Made in Japan: Disc-valve dynamite – Bridgestone’s BS-175

Bridgestone built some of the most advanced two-stroke bikes in the world, so why pull the plug 45 years ago? Steve Cooper explains.

When the classic scene got going and folk finally realised there were other high end marques beyond Broughs and Vincents, the nascent scene was occasionally enlivened by the appearance of the odd Bridgestone.

Upswept pipes, high bars and truly period styling meant the Bridgestone 175 Racer (inset) and 175 Hurricane Scrambler went down a treat with its carefully-targeted customers.

Once all the anti-Japanese hysteria abated, those who could see beyond the ends of their noses were intrigued by this apparently curious marque with a European name.

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The Bridgestone Bicycle Manufacturing Company had been founded in 1945 by Soichiro Ishibashi, whose surname literally meant ‘stone bridge’. With a little artifice the two names were transposed, and hey presto!

Bridgestone became a western-sounding company. Motorcycle production began in 1958 but the bike that piques this column’s interest appeared around 1965 as the Bridgestone BS-175. Based on a 125 twin, its engine was expanded to 175 ccs and thus a legend was born.

The bike was arguably one of the most advanced motorcycles of the period, regardless of capacity. Truth be told, Bridgestone had benefited from the sort-out that came during the early 1960s in Japan. Many small successful companies that had sprung up after the Second World War found trading increasingly difficult, and one such business, Tohatsu Motorcycles, folded despite being a key innovator. Bridgestone was more than happy to take on the now-redundant Tohatsu.

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