines with Indian sales needs a product that’s—put very simply—not going to be powerful enough to kill people or too expensive for the majority of customers to afford. So why sell there at all, then?

Well, as Royal Enfield found out decades ago, domestic market sales can be very, very lucrative. If a manufacturer managed to sell a motorcycle to 1% of the Australian population, they’d have shifted 250,000 units, and they’d probably be very happy with themselves. But if they were to achieve the same percentage of sales in India, they would have sold 13,000,000 units.

It Was Supposed to Be Built in the UK

Aerial shot of original BSA motorcycle factory in Birmingham in England
The old BSA factory in Birmingham. Image Via Warwickshire Railways.

Surprisingly, the initial plan from Mahindra was to build the bikes in the brand’s original stomping grounds, Birmingham. However, since COVID messed up the planet, they decided that they’d relocate the whole shebang to their Indian facilities.

Now, what really makes me pause for thought here is that there’s a whole world of difference in cost between making a bike in the UK and making it in India. Or to put it another way, there’s a very good reason why the new Land Rover Defender is made in Slovakia and not Solihull. And no prizes for guessing—that’s because it would cost a whole bunch more if it was made in the home of the Union Jack.

An original BSA Gold Star magazine ad from England in the 1950s
A 1950s BSA ad. Image Via Classic Motorcycle.

Exactly how Mahindra planned to make the bike in the UK and still price it competitively is anyone’s guess. The key to this quandary is probably the fact that the company is about as cashed-up as any corporation could possibly be, so in that sense it would surely have the capital to throw around in terms of profit margins. It could even (god forbid) make a loss on the bikes just to get the new brand established in the global market and eventually recoup that money further down the line.

One thing that has been discussed for the future is an electric bike platform, for which the British Government was allegedly keen to partner on, purely for its employment opportunities and brain-trust brownie points. “An electric BSA?”, I hear you cry—but didn’t anyone tell you? We’ll all be riding electric before the middle of the century, so you better get used to it, and quicksmart.

The BSA Gold Star is scheduled to go on sale in the first half of 2022, COVID and computer chip shortages notwithstanding. Reports put the retail price in the UK at around £5000.

Leave a Reply

  1. I talked to my Dad (1970) that I wished to ride a motorcycle. In the paper, he found a BSA. We drove to Indianapolis and a couple had a beautiful chrome and black BSA. They showed me the mechanics of riding and I cycled there and back a city block. Bought it. Followed my Dad the back roads to Kokomo. One of my favorite memories. Look to have the new BSA.

  2. The BSA doesn’t resemble the Royal Enfield, Bonneville, or Kawasaki in the least unless you’re referring to the fact that they all have two wheels.

  3. IMO the radiator needs to go top to bottom not side to side, exhaust front pipe is far too fat, front and rear mudguards are far too short. All this sorted I would definitely buy one, if not I would probably buy one and alter it myself. ps after a test ride, I think you have made a good job with the constraints of emissions it must be difficult. I own 3 BSA’s

  4. Looks the same??? Yes and no. Unless you have/have had/have been around old BSA’s/ Triumph Bonnevilles, and then, no… It doesn’t. Unless you have them, most British 60s Brit bikes look similar, as vertical twins (singles) of same size. I reckon they have done a great job with these (same as Hinckley did with the retro bonnies) , but with 4 bikes already, I haven’t got room for one……. ? Hinckley had the same limitations; their look is “very Brit 60’s generic” within modern conventions/expectations. My Hinckley T100 feels very little like a 60’s Bonnie, it feels more like a early 70’s 350 Honda with 900 power…….. forgiving, and easy to ride. Exactly like the design brief said it should. But, to be fair, once locked into the retro mould (what the market allows/expects) pretty limited how much a bike can vary from that mindset. Any Brit vertical single/twin has to be of that size/config. The only variables are engine casings/colour conventions. But they are aiming at new markets, not us. MOST people who “know what a BSA is like to ride” are almost gone….. and the current market won’t listen to us anyway. So the “NEW market” is all that matters/who they have to appeal to. My BSA A10 has “from idle” torque that hardly any new bike of similar size has. But pointless saying that, because people who have never ridden one want to argue about it, so…… They will sell a lot of these if they keep to theme and keep the price reasonable. It is that simple.

    1. Great comment. Not many of us left at all. The original Gold Star needed careful attention being so close to TDC, and impossible to keep in tune. You couldn’t go long distance either with the physical demands and vibrations.I will be getting one of the new ones to go with my 1959 Super Meteor (amazing torque) . Take care.

  5. My first bike was a 1952 Triumph. I rode it on the plains, in the mountains and highways of Montana. It was heaven to be free and ride in the wind.
    Today I’ve a Harley and two BMW airheads but I’m going to add a Bonneville T120 in the next couple years. I think it’s great that these companies are reviving the British bikes. One could argue that they would have evolved to use the technology anyway and are just where they may have been anyway. Motorcycling is better for this.

  6. At the end of the day only quality of the alloys used on the angine to make it bulletproof, will determine the success of the bike. As a ducati owner Ducati engines are made very strong. See in utube Roual Enfield repairs, mistakes like cheap metals aka rod, should not exist.

  7. Triumph appears to have few problems with manufacturing in the UK and selling bikes worldwide. So – if Mahindra cannot – why not? And don’t give us the Covid story – everyone everywhere has to deal with that. I happen to have five old BSA bikes in my basement. If you are truly into BSAs, you probably already have what you need. Would I buy one made in India? No. In fact, after having tried various products made in India, I never buy anything from that country anymore. Even a simple pair of India made spectacles I once bought were useless – the glasses kept falling out of the frame because the maker refused to use enough metal to make a proper product. Sorry.

  8. Years ago in 1969 I had a BSA Clubmans gold star with full width front break. I travelled from Army Barracks near Uttoxeter to Herne Hill in London on regular but not all weekends due to military duties. The M! just then had just been opened thereabouts with 61 miles of bitumen/concrete road surface after the initial runs I worked up enough courage to hold it flat out from end to end. Total time for the entire trip of 140 miles usually 2 and 1/1/4 to 2 & 1/2 hrs a little slower in winter and snowy slushy roads. Frozen stiff on occasions I would crawl back into the barracks and after takin my open face helmet off simply go fully clothed under the shower. The guards in the barracks said they could hear me coming around 2am in the morning for twenty minutes before I arrived.
    Taylor Dow did some work on the valve gear and some other bits but due to the already high piston speed he went no further. The pressed up cranks ultimately parted company about 30 miles down from the M1’s southern end. Carried in a large carpet bag end left in liverpool stations luggage lockers to go back to taylor dow on my return from the Isle of Man races. It never was the same after that possibly due to the use of one existing bearing. However in its prime It would do the 61 miles of the M1 in 37 minutes timed more than once with a dolphin racing fairing and Only ever passed by a Ford Cobra.(Photos available on request) at a small cost,