Saturday, September 25, 2010

1974 MkII Norton Commando 850

This is my Norton... with which I have a classic love/hate relationship. Lotta highs, lotta lows. I bought this about two and half years ago, and it was (seemingly) in excellent condition. Which wasn't really the plan. My original idea was to get a rough runner that I would rebuild as a cafe racer. That was my dream since I was about 17... a Norton powered cafe racer. So yeah, I bought this bike... which I have loved. When it's goin good nothing beats it to ride, it feels great, has awesome torque, and can keep up with most modern bikes. Problem was I was riding it a lot, and doing quite large distances on it. I've ridden it around NZ twice. Of course I expected to have to 'work' on it, but I certainly did underestimate that. My expectations for this bike were a little ambitious let's say. And so began the 'work'... and the 'money'! I had imagined I'd spend my money rebuilding the bike aesthetically— alloy tank, race seat, rear sets, clip-ons, etc. But all I've been able to do is keep it running. I've done an awful lot to this bike including replaced fork staunchions and seals, reconditioned speedo and rev counter, new isolastics, recon'd master brake cylinder, completely rebuilt clutch (from handle to primary), and rebuilt back wheel. Problem has been that every time I do something, something else goes wrong... almost immediately. I guess this is 'normal'? Although I have a friend with a real shitty old Commando, and he rides it all the time, and rides it hard, and he doesn't have half the problems I do! The thing to learn here obviously is that 'looks good' doesn't equal 'goes good'.

So yeah this is what I'm thinking about now. I want something I can chop. But this is a matching numbers, really straight bike (still has it's orginal black number plate), that's worth a bit because of all that. And so on top of the fact I haven't been able to afford to modify it much, there's the fear that this isn't the bike to do that to? Hence my thoughts to sell it and get something else I can chop up. But then I do love riding this thing. Also it's the same age as me. 1974... I like that too. Fuck I dunno...


  1. Found this post while researching Nortons. My father just passed away and I've inherited his 74 commando. It's a total basket case and i am thinking of building a Gus Kuhn cafe racer. I just want to say that you have a gorgeous bike that is the envy of many. Please do not sell it.

  2. Hey man thanks! This post is a couple of years old now and you'll be pleased to know I kept the old thing and have been learning heaps about how to keep her on the road. Good luck with yours. Where you based?

  3. Glad you kept it I have a 71 frame with a 73 motor which runs pretty good and like you I found that when I take somethin apart I find somethin wrong.
    I had 1034 amal carbs and it wouldn't run right and I couldn't adjust them since they were both right hand carbs. Now I have 2 932 on there and it is running much better. Anyhow here in Chicago and gonna take it out for a spin this afternoon. Really always liked the paint scheme on your since 74 the year I graduated HS