BSA Bantam – Springer vs Rigid

By Paul “Moz” Owen

Here is my experience on the classic trials scene.

My first ever trials event was after the IOM TT races in 2009. I borrowed a modern bike just to see how I got on and I did ok. Got slagged off by a few regulars saying I’m on a modern bike and I’m a experience rider because I race a superbike. Dont really see how that works as one is at 200mph and the other at 2mph haha.

I seen my backside with those comments so the £850 I won for 13th in the senior TT went straight into a classic [trials] bike but I like a challenge and found a 1949 rigid bantam that needed a lot of TLC.

Rigid before….

So I got it going and learnt to ride it. Every event was different and I was learning and improving the bike until a few years later I had it at it’s best. Or maybe at my best. It was bored out to 185cc and forks upgraded but it still stopped you dead if you hit rocks with no rear suspension. I listened to the top lads about how to get over obstacles but with no rear absorbers it didnt relate to how you ride a rigid. The less I turned the throttle the more it gripped. But if I hit rocks, roots or a kicker on a banking it would just lift the whole bike and I’d lose grip.

The finished article

I welded some support tubes to the frame to help me grip the bike with my heels. I’d altered all the ignition and jetting so it was all bottom end grunt and raised the base gasket as that helped with a bit more top end if I needed it and it helped lots.

But moving up to the eEpert class seen me getting a lot of punctures as I used to run 4psi in the rear. I even tried a worn out motox mousse but it made it to bouncy. So i drilled 25mm holes from left to right in the mousse. That helped on the rocky sections but it still sent sudden shocks up my knees and spin as I hit the rocks with no suspension. I even put rotating pivv-pegs off a bmw all-terrain bike. That allowed my feet to rock back and forth and helped with the sudden impact.

I’d even lowered the rear axle frame plates to raise the rear and put a stepper rack on the steering that worked great in tight turns. But I was still hurting more and more with my back. I had to choose either drop back a level to the green intermediate class or buy a bike with suspension.

I’d sold one of my classic superbike so had some money and I knew of a Springer bantam with almost the same spec as my rigid bantam. The deal was done and I did my first pre65 trials with springs. It was very interesting. The bike had a quick action throttle and no bottom end. It was like a light switch to ride. I’d approach a rock and were I used to gently open the throttle and the front lift with no give on the rigid back end, but the springer was flat, then it would kick in and compress the rear but by then I was into the rocks and on my backside.

A nice sorted find…

I stiffened up the springs so hard that it felt rigid. I put a slow action throttle on it but put lean setting in the carb and I’d altered the ignition so it felt like the grunty rigid motor. As time went on I eased it off as I got used to the rear springs but it still wants as good as the rigid.

I put both bikes side by side and got measuring. The fork rack wasn’t step enough on the Springer and got worse when the back was fully compressed with the main cradle of the frame still being a standard bantam and not a fancy trick one you can buy off the shelf these days.

So I made a new slimline subframe that pushed the main frame forward and got me the rake I needed. I’d also tracked the exhaust pipe under the seat and split it into 2 pipes out the back of the silencer that gave it more grunt from 2 smaller pipes even though the overall diameter was bigger and longer in lenght.

I’ve had a few people snigger at that but it works for me and its my set up. I’ve seen so many just bolt parts on expecting to go better but they don’t. I remember chatting to the late Jim Pickering about what I’d done to my bantam engine. He took it away for a few weeks and on its return he said on paper that everything is off the scale for how he set bikes up but he said it works really well when u ride it so don’t touch it. Since I’ve been on the twin shock I have progressed better against the expert riders but then I sometimes find myself upside down.

It’s not that I’ve run out of power, I’ve just run out of talent haha.

I love riding my rigid but with classic trials upping the level every year I need to stay in the Springer to save my old bones as I’m turning into a rigid haha…..

2 thoughts on “BSA Bantam – Springer vs Rigid”

  1. Well done Paul – a useful account of how to get on from the beginning in trials with a classic and some of the mods needed to improve it to your own style. Want a job test riding and writing up the results on the twin shocks – my Montesa vs Ossa etc?

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