The folks over at Motorcycle Picture of the Day posted this photo of a stunning early-70’s vintage Norton Commando. And my heart rate jumped about 20 beats per second.
As I have posted previously, I have had a long and somewhat conflicted love affair with Nortons, having acquired my first one in the late 70’s and disposed of my last one in 2001, owning 5 or 6 of the beasts during that time.
Nortons always struck me as purpose built sculptures, designed to evoke the baser instincts, and like moth to flame I would succumb, drawn by the sheer muscularity of that power plant and the raw beauty of the machine itself.
But truth be told, they made better sculptures than daily riders. They were temperamental machines, prone to shake parts loose at the most inopportune time and the Lucas “Prince of Darkness” electrics virtually guaranteed at least one ride home in the dark every few weeks. With no electric start and a compression ration of 10:1 or so, kicking one to life often resulted in a sweat-soaked start to a ride, and possibly a bruised shin or worse (I once actually drove my knee into my chin as a result of a particularly nasty kickback). And while the isolastic suspension kept the engine vibrations from rattling your fillings loose, it did nothing to prevent the exhaust system from periodically heading south, or the kickstart lever falling off. In fact, nearly every ride ended with a must-do maintenance list of several items needing tightening, repair, or replacement. And duct tape became your best friend.
But as my German father-in-law used to say, “Too soon old, too late smart”, and still, every time I see one of these classics the urge strikes again to own one. Then the head wakes up and says, “Are you nuts?” and reality takes over.