Getting Reacquainted

Going back inside a Norton again.

Getting Reacquainted: Norton Commando

It's got to be one of my favorite bikes of all time. The Norton Commando combines the nicest qualities of a traditional English parallel-Twin with a level of practicality, speed, smoothness and reliability that made it a true long-distance superbike in its day. A drop-dead gorgeous engine and lean, muscular lines for tank and sidepanels give just enough visual tension to suggest speed, even at a standstill.

Which is where my borrowed red '74 850 Roadster is at the moment, a standstill. It was a victim of long-term neglect but my friend and British parts magnate Bill Getty bought it a few years ago and has given it new life with a fresh top end (to rectify the rust-seized previous state) and new paint. I am currently throwing some jets at the JRC modern single carburetor conversion (see your local British parts dealer...) to find a good, clean-running setup, then will rehab a pair of Amals for more traditional duty.

Currently, though, I thought a trip into the primary to get some of the goo out was a good thing. Having sold my black '74 Roadster a few years ago (can it really be 2003?!), I'd forgotten what a pleasure Nortons of this era are to work on. It's not that earlier stuff like my '54 Velocette is _ir_rational, but there was definitely a new rationale at work on this bike, even as the English motorbike business staggered its way into the mid-'70s. And way fewer oil leaks. If only the industry had been strong enough to survive the mistakes and evolve a bit more.

Anyway, I am reliving the past and hoping for the freedom of the road soon, but in the meantime I am enjoying my time contemplating the mechanical bits and restoring cleanliness and order.