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1972 BSA A65 Lightning bobber

Posted on February 19, 2013 by Scott in Bobber. 46 comments

By guest writer Ian Lee.

Everyone should have a hobby. Something removed from everyday employment in order to keep one’s sanity. Today’s feature bike is a result of keeping work and play separate, of escapism of the best kind, that of custom motorcycle building. A civil engineer by trade, Aaron Rubio’s true passion is building and riding custom bikes, which he tries his hardest to be able to do at least once a week. Recent comments about a BSA and electrical wiring prompted Aaron to send pics of his 1972 BSA A65 Lightning bobber into Pipeburn, to show solidarity in not having every little aspect of your bike perfectly tucked away and looking neat. In Aaron’s own words “I do believe clean wiring has it’s place, but exposed wiring helps define the soul of a bike”. True, and we love this bike for all it’s touches, exposed wiring and all.

Aaron’s bike had already begun to be modified by the time he got it, the previous owner hardtailing the rear end. On top of this custom rear there sits a vintage Harley front fender, as Aaron says ‘with 40 years of rust and three layers of paint all showing beautifully’. Flashes of red break up the dark aesthetic of the Beeza, the Ballistic battery, fuel lines and spark plug leads standing out. To top off the red highlights, the chain tensioner is now a custom skateboard wheel setup.

Aaron decided to stick with British marques, choosing a Triumph fuel tank to replace the original unit. It has been sanded and clearcoated, flanked either side by brand new brass BSA badges that have been painted black, and distressed to fit in with the patina of the bike. Sitting proud next to the fuel tank is a vintage Smith & Wesson pistol group, mounted on the custom suicide shift Aaron fashioned from tube he found in his backyard. In keeping with the weaponry theme of the shifter, a munitions round has been cut down and mounted on the kickstart lever, adding to the awesome this bike possesses.

This BSA bobber is low-slung, metallic and mean. It’s rough finish shows it’s there to be ridden, not to be hauled around on a trailer. Red highlights, put up against the brass touches of the stoplamp, seat springs and battery belt hold down, all work together with the dark aura the bike produces. It’s not meant to be pretty, and it shows that Aaron’s hobby is far removed from his everyday employment, cos you would hope the finish on the railway bridges he designs isn’t as rough. And all this from someone who has only been customising bikes for the past two years now. I’ll leave the last word to Aaron: “I wanted my bike to look like it could take a beating, that it could be ridden hard and put away wet… not some primadonna bike you would be scared to get a water spot on”.

  • Tattoorudy

    Badass & Beautiful, Aaron! Nice work.

    • arnold

      hey, not better, just different. I agree with you.ald

      • arnold

        Put the new tires on.

  • nathas909

    Thats great work, I like the roughness of this bike. It shows a certain I don’t care, but with a lot of work.
    I love the front wheel, there is something thing about the first photo and the color of that brake set up. Very nice.
    The only thing I don’t like, and really don’t like is the solid metal plate under the seat. It would be great if he kept the original frame exposed.
    By the way, what is it like to ride with a suicide shift? Especially on the throttle side.

    • arnold

      I see the need of the plate, suicide shift. there are many better informed than me.
      Except this example is not a suicide shift.

      • I think this is a jocky shift.

        • arnold

          Ya, the right hand works the whip, generally.

          • arnold

            With a 4 speed. british gear box, I’m not sayin much.

  • Looks just like what a GI returning from WWII would build. This could have come off the set of The Wild One. Not for the faint of heart or those who require heated grips, ipod ports and factory warranties. I wish I had the front brake!

    • BTW, great real-life, un-retouched, non-photoshopped pictures.

      • arnold

        It does look like a OIF front, not available till the 70’s though, Manx. But even with my rambling blabber I still like the build. Raw, and if he’s got it on the road, so much the better.

      • arnold

        ectachrome? doesn’t look like coda chrome.

        • Can you still buy Kodak film? I’ve kept a bunch of the yellow metal Kodak 35mm film cans – they make great crankcase vent catch cans.

          • arnold

            I’ll havta research it. Good luck finding a good developer.

          • arnold

            I know who would “know ” in our circle would be the the Vintagent.

          • arnold

            Sorry, Andrew would ‘know ‘ as well.

      • Hate to rain on your parade, but I photoshopped them to within an inch of their lives…

        • Thanks Andrew, now I’ve lost all my faith in humanity, belief in the Easter bunny, and trust in Lucas electricals. ;^)

  • Septic the Sceptic

    My god, that is not a bobber. And it's ugly, and the shifter is stupid. Hit a bump and it automatically change down a gear.
    Mechanical engineers build rockets, chemical engineers build explosives, electrical engineers build guidance systems and civil engineers build targets.

  • Stig

    nathas909: Haven’t ridden a bike with suicide shift, so can’t say anything about that, but on old BSAs the shift and brake sides are opposite from most other bikes, so that is the normal shift-side for that bike

    • arnold

      Sportys of a certain age had the shifter on the same side. It still takes me time to “shift sides” changing from one bike to another. Uniformity, so jejune. (ha! look it up:.)

    • Seems like when I was younger most of the bikes I rode had the shift on the right and the brake on the left. My old Velocette and Ducati were like that and all old Sportsters, too… all was fine until I bought my first Honda which had the shift on the left. Big Harleys had the shift on the left so maybe Harley lobbied the Federales to make all manufacturers copy them? Any body know the answer to this one? Especially since I am known to blow smoke when I’m in the dark.

  • SpunkytheTuna

    That’s not a suicide shift, it’s just a hand shift. You can see on the left handlebar he still has a hand clutch. A suicide shifter is a foot clutch/hand shift combination. And even that’s not totally legit if you have a front brake. No front brake, foot clutch with no catchment mechanism, and a hand shifter. That’s a suicide shift. Has been for oh, maybe seventy five years or so.

    • Aaron

      It’s a suicide shift if you try to change gears while making a right hand turn! The hand shift is a blast to ride for cruising around town, and is definitely an attention grabber. Obviously not practical for the twisties, but again no aspect of this bike is.

      Thanks Pipeburn for deeming my bike worthy of your blog and beautifying the photos… and to the commenters for taking it easy on me. Good comment on the cable length, I never really noticed how long they were till seeing them in the photos.

      • Adam Santella

        it looks amazing… thats why its worthy…

  • Lewn

    I like that it’s made for riding and not a show-pony. However, with lots of low ground draggable metalwork, hard tail, soft seat springs, hand shift and drum brake, not bike I’d enjoy to riding, but hey if you like it, fair enough.

    • arnold

      Lewn , Having done a fair bit of work on these period piece(s) a modest 50 mph and a thousand mile tune up is to be expected. There are many tuned tighter and better, But, unless you spend the Quadruplet college fund, you are still dealing alot with pre war, British metallurgy, assembly methods and technology. Stupidly, I think of them as the Rudge Ulster my Dad never had.(He did have a Harley Servicar though)

      • arnold

        The exhaust pipes I plan to use (old old stock) will probably have pipe wrap.(paging Dr. Kildare, Dr. Kildare please, stat.)

  • revdub

    My kind of bike. Raw, low, mean… and ready to get in some trouble. It’s no secret, I have a thing for raw tanks and black spokes. Even a skate influence thrown in. Rad bike for sure.

  • arnold

    If it didn’t look exactly like what I am building in the basement, I’m sure I would be very critical.:-)
    ( jocky shift ..mmmmmmmmm….no). Different detail only. Congratulations Aaron, hope see you out and about when (if) we have our day of summer this year.ald

  • Mike B

    Many moons ago, an A65 bobber gave me an education on just how little I knew about getting and keeping an old Brit bike in good running order. Kudos to those that put the work in.

  • Long live exposed wiring!

    • arnold

      Bringing the grounds back to a happy place is the best thing you can do to keep
      “Lucas ” under control.

  • revdub

    Arnold is trying to beat Tony’s previous record for greatest number of comments on one bike. Keep going, Arnold!

  • ffjmoore

    How about getting cable that are the poper length. Maybe a battery box and hide some of the wires. Cool bike but looks sloppy. Could look 10x better with those fixes and not having that solid plate under the seat.

  • specialdetail13

    I like this build. I would be proud to ride this day in and day out. The color scheme is nice and simple but well thought out. The lines of the bike flow well. It's simple and clean but with enough character to stand out a bit. A job well done.

  • Wayno

    If he ever lays it down to the left side, hopefully that kick start bullet doesn't neuter him.

  • greeves girl

    I dig it.

  • that is sweeeeeeeeet, LOVE the shifter mate!

  • Alex

    I’d like to know what the stretch and drop on the hardail is.