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BSA Lightning A65

The 1969 BSA 650 twin is arguably one of the best-developed of the breed. The BSA Lightning A65 arrived in 1962 as the natural progression from the sturdy A10. Given a unit construction twist and sensible technical development, the twin remained the backbone of the BSA range all through the 1960s. In fact, things almost went a little too far in the middle of the decade when there were eleven different models (counting 500s as well as 650s) based around the same basic machine. Eleven! Perhaps there are actually too many ways to skin a cat...? Most customers opted for the 650-sized Lightning anyway, so the range was trimmed to a more sensible size of six before Richard's own A65L went into production.The Lightning was accepted as the BSA all-round sportbike of the Sixties, sitting alongside the single-carb, touring Thunderbolt and the supersports Spitfire. If you're buying an A65 today then you'll have plenty of different examples to choose from, which reflects how well the bike sold when new. Although Turner's twins continued to steal many hearts with their glamorous reputation, it was a fully-faired Lightning that was kitted out with car-seeking missiles to take on James Bond in the Thunderball movie. In real life the Police rode something which looked similar, but their Lightnings came without the additional thunder!

By 1969 BSA had tackled most of the BSA Lightning A65's obvious flaws (and the ones which remained required rather more fundamental efforts to improve them). As the multi-cylinder bikes arrived so the pressure could be taken off the twins, and the Lightning was allowed to settle into an almost genteel sports-tourer role while the Rocket 3 took the strain. Amendments to the motor were aimed at making it more reliable, quieter, and less leaky, and any attempt at ultimate top speed was sacrificed to beef up the mid-range and improve rideability. 'Very fast but easy to handle' reckoned BSA, and we'd have to agree. The twin-carb A65 would still reach 108mph (but don't try that at home children, and particularly not you, Mr Wilson, unless you want to develop a sudden and expensive relationship with SRM). It also offered accurate cornering without feeling overly stiff. Yet even in 1969 it was freely admitted that only a masochist would use a Lightning as an outright speed machine.

It excelled as a high speed tourer, however, and still willingly fulfils that role today, if you have the yen to travel in starburst style. BSA even fitted an oil pressure warning light, intended to reassure riders that all was well with the bike's lubrication and cooling. It signalled alarm should the oil flow become compromised, ideally before extreme engine damage occurred. However, as the switch itself was prone to malfunctioning, most riders ignored its cries of 'wolf!' after a while. BSA's claim to be 'ultra reliable under all conditions' wasn't quite as accurate as they hoped! BSA Lightning

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