1971 BSA Thunderbolt from United States of America


Great memories

General Comments:

The 1971 BSA Thunderbolt was my second bike, and by far the most fun. Nothing and no one could keep up with it in the mile.

Sold it to get to grad school. Missed it ever since.

Wobbly in turns, and of course the electronics were bad, but when it ran, it ran hard.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 17th August, 2010

1971 BSA Thunderbolt from United States of America


I am in love!


Before I start, please note that this bike had sat in a garage idle for 26 years. I spent a couple grand to put this bike back on the road. During its service life, the electrical system on this bike was quite inferior. The ignition system was fraught with troublesome possibilities. Cables were unreliable.

General Comments:

The bike is great to ride and be seen on. It sounds like nothing else on the road and looks like nothing else out there. Its 60's looking style is a major eye catcher. Add a classic leather jacket and chauffeur's leather topper for full effect.

This Thunderbolt usually starts in one or two kicks, thanks to the up-dated electronic ignition. The lights are bright, thanks to the up-dated charging system. I strongly recommend these updates.

This model with its in line 650 twin has some deadly serious low end torque. This feature demands one's extra care in using the throttle. The Thunderbolt could get away from a novice. Noted is vibration at high RPM. You can tell you are exceeding 70 mph without looking at the speedometer.

Roll on power is abundant at all speeds. This particular bike's clutch does slip a bit, so a down-shift is needed to accelerate without the slippage. It sings the song of the highway with a throaty British accent. It's become my personal siren song that lures me to the road, even when I have no place in mind to go.

It's not perfect though, is it? One sits rather high on this style of bike. I feel like I'm teetering at low speed. You need to go faster on this bike. Not having disk brakes does require a harder squeeze to stop and a harder step on the rear brake as well.

Handling is bittersweet. This shorter wheelbase does suggest more maneuverability, but your higher center of gravity makes it somewhat perilous. The BSA standard replacement tires are just the sort you would want for all weather riding. The aggressive treads bite the pavement like a pit bull even on wet pavement. This inspires my confidence in spite of my stated handling issues with "The Beezer".

One amusing thing about my bike that you might watch out for if you are building or restoring one like this... The guy who worked on my bike took it upon himself to replace the rather ratty looking rear wheel. I was glad for that. I did find that the speedometer was off quite a bit. I asked my brother (from whom I bought the bike) if it was off when he had it and he told me, no. Apparently this replacement wheel has a metric speedometer drive. The speedometer which says MPH now shows KPH. 120 is about 70 MPH.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 5th November, 2006

18th Dec 2006, 17:40

I couldn't agree more re the sound of these motorcycles - there is nothing like it! Mine was a 1968 Spitfire markIV. Rode it cross country with little trouble - and cruising is definitely not what it was designed for. Enjoy!

17th Feb 2007, 04:03

I too owned a BSA, mine was a 1967 650 Lighting. This is a super bike. With a set of Dunlops I was able to put the old thing just about on the pipes in turns.

But the Lucas electrics were terrible (hence the term Lucas God of Darkness), and you are right when you say there is lots of low end torque. One really wants to know what they are doing when you grab lots of throttle in first and second gear!

The only thing that I owned that was a tad wilder was my Ariel Sq 4, but then again that was a 1000cc bike.