71 fastback European touring

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Mar 1, 2006
Hi folks

In the process of buying a 71 fastback for me and SHMBO to go continental touring on this summer and really looking forward to it however.

As you all probably know, a 71 fastback comes without electric start, so to start the bike you have to (tickle)the carbs and kick her over and hopefully first or second kick away you go.

So my question is this, how hard will a bike fitted with electronic ignition and in good order be to start, and are there any words of wisdom on the best way to go about it.

Secondly this bike is fitted with drum brakes will they cope. I am around six feet two and the wife is five ten so we are not small people that a lot of weight to stop, will the brakes fade (much).

Lastly reliability, over long distances in high temperatures, over mountain passes and through city streets.

when I tell none Norton owning (ie)Japanese bike riders about this idea, they look at me as if I have just announced my intention to put together the next moon shot from my garden shed.

Sorry to rabbit on and as a first post I know I am asking a lot of questions but any help you could offer would be gratefully received.

Cheers Barkley /Codsall UK

Lots of things to consider; is the "71 a restored well sorted proven runner? How long is the journey 1 week, 1 month, 6 months? By continent do you mean western europe or eastern?
I always say you can drive a nail with a brick but it's so much easier with a hammer; that said I wouldn't pick a "71 Commando as a touring bike, it can be done but do you really want to jeopardize a vacation with a 35 year old motorcycle that has some ,,,let's just say built in limitations, especially two up. Lots of other good options and if you have to have something vintage an airhead Beemer is probably your best choice.
As a younger and more foolish lad of 26 I rode a 250cc Bultaco 3000 miles to California, two up; so you see it can be done. Wouldn't even dream of doing it now however. Hey on second thought part of the journey may be just to prove you can do it.

Good Luck,
Scooter :D
Continetal touring by Fastback

Hi Barkley,

My '72 combat Commando was in fastback trim all last year. I would take it anywere with confidence within it's/my limitations. It might not be very comfortable to ride at +70mph for 500 mile days on straight major highways. Too much wind in the upper body without any fairing. Keep the speed down and its much better.

Make sure the bike is in excellent condition mechanically and electrically. Amal carburetors wear rapidly, so should be sleeved already and fresh jet needles and needle jets. Drum brakes on your '71 are OK, but allow enough distance to avoid collisions. Commandos don't do stoppies.

Love to go with you. Riding a Commando over the Alps would add to my journeys over the California Sierras.
well seriously

I would say it has alot to do with your capabilities! It's New bike to you, what is your experience with beloved british motocycles? if it quits, will you be able to fix it? will you know what to look for, can you find a part?
If your warm fuzzy and knowageable about making these things work and run, then have fun. If not , then maybe you would be better off with something newer! just my opinion, I most certainly could be wrong!

Collect the addresses of all the british bike shops along your route.. and please keep us updated as to your adventure.. Pictures on a yahoo, hotmail, somewhere site.. :eek:) Best wishes!!! ps Italy is the BEST !
If you decide to do this..even on another newer machine...put out a call on the forum with approx. route and dates and let a few of us know to mail you and see if we can offer help should you need it ...there are several forum members here in Germany who might be able to grease the wheels of your trip....lots of people also in the NOC England, there is a "buddy Book" of Norton owners who might be able give hand to a Norton driver if he needs it. Smart to set up a list of phone numbers and such, BEFORE the departure... :wink:
Take the advise of the others too.....not a trip to make if you aren't sure of how to handle a minor repair, or if the bike isn't in pretty good shape. Wiring and simple things like something coming loose, will spoil a trip...do the maint. BEFORE you leave and enjoy the trip!
One of these would be needed for sure. Look at all the photos on this page. See (Commando fastback and roadster carriers.) On this web site http://www.tritonmachining.com/index.htm
Then a set of these: http://groups.msn.com/Brit-Fe-Pics/shoe ... hotoID=225 From Doug's Nortons.
Note that the tank on the Green Machine is a steel Atlas converted and that makes the seat four inches longer than the nomal Fastback this uncramps you when two up and the tank won't melt. norbsa
re: Starting
Bear in mind that I do not know the operating specs of the electronic setups.

That said, The easiest starting Nortons I've worked on had non-original type coils installed. I put v8 car coils with THE MATCHING CONDENSERS on them. These were the optional hi-output coils, but same size for the car. They are bigger than the Norton coils, but you can still mount them in the same location. You will need to replace the stock mounts, of course. Most of the coils come with a mounting/clamp bracket. I think the coils I used were rated about 20-22Kvolts. Stock v8's were about 16kv, if memory serves. The brand I used was "Standard", in their "Blue Streak" line. (they came in a nice gold anodized color) Don't know what's available in England for this application.

NOTE: very important that the same condenser used for the original coil application is used on the Norton. Do NOT use the stock Norton condensers, no matter what ANYBODY tells you!

The reason the points burn up on the Norton is the condensers are not matched to the coils. Current surge across the points transfers metal from one side to the other.

With these coils, you can open up the sparkplug gap to 0.035" (0.90mm), at least. Much better spark :D

Also, the points will not burn/pit :D (if you are still using points)
In fact, the only reason the points will have to be replaced is the rubbing block (piece that touches the points cam) will eventually wear down far enough that you run out of adjustment range!

The only (minor) drawback to this swap is the 'charge' time (points closed) is much longer than the better coils require. (8 cylinders vs 1 cyl, remember). Consequently, it will consume a little more current, but it's not much. Never bothered to try re-contouring the points cam.

The end result of the swap is much better starting. I've had the bikes start while just pushing the k/starter by HAND while on the workstand :lol: This with stock and modified engines.

As I said to start with, I don't know if these car coils are compatible with the electronic systems, but perhaps someone on the Forum knows.
for all the replies and advice. from what I can gather no one seems to think it can't be done, granted a commando may not be the perfect choice for such a trip, and maybe that is just the point.

We SHMBO, and I have over the years covered many miles on a variety of bikes from spots bikes to a Harley road king.
I have been riding over thirty years starting on a Yamaha FS1E and finishing with my present bike a BMW R1200RT.

When the commando was new I really wanted one, but on my meager wage in the mid seventies not a chance. Until now, I have the opportunity to buy this fastback.

My point is motorcycling, to me anyway has lost something over the years. speed nowadays is just a number on a dial riding A modern machine, which does most of it for you has become, well not boring exactly but in some ways, not that enjoyable, call me jaded. I want sixty to feel like sixty (MPH)
On the BM its like standing still (Superb machine that it is.)

As for mechanical knowledge, I can get by, and get home most of the time. I intend to learn by doing if that makes any sense.

I am buying the bike from Norvile who will go through it first, and from personal experience I know of no better people when it comes to Norton.

So perhaps I am slightly unstable aren't we all, when for the price of a decent commando you could buy a ZZR 600
Honda CBR that will do everything and change.

Thanks everyone
cheers Barkley.
"So perhaps I am slightly unstable aren't we all, when for the price of a decent commando you could but a ZZR 600
Honda CBR that will do everything and change. "

Love that comment.......

There is no better feeling than doing a good road trip on a snortin norton :D , Well there may be a couple but they get lost in the wind when cruising down the highways. Speed, comfort & reliabilty isn't everything is it ?? When on the norton all that stuff don't seem to matter.

They should have used nortons in "Easy Rider", all those miscreants on Harleys would have nortons instead. We would have norton freaks everywhere instead.
details details

Those are all very important details, experience and fresh Norvil bike.. Would say your in for a wonderful time.. Cheer-o and the Mr Nortonfan guy, he has one to the all time GREATEST list of things to do to your Norton EVER ! be sure to read it twice and print it out.. Well done Sir!
It has been helping keep my old blonde brain focused during my Combat project.. after the boyer switch, the single fire dual output coil lets you smile at electric start bikes.. Nortonfan's tips are a MUST see!


Maybe one thing to add to the list is a teflon lined clutch cable.. a wonderful ting mon!

Barkley.. please .. Don't forget a picture story for the rest of us
I have to admit when I first read this post I dismissed it as a wana-be with visions of grandeur that had no idea what what he was getting in to. 2 up touring on a Norton is not something to be taken lightly.

Now I see on your recent post you are a seasoned rider looking for a more fulfilling experience. I can appreciate that.

I had gotten into an internet spat with a gent a few years back regarding the reliability of the Norton that had me so preturb that I was ready to go and tour the Colonies over here on a STOCK, Combat Interstate, points and all, just to prove it could be done. But alas, family and work committments got in the way. So now maybe I can live vicariously through you.

I salute your challenge and agree on your decision to have Norvil 'go through it'. My biggest issue when two up is stalling at an intersection with a KICK start. Bummer. My experience is it is more electrical related than Amal related. The single phase charging system does not keep up with the discharge rate at idle, especially with electronic ignition, halogen headlight etc..

I would strongly recommend a 3 phase charging syetem with the biggest battery you can fit.

Good luck, and please report back.
It never ceases to amaze me at the variety of views and opinion that can be found amongst people who are passionate about motorcycling.

The sports bike riders, by and large don't approve of the cruiser brigade and vice versa. each to there own, and as already pointed out heated discussions can become very heated.

British bikes, and Nortons in particular seem to attract a fanatical following, and at last I understand what it is,not just the satisfaction gained from riding but also from not being part of the herd.

I will take on board all the superb advice given, and no doubt will think of many more tiresome questions in future.

Thank's again Salute to you all. Cheers Barkley
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