Recent decades have seen the happy reinvention of first Triumph and then Royal Enfield, and even the much-resurgent Norton name popped up yet again earlier this year. Now BSA, another once-great British motorcycle manufacturer, emerges from the great motorcycle graveyard of the 1970s with a reboot of the legendary Gold Star.
Mind you, the new Gold Star isn’t a 500 like the barnstorming “ton-up” original. It certainly isn’t going to be vying for a podium finish at the Isle of Man TT or Daytona, like the Goldie that lit up roads and racecourses in the 1950s and ‘60s. But this new 652cc single will certainly satisfy riders of a certain age, and perhaps some younger riders looking for a fun but uncomplicated way to move around the planet.
As with Norton Motorcycle and Royal Enfield before, the backing for the project comes from India in the form of Mahindra Group subsidiary Classic Legends Private Ltd., which took ownership of BSA in 2016. Manufacturing is based in India rather than in Birmingham, England, and it was a few deliberate years before the first production machine arrived.
But now that it’s here, there’s much to admire. While the essential lines and stance of the classic Gold Star are lovingly recreated, the 2022 machine is fully equipped for modern life. There’s fuel injection, of course, plus liquid-cooling and Euro 5 compliance. Chassis-wise, there are Brembo brakes, ABS, and grippy Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tires. There are no electronic aids or rider modes, and more controversially, no kickstart, which will either delight or disappoint depending on your motorcycle upbringing.
The twin-spark DOHC single started life as a Rotax and was developed for the Goldie in collaboration with Ricardo, the famous engineering company. It produces a perky 45 hp at 6,500 rpm and 40.6 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm. There are just five gears on board, and the lubrication system features a dry sump with the oil tank located behind a side panel, much like it was on the original bike. Removing the sump allowed the engine to sit lower in the chassis than a wet sump, ensuring the cylinder block could be positioned upright while the fuel tank and seat could be aligned so that the line from the bottom of the fuel tank flows to the underside of the seat. Classic Goldie look: intact.
Motorcyclist’s test ride was conducted at the Millbrook Proving Ground near London, and while the test facility has the appearance of a real UK road, its fast and sweeping nature didn’t fully play to the Goldie’s strengths.
Essentially, the Gold Star is about user-friendliness. It’s obliging and easy to ride slowly, and will be a quietly effective tool in city congestion as well on narrow leafy lanes. The gearbox is smooth, and with the big single making usable torque from 2,000 rpm (peaking at a lowly 4,000 rpm before tailing off) there’s plenty of puff to keep it ahead of the traffic at the lights. Only a slightly snatchy throttle at low rpm, a perennial problem for singles, tarnishes its natural flow.
There’s a little bit of edge too. The exhaust note is relatively throaty and pleasing enough in its muted Euro 5 tune to get silver-haired gents spinning on their heels as it passes. And, as you’d hope, the Goldie is also more than capable of cracking a ton: of breaking the 100 mph barrier, which the postwar bikes were so famously proud of back in the days of limit-free roads and flat-caps.
In top gear, 4,500 rpm equates to 70 mph, but the new Gold Star will happily cruise at 80 mph (5,000 rpm) and still has enough in the bank to slip past faster vehicles. For a truly nostalgic experience, drop your chin onto that beautifully finished tank, wind on the throttle, and make like it’s 1953. I saw an indicated max of 109 mph, which somehow felt as thrilling as far greater speeds on other bikes.
The gauges are central to the Goldie experience, and the anti-clockwise sweep of the speedo and tachometer needles are perfectly suited, though the speedo needle on our bike bounced around madly above 70 mph. Sadly, the circa-1990 switch gear is a bland nonevent, and the USB port, while admittedly useful, is strangely out of place.
The BSA weighs in at a claimed 437 pounds dry (470 pounds ready to go), so is relatively light compared to other bikes in this category, its low center of gravity undoubtedly helping with its excellent low-speed agility. Comfort on our short test was good, with the broad, flat saddle and traditional posture combining to make for a relaxed ride, while engine vibration, another unwelcome characteristic of singles, was present but not distracting.
But, as mentioned, there is a slight edge to the Gold Star’s performance, and the chassis, like the engine, is happy to step up when you’re in the mood for some old-fashioned bend swinging.
Up front, a 41mm fork with traditional shrouded stanchions is nonadjustable, while the twin shocks on the rear are only adjustable for preload. But the ride is controlled and damping rates are pretty much spot on for what is, after all, a low-cost machine. Larger bumps and undulations can excite the rear end a little, but not enough to overly worry the reassuring Phantoms.
Ground clearance is good, and the Goldie warmed to the Millbrook sweepers, encouraging me to let go of the brakes and let the bike roll into the track’s open corners. It’s an old-fashioned and rewarding experience, the rasp of the single and easygoing surge of torque on the exits making for a pleasant way to spend an afternoon in the countryside.
The single 320mm disc up front is worked by a dual-piston sliding Brembo caliper that suits the easygoing nature of the machine. It’s strong, but far from aggressive, and should be ideal for town as well as open country. The ABS chimes in a little early at the rear, but never to the point of feeling intrusive.
BSA quotes 58.3 mpg (USA), and the low-revving engine should indeed prove frugal. Combine that with a 3.2-gallon tank and potentially you’re looking at 186 miles before the Goldie runs dry. We don’t yet know how intrusive engine vibes will be after a few hours in the saddle or whether the mirrors are any good, but first impressions are positive.
UK prices start at 6,500 pounds sterling for the base Highland Green Edition, rising to 6,800 pounds for the Insignia Red, Midnight Black, and Dawn Silver edition, with the top-spec Silver Sheen Legacy priced at 7,000 pounds. That’s entry-level pricing, but indifferent switch gear aside, the Gold Star doesn’t feel or look cheap. The motor is handsome, and the period clocks, twist-off fuel cap, and remote oil tank are all quality touches.
Some classic buffs might object to the use of the prestigious Gold Star name on a relatively pedestrian machine. But this charming and responsive 2022 reincarnation is a willing and punchy workhorse that will take on tasks far meatier than merely tickling the nostalgia gland. Welcome back, BSA.
2023 BSA Gold Star Technical Specifications and Price
|ENGINE||652cc, SOHC, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder; 4 valves/cyl.|
|BORE x STROKE||100.0 x 83.0mm|
|FUEL DELIVERY||Fuel injection|
|CLUTCH||Wet cable clutch|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||41mm telescopic, nonadjustable; 4.7 in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Twin shocks, preload adjustable; 4.3 in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKES||2-piston Brembo floating caliper, 320mm floating disc w/ ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||1-piston floating caliper, 255mm disc w/ ABS|
|WHEELS, FRONT/Rear||36 spoked, aluminum hub; 18 x 2.5 in. / 17 x 4.25 in.|
|TIRES, FRONT/REAR||Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp; 100/90-18 / 150/70-17|
|SEAT HEIGHT||30.7 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.2 gal.|
|CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT||437 lb. (470 lb. ready to go)|