1968 BSA B25 Starfire 250 "Blue Bird"
Purchase Date: October 2015
For some time now, I've been on the hunt for a beginner motorcycle for Hillary. Of course I was looking for something within a budget, and it has to have some cool factor to it. The bike also has to be safe, although it is easy for me to drop in / on all of the needed replacement components with modern ones, i.e. brakes, cables, wiring, etc... making the bike "safe".
My searches led me down a path of fun 70's enduro style bikes and late 60's basket cases. One lucky day I found a 1968 BSA B25 Starfire 250, running, not original paint - comes with original covers and extra gas tanks; clean title.
I called the number and discovered that the owner was leaving town in a few days, the transaction will have to happen promptly. Hillary and I made arrangements to take on the two hour drive later that evening. Upon arrival, the bike was cleaner (less rust and wear) than I had initially expected. It started up within a few kicks with the engine sounding as it should. The typical oil leak out of the rocker cover was there (the oil return works), the tires even looked good. Everything was lining up for a smooth sale. I took a minute to discuss with Hillary the nuances of having a kick-start only bike, as to how this may be frustrating for a beginner. She gave me the thumbs up to make the purchase.
I paid for the BSA in cash and started to load the bike into the truck while the owner went to grab the title. After a few minutes, I had the bike all strapped down and we were still waiting. After some time we went by and we went to track down the owner. The owner, all liquored up, could not find the title; he supposedly had it earlier that day then misplaced it. We waited for another 20 minutes or so while the owner swore and rummaged through his house.
At this point Hillary and I took the bike back out of the truck; the owner handed me the cash. I was tired from a long day of work, driving, and the messed up transaction. The owner promised a phone call after finding the title.
Early the next day, the BSA owner left a message that he did indeed find the title and can deliver the motorcycle to me later that day. I agreed, he delivered, and the bike was ours. Hillary has her first motorcycle which she named "Blue Bird".
The 1968 BSA B25 Starfire was a simple, one cylinder "Thumper" motorcycle. BSA had been making 250 singles since the late 30's, therefore this was a proven machine. Inside the air cooled engine, the B25 (249 cc) was produced with an aluminum alloy head and iron liner. The cylinder bore was 67mm x stroke 70mm giving the compression ratio a whopping 10:1. A single 928/20 Concentric Amal carburetor was fitted to provide the needed fuel / air. The overhead valves can be easily maintained by a small cover on the right side. A single set of points, also on the right side under a small cap makes for easy points gap checks.
The Starfire had a wet weight of 290 lbs. Power claimed is 25.8 hp @ 7,250 rpm. The BSA had a four speed constant mesh transmission with wet multi-plate clutch, linked to a final chain drive. Top speed was approximately 84 mph., that's fast for a small single if you ask me.
The first thing I did was an initial inspection on the BSA. This is what I found:
- The tires look good, healthy enough to get a few years out of them.
- An oil leak coming from the head seal is ordinary, although I'd like to install a new gasket and see if it clears up.
- No turn signals, Hillary would like some added that will not distract from the originality of the bike.
- Brakes are weak, need to be checked.
- The additional (original) fiberglass gas tank that cam with the motorcycle is in good shape. The tank will have to be leak checked, possibly re Kreemed. It appears to have already been coated on this inside, but not tested with gas. Fiberglass tanks need to be coated before using modern gasoline, otherwise the additives in the gas will break down the epoxy. The basic black gas tank that came installed on the BSA will be replaced with the fiberglass OEM one.
- The handle bars are not original, or even of the original style.
- All of the cables show wear.
- The side covers are not attached, and the paint is chipping badly.
- Wiring is messy, someone added a Mity Max replacing the zener diode and did a poor job wiring it up.
- General rust, the bike needs some basic cleaning up.
- The tail light switch does not work, or is not making contact.
All of these will be corrected along with the valve / point checks, etc... I look forward to working on the BSA. This will be a fun adventure, It is Hillary's motorcycle and she's offered to help out with the recondition process.
Before working on the BSA, I take it out for a short test drive around the neighborhood. After my drive I pull up to the garage with a huge smile on my face. These smaller motorcycles are a lot of fun buzzing around town with. I wouldn't "borrowing" this every now and then.
Brakes: I removed the rear tire for brake inspection, and sure enough a set of rear shoes are needed. A set was ordered from MGCycle; I installed them while dealing with the 40+ year old grease and grime. The front tire was removed for brake inspections; the front brake shoes have plenty of wear left.
Turn Signals: The Starfire did not come with turn signals, this model and year did not require them. Hillary requested turn signals be added “tastefully”, for safety reasons. I opted to install small LED (low voltage) style signals. The new front turn signals look like OEM reflectors on the left and right sides, while the rear are simple license plate bolts. I designed the wiring with a safety fuse and adjustable flashing unit with a Lucas style switch on the handlebars. Hillary got her hands dirty and did most of the soldering / wiring with my guidance, she did a great job.
Wiring General: The wiring on the bike, hidden under the seat, gas tank and left side cover was completed in poor taste when a previous owner installed a Mity Max unit. With minor guidance, Hillary is progressively cleaning up the wiring. We will be keeping the Mity Max.
Handlebars: The bars that came with the BSA were small, scrambler style. Hillary and I wanted the bike to get back to its original roots, therefore a set of “western style” bars were ordered through Classic British Spares and installed. I also ordered and installed a set of red OEM style grips (design preference by Hillary to match the gas tank emblem) from eBay.
Valves: During my initial valve - gap checks, I discovered the exhaust valve lash was way too tight. To top this off, there was not enough room in the adjustment range to loosen the gap (this could be a big issue). I then noticed the previous owner used a form of liquid gasket instead of the standard paper gasket under the head. I decided the paper gasket would give me the desired thickness. A gasket kit was ordered through eBay. I promptly installed the gaskets and adjusted the valve lash solving my gap issues. On another note, I hoped the new gaskets would eliminate a small oil leak from under the head, unfortunately the BSA still leaks at it's expected (common) location. I suppose it is good to know the oil is pumping / circulating through the head even though it's from an un-desireable leak.
Points: The points themselves look good, although the gap was too big. I simply re-gapped them / it to .015in per spec.
Miscellaneous: I installed a new spark plug, added fresh oils, etc... Hillary helped with cleaning the bike up and rider set-up adjustments, etc...
Mirrors: Hillary added a new set of 4in diameter mirrors to the underside of the bars. They look and work surprisingly well.
Gas Tank: The motorcycle came with three gas tanks: The painted black one (installed on bike when purchased), a polished aluminum scrambler tank and the original "fiberglass" tank. We have been aiming for an original look with a hint of female ownership (for Hillary), therefore the original goal is to get the fiberglass one back on. The interior of the fiberglass tank had been coated by ethanol resistant coating by the previous owner, I trusted this was done correctly. Our goal was to clean it up, seal the leaks points near the petcocks and install. We did just this and unfortunately there is a gas leak from somewhere in between the layers of fiberglass that wicks along the edges. This is not good, and I don't want to put the cash into another questionable sealer that may or may not work. Therefore we opted for the aluminum alloy tank which came out looking great with red BSA decals.
Mirrors: The mirrors installed "upside down" worked well for the time being on the black gas tank. Although when installing another tank they were an obstruction while turning. We flipped them around to the right side up position where they function (and look) much better.
Like most motorcycles I've had the pleasure to drive over the years, the BSA was no different in that it was a lot of fun to drive. With proper tuning and all safety inspections completed, the thumping single always left an ear to ear smile on my face. Ignition on, gas on, a little tickle on the Amal - kick through the clutch plates, a few priming slow kicks - and one swift kick the BSA would roar to life. In my opinion, the raw visceral effect classic motorcycles can deliver far outweighs that of most modern bikes with a push button start and whispering exhaust note.
Hillary and I had fun with the single thumper, although it was time to let "Blue Bird" go to another owner. After posting in Craigslist ads for few weeks, we had a solid bite for an XLH trade, we made the deal and bid our farewells to the BSA.
Sale Date: September 2016