BSA A65 Ôit’s a bit like an old Ducati Monster’
“It’s based on a similar bike built by a company in Japan called Berrybads,” says owner and engineer John Jones. “But I’ve built the whole thing round the Amal GP carbs. The rear frame tubes and side panels are scalloped in to make room, and the long inlet tracts are there for the look. So from behind you can see the carbs sucking air in, and the silencers blowing exhaust gas out.”
The original A65 contained the seeds of the idea, but the factory never got round to making it into a styling feature. They also never got round to solving the A65’s appalling vibration issues. John’s done that with a Dave Nourish 90-degree crankshaft, at the same time adding a large dollop of grunt with an 830cc conversion that needed a set of late-model (1970 onwards) crankcases to take the strain. “I got the engine built by Rayner Traupel in Germany,” says John. “He was the only guy I could find at the time who could build a BSA with a 90-degree crank.” These conversions are far from straightforward; they need custom cams, pistons and ignitions too. The big-bore aluminium barrels are a Traupel speciality; the Brummy originals are cast iron.
The rest of the bike is crawling with amazing detail. John wanted the clean lines of a speedo incorporated into the headlight, which he found in a Norton Navigator 250. The Lucas switches have to be reversed so they don’t catch on the cables and kill the ignition. Clipons are Daytona Omegas with vernier angle adjustment. The swingarm is a complete one-off. The rear LED light is almost invisible until it switches on. The aluminium seat was made on an English wheel by a sports car bodywork expert. Rearset footrests on a BSA are usually incompatible with a kickstart, but weeks of careful design have solved that perennial bugbear. More cunning still is the horn: it’s the rubber bung in the middle of the tank. On the original bike the bung covers an anti-vibration mount.
The bike feels light and lively to ride. The old-school carbs make it gurgle a bit until it hits a sweet spot, at which point it catapults you forwards, rather like a single switching to a twin. Hook up a gear and it does it again, with the thrust effect arriving in fourth (top) at 70-80mph. It’s a bit like an old Ducati Monster, but with better steering and weight distribution. Cornering on the chunky Avons is completely neutral.
The original A65s vibrated like road drills and were built with their wheels three eighths of an inch out of line to try and reduce weaving caused by the lopsided engine. If only BSA had done it like this.
What’s the appeal of a Brit cafe racer?
Jim Hodges “I went through a mad period in my 30s. I had a ZZ-R1100 and a 916, which were absolutely fantastic. But every time I went out I was nearly killing myself – coming back shaking.” John Jones “I’ve done the R1 and Ducati trackday thing, and I don’t want to do it again. I scared myself. The beauty of these bikes is you can have fun at sensible speeds.”
How did you learn to build bikes like this?
Jim Hodges “I’d always had British bikes too, and I used to be really anal about originality. I had a totally original Hurricane, and put it back