I have a Norton 99, a 1930 AJS 250 and a 1970 BSA Starfire. The Norton is great for runs but a bit heavy manoeuvring in and out of the garage, so not good for shorter trips. The Ajay is for short distance pure fun, so the BSA was bought a few years ago for ease of use and more local trips.
Having owned a 175cc Bantam and an Ariel Leader many years ago, I was not prepared to mess around carrying and mixing two-stroke oil at each top-up though I did assume that modern electronics and redesigned parts would be able to solve some of these bikes’ original problems. Either bike would have suited my bike weight and local performance criteria.
The BSA has proved pretty good and has performed well when the Norton has been sulking (too often recently) and I have been out on it for rides with my wife – she riding her 600cc Yamaha XJ6 Diversion. However, the high compression of the BSA makes the kickstart heavy and it often causes the (twice-rebuilt) clutch to slip instead of turning the engine, while the vibrations of the bike when hurried along cause bits to fall off on a regular basis.
As I get older (yes, I passed with twice round the block, emergency stop and a couple of questions...), less strong and more lazy, I would like to have a modern bike with electric starter (like the much envied one on the wife’s Yamaha) and indicators, that is fairly lightweight, four-stroke and fuel-efficient, can maintain motorway speeds when needed and which I can take to a local dealer for maintenance and repairs. I do not want a scooter, a heavy tourer, a bike with a saddle and pillion pointing upwards to the heavens and huge petrol tank. A right-hand side gear shift (and left-hand side foot brake) would probably be too much to ask for.
The answer, I reckon, lies in Japanese market machines. There are loads of them out there, including the Honda CB400SS and the Suzuki Tempter. Specialist dealers like www.motorcyclegiant.net can help while Yamaha is to reintroduce its SR400, albeit that has a kickstart - James Robinson
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