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What is the best British
starter classic motorcycle?


BSA Bantam | Triumph Tiger Cub | 4-stroke | 2-stroke | Single | Twin



If you're young and mechanically inexperienced, you might consider a simple two-stroke motorcycle such as a BSA Bantam. In their day, these 125cc/150cc/175cc singles were the quintessential starter motorcycle for a generation. Or two. Bantams are cheap to buy, parts are plentiful (less so for tinware), easy to live with, lightweight, simple to ride, and reasonably stylish. Top speed is around 45mph for the 125cc models, and 55-60mph for the 175cc bikes. You'll need to learn a little about the two-stroke engine cycle. But it's not complicated—and if you simply, but carefully, put the right bits in the right place according to the instructions in your workshop manual, you don't even need to understand the underlying principles. But it helps. Check our BSA Bantam buyers guide for more.


Alternately, a 200cc Triumph Tiger Cub is a great little 4-stroke motorcycle. It's slightly more complicated than a Bantam, and the initial purchase price is likely to be higher (actually, possibly double the price for an equivalent condition example). But the performance is greater. Once again, there are plenty of parts (and again, less so for the tinware). And new parts are being remanufactured fairly constantly.


But note that these bikes were built when people were smaller and trimmer. So if you're a six footer, or heavily built, or both, these motorcycles will disappear beneath you.


If you want something a little heavier with more road presence, a 350cc BSA B31 or 500cc BSA B33 is a good choice. But you can pick a 350cc or 500cc Ariel, or anything similar from AJS or Matchless. However, the BSAs are in greater supply and there's slightly more technical support for these motorcycles. Expect around 50-55mph cruising from a 350, and maybe a little more from a 500. Generally, however, 500cc bikes will simply give you a little more oomph and overtaking confidence.


All this said, you can move straight up to a 500cc Triumph twin, a 500cc BSA A50 twin, or anything of this ilk. If you can't find anything in this category to suit, check our buyers guide (link below). But we suggest you stay well away from any "exotica" such as Vincents or Velocettes (technically complicated), or Sunbeam S7s and S8s (tricky bikes that also need a careful touch).


Overall, we recommend you buy only something post-WW2; i.e. 1946 onward.






Check Sump's Classic Bikes For Sale page.

Check Sump's Classic Bike Guides page.



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