Why BSA shows there is a future in reviving nostalgic motorcycle brands

Going old is the new future as several discontinued motorcycle brands are being given a new lease of life, led by the rebirth of the iconic BSA marque

The BSA Gold Star classic styled motorcycle

When it comes to motorcycles, sometimes the best way to go forwards is to first look backwards

While technology and design have come a long way, history and nostalgic flair are still huge selling-points for today’s bikers as demonstrated by the popularity of the Modern Classic segment, which continues to go from strength-to-strength.

Indeed, evoking a more romantic 60s and 70s era of easy riding has become a staple of contemporary motorcycling as an increasing number of today’s bikers eschew modern offerings in favour of something more evocatively classic.

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It’s a trend that has contributed to the growing popularity of manufacturers like Royal Enfield - a historic marque that has never strayed too far from its ‘pure philosophy’ of motorcycling - and inspired the return of BSA, which is back in business under the steer of  Mahindra-owned Classic Legends.

It is the third mothballed brand to be dusted off by the company in recent years having already revived Jawa in 2018 and more recently Yezdi for sale in India.

However, BSA is Classic Legends’ most ambitious relaunch yet having adopted a business model that goes much further than simply capitalising on a well-known name. 

Indeed, while there are numerous examples of legacy brands being snapped up by companies that then shift production overseas, Classic Legends is going the other way with BSA by establishing an R&D and (eventually) a manufacturing base in the UK both in an effort to capitalise on the UK’s engineering expertise and evoke a certain British ‘gravitas’.

The significance of BSA’s rebirth shouldn’t be underestimated. Though some 50 years have passed since the nameplate was phased out in 1973, only a decade earlier it was regarded as the world’s foremost motorcycle company, with a moniker that remains fondly regarded today.

Spearheaded by a modern-day ‘reimagining’ of its most famous motorcycle, the Gold Star, BSA Company Director Ashish Singh Joshi believes there is significant value in not only reintroducing a motorcycling icon to a new generation but doing so exactly from where it originated too.

“For us, the new BSA Gold Star is not just a motorcycle, but an emotion and we pursued the journey of bringing BSA back with utmost passion,” says BSA Company Director Ashish Singh Joshi.

“To stay authentic to its roots, the new Gold Star was designed and engineered in the UK. The new motorcycle incorporates BSA’s DNA and stays a Gold Star that is true to its lineage.”

Which other motorcycle brands have been revived?

While Classic Legends has made a business out of reviving shuttered brands of yesteryear for a new generation, it’s a trend that is gathering momentum across the industry.

With Royal Enfield and Classic Legends finding a market with their Indian-flavoured take on modern classic motorcycling, it appears the next marque to be revived will be Excelsior-Henderson after its naming rights were reportedly snapped up by Bajaj Auto in 2020.

While Bajaj has given little way as to what it has planned for the brand, it could be pitched as a more ‘premium’ larger capacity sub-brand to rival Royal Enfield or lean into Excelsior-Henderson’s US-style cruiser roots with a range to rival the incoming models Hero are developing with Harley-Davidson.

In Europe, there has been talk of MV Agusta relaunching Cagiva as a sister brand a decade after the much-loved Mito pint-size sportsbike stopped production. One of Italy’s foremost motorcycle brands during the 80s and 90s, its status proceeded to whittle during a series of ownership changes and now sits dormant in the hands of MV Agusta.

With MV embarking on an ambitious expansion over the next few years, speculation suggests Cagiva could play a part in that. With the spirit of another of its iconic models - the Elefant - clear in the new MV Agusta Lucky Explorer ADV motorcycle, there is a hope a sister model could appear with a Cagiva badge. Alternatively - and somewhat less excitingly - it has also been linked to coming back on a new range of e-scooters.

Fellow Italians Gilera may also be returning to the big bike arena in the near future after its name was spotted on documents attributed to Chinese firm Zongshen. According to sources, the Piaggio-owned firm - which still makes low capacity models - could be utilised for Zongshen’s new Cyclone sub-brand with a view to renaming it Gilera for the European market.

In the US, Buell has restarted production for a third time under new owners and is currently in the process of getting its first new-from-the-ground-up model - the SuperTouring 1190 - on the road, while Curtiss Motorcycles - formerly Confederate Motorcycles - has recently been reorganised into an artisan electric motorcycle maker.

Similarly, Can-Am - famed for its trials bikes that dominated the off-road racing scene in the 1970s - has been resurrected by Bombardier for a new range of electric motorcycles developed around the technology of the discontinued Alta brand.

While we get the model over here as the Kawasaki W800, the Japanese firm also offers it as the upgraded and more sophisticated Meguro K3 in its home market. Launched in 2021, Meguro harks back to the company name before it changed to Kawasaki in 1963.