BSA B50T: Trail boss

Classic Bike (UK) - - Bsa B50 (and Related Singles) -

Let’s face it, you don’t see too many B50s on the road. But if you spot one in the UK, this is the vari­ant you’re most likely to come across. Re­leased in 1971 and on sale for just two years, the B50 range used a stretched ver­sion of the B44 en­gine housed in a new oil-bear­ing frame. At first glance, there was a strong sim­i­lar­ity to the brace of 250s in the 1971 line-up, but the big­ger en­gine ran a nee­dle-roller big end – rather than the plain big-end of the 250 – with roller and ball mains on the drive side and a sin­gle roller bear­ing on the tim­ing side.

The new frame and dou­ble-damped forks cer­tainly looked fit for pur­pose too. With de­cent fork travel at the front and a nee­dle-roller swingarm with ec­centrics at the swingarm spin­dle for chain ad­just­ment, the B50T looked like a gen­uine du­alpur­pose pack­age – not just a street scram­bler. And that’s pre­cisely what at­tracted owner Tony Howard when he bought the bike as a scruffy project some nine years ago.

“When I was a kid grow­ing up in Es­sex, there were just so many dis­used pits around,” he re­calls. “Ev­ery­one seemed to have a ‘scram­bler’ and I’ve just loved the off-road thing ever since. I was up at the Beezumph Rally a few years ago and saw this guy on a B50 and it struck a chord. I tracked him down in the pad­dock and got chat­ting. He told me triple spe­cial­ist Les Whis­ton had one for sale. To cut a long story short, I bought it.”

Chris wasn’t fussed about a 100% ac­cu­rate restora­tion. “I wanted some­thing that would look like a pe­riod mod­i­fied bike that would be good to ride, while re­tain­ing the com­pe­ti­tion look I love,” he ex­plains. “I got B50 spe­cial­ist Chris Bur­rell to re­store and re­build the en­gine us­ing an MX cam and 32mm car­bu­ret­tor; Cen­tral Wheel Com­po­nents built the wheels. All the plat­ing was by Hock­ley En­ter­prises. Tony Cook – now sadly passed away – fab­ri­cated the ex­haust, RK Leighton re­fur­bished the seat and I’ve fit­ted Fal­con shocks. Once I’d got all the parts at home, the build only took six days. It’s still run­ning on points, but I’ve re­placed a lot of the electrics with a Boyer Power Box.”

That’s quick work – and Tony’s bike cer­tainly looks amaz­ing in its one-off metal­lic paint­work by FD Mo­tor­cy­cles in Great Dun­mow. Here’s Rick’s ver­dict on what it de­liv­ers on the road. “When BSA chose to call the road model B50 the ‘Gold Star’, it was viewed a step too far, com­par­ing this overblown 250 to the com­pany’s leg­endary 500cc sin­gle – but was it such an un­rea­son­able com­par­i­son? Well, on the road Tony Howard’s B50T doesn’t feel much like my own DBD Goldie, but that isn’t a crit­i­cism. The B50 en­gine doesn’t lack any punch, but it’s de­liv­ered in a more con­trolled way. To me it feels like a shorter stroke than the ear­lier mod­els, but while the stroke in only 6mm longer than the bore di­am­e­ter, the 85 x 88mm Gold Star is half that, so it prob­a­bly has more to do with lighter fly­wheels.

“Fol­low­ing Tony around lanes at 50mph in top gear feels easy and com­fort­able, de­spite the en­gine’s fierce MX cam pro­file. The en­gine is pleas­antly smooth, the clutch light and pos­i­tive, the gearchange has the same easy ac­tion as the smaller sin­gles; but de­spite this and a sim­i­lar chas­sis, you’d never mis­take this for a 250 Victor. You feel the much big­ger bang go­ing on be­neath you, and when quickly rolling on the throt­tle for an over­take, the power comes in fast and force­fully but with a smooth­ness that’s much more XT Yamaha than DBD Goldie.

“As I rode along I wist­fully looked at the fields. You could have a lot of fun out there on this bike – es­pe­cially if the muddy fur­rows be­came desert sand and scrub. It’s no sur­prise the B50 built such a fol­low­ing in the States. The mod­ern feel also helps ex­plain why the bike con­tin­ued in CCM guise for so long.”

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