Commando Advice Needed

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Did you do the deed?

I wont have any news about that for a bit - i still dont know what the fate is of this bike. I do really want it, though.

Not sure if anyone here is familiar with Peter Egan but he wrote an article about a trip that he and his wife took on their Norton and.....well it didn't end on a happy note.

How do these bikes do if you actually want to ride them? Would it be reasonable to want to take this thing out for a nice 300 mile Sunday ride? I wouldnt be commuting on it or anything but I do ride my bikes quite a lot and it's not out of the question to have a 1k day every now and then on a more contemporary ride.
 

Derek Wilson

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I put 740 miles on mine over the weekend without much drama, but it is a pretty well sorted and maintained machine. It definitely is doable, but you need to have the confidence in the machine.

It also depends where you plan riding. I avoid freeways and high traffic areas when ever possible. I also have a very bright head light and an upgraded front brake. Being seen and the ability to stop are key IMHO when riding in modern traffic.
 

baz

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I wont have any news about that for a bit - i still dont know what the fate is of this bike. I do really want it, though.

Not sure if anyone here is familiar with Peter Egan but he wrote an article about a trip that he and his wife took on their Norton and.....well it didn't end on a happy note.

How do these bikes do if you actually want to ride them? Would it be reasonable to want to take this thing out for a nice 300 mile Sunday ride? I wouldnt be commuting on it or anything but I do ride my bikes quite a lot and it's not out of the question to have a 1k day every now and then on a more contemporary ride.
These bikes can definitely do what you are asking
But they are only as good as the last owner
There's many things that can go wrong and an upgrade for all of them plus plenty of upgrades you don't really need!
If you start listing the things that can go wrong on a commando they sound like a terrible bike but the reality is very different , they can be and indeed are reliable bikes
 

Onder

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You can flog a modern bike endlessly with out worry or consequences. Not what you want to do with a brit bike of that era if you wish to avoid early renewals or immediate trouble. They will go the distance but under reasonable circumstances. Your inspection and maintenance routines have to be rigorous. Remember, even Jim Comstock has come home on a trailer.
 

marshg246

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I wont have any news about that for a bit - i still dont know what the fate is of this bike. I do really want it, though.

Not sure if anyone here is familiar with Peter Egan but he wrote an article about a trip that he and his wife took on their Norton and.....well it didn't end on a happy note.

How do these bikes do if you actually want to ride them? Would it be reasonable to want to take this thing out for a nice 300 mile Sunday ride? I wouldnt be commuting on it or anything but I do ride my bikes quite a lot and it's not out of the question to have a 1k day every now and then on a more contemporary ride.
Here's the early history on my 74 MKIIA. Sold in in Scotland. Imported to Pennsylvania in 74. Converted to a Café racer, converted back. Ridden to Los Angeles. Converted to a Café racer. Converted back. Ridden back to Pennsylvania and sold to the second owner in 1976. I have (supposedly) all service records - head never off and gearbox never opened. Has the original black cap mufflers. It came with plastic airbox but it had a K&N air cleaner installed when I bought it in 2014 from the 2nd owner.

The bike doesn't have a lot of miles but it made it to CA and back - supposedly 6-days each way.
 
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I put 740 miles on mine over the weekend without much drama, but it is a pretty well sorted and maintained machine. It definitely is doable, but you need to have the confidence in the machine.

It also depends where you plan riding. I avoid freeways and high traffic areas when ever possible. I also have a very bright head light and an upgraded front brake. Being seen and the ability to stop are key IMHO when riding in modern traffic.

I would absolutely go through the bike completely before attempting something like this but Its good to know that a good weekend ride isnt out of the scope of the Commando. If the bike doesn manage to make it into my garage permanently, it will get ridden!

My motorcycle philosophy is 95% B roads (or more) and the highway is avoided unless completely necessary.

Los Angeles was my home for about 15 years and I rode almost every single day so I totally agree with your statement regarding being seen. It's critical!

The Speed Triple was my LA traffic weapon. That poor thing is pushing 40k now

For the Triumph fans.....

eatpasta_Triumph%2520Speed%2520Triple%2520Shoot_Triple346_zps05ddf373.jpg
 

Richard Tool

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I wont have any news about that for a bit - i still dont know what the fate is of this bike. I do really want it, though.

Not sure if anyone here is familiar with Peter Egan but he wrote an article about a trip that he and his wife took on their Norton and.....well it didn't end on a happy note.

How do these bikes do if you actually want to ride them? Would it be reasonable to want to take this thing out for a nice 300 mile Sunday ride? I wouldnt be commuting on it or anything but I do ride my bikes quite a lot and it's not out of the question to have a 1k day every now and then on a more contemporary ride.
Love to read anything by Peter Egan - I recall an article he wrote about how he loved his Norton but it was unreliable and how his Honda CB 750 four set him free . True enough, back then .
Fast forward to now . All the foibles of Commandos are known with a plethora of fixes and almost every component is available new.
Try to find bits for 1970 Honda 750 four - you better be lucky and diligent. Once you go through the Norton start small and expand your range as you grow with it and keep after it . I go out on mine for day trips up to 100 -150 miles round trip and frankly that’s enough but I am 68 . Plenty of folks here on this site won’t hesitate to take theirs on the long jaunts you ask about .
 
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Love to read anything by Peter Egan - I recall an article he wrote about how he loved his Norton but it was unreliable and how his Honda CB 750 four set him free . True enough, back then .
Fast forward to now . All the foibles of Commandos are known with a plethora of fixes and almost every component is available new.
Try to find bits for 1970 Honda 750 four - you better be lucky and diligent. Once you go through the Norton start small and expand your range as you grow with it and keep after it . I go out on mine for day trips up to 100 -150 miles round trip and frankly that’s enough but I am 68 . Plenty of folks here on this site won’t hesitate to take theirs on the long jaunts you ask about .

This is all great to hear - I like working on stuff but I do have my limits

:)

There is a 1975 CB400F that Ive owned for about 15 years now. That poor bike has been run hard and put away wet since I bought it (by accident) from eBay for $900 with no license plate or title.

Pretty amazing machine though as the only issue its ever given me since I bought it was a fuse blew once.

The two bike are from the same decade but I dont think they could be more different. Two wheels, handlebars and a single headlight is where their similarities end!

That little four is an absolutely incredible powerplant - I have embarrassed a few sportbikes in my day in the canyons above Malibu on that little screamer
 

gortnipper

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This is all great to hear - I like working on stuff but I do have my limits

:)

There is a 1975 CB400F that Ive owned for about 15 years now. That poor bike has been run hard and put away wet since I bought it (by accident) from eBay for $900 with no license plate or title.

Pretty amazing machine though as the only issue its ever given me since I bought it was a fuse blew once.

The two bike are from the same decade but I dont think they could be more different. Two wheels, handlebars and a single headlight is where their similarities end!

That little four is an absolutely incredible powerplant - I have embarrassed a few sportbikes in my day in the canyons above Malibu on that little screamer
I had a 400 four in the 80s. Two of them, actually, though one wasnt a runner and was a big fern stand in our living room. The Commando spoiled them for me. Kinda felt like riding a sewing machine after the Norton.

I would not hesitate riding the Commando two thousand k's at one stretch, and have done a couple of times. But, I have had the bike apart to every nut and bolt, so I understand most of it.
 

Blewdy Yaink

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well, it looks like this bike is going to be staying right where it is....looks like Im going to be keeping this one

Good! Let's go back to basics. I looked online and I can't find a '70 workshop manual (I am sure that someone has a link). It's important because there were major changes after 1970 and the later manuals are not helpful in the details.
The 70 Roadsters had what I call the "cube type" oil tank. It is located in the center of the motorcycle, under the seat. To get to it, remove the seat (unscrew the large aluminum knobs at the top of the rear shocks and it lifts right up. I get confused because of all the Commandos that I've owned and worked on, but I think that oil is drained by taking out the large fastener holding the oil feed hose. You'll have to put an "oil chute" - a flat piece of metal like cut from a gallon paint thinner can - or sturdy cardboard or the oil will just run down the inside of the transmission/swing arm area.
You'll see the filler cap on top of the oil tank, once you've drained the tank and cleaned it, that's where the new oil goes in -- but that's the last thing you do. As others have mentioned, to drain the engine oil, you have to drain the tank and the engine sump. When you have the filler cap off, you can look inside and you'll see a little metal tube that looks like it doesn't go anywhere. If all is well, oil that is being pumped back to the tank dribbles out of that tube. When you finally start it, if you don't see oil dribbling out after 15 - 30 seconds, shut the engine down and investigate why.
Also, after a complete refill (for a bike that hasn't run for a while or after an engine rebuild), you need to prime the oil system. One thing is to pump oil into oil feed system like the sketch. (You don't have to do this -- only if you want to be sure that the engine isn't running dry on oil for the first few minutes.) Then pour about 1/4 cup of oil in each exhaust rocker box cover (that oil drains down and lubricates the cam and lifters on startup). Then fill the tank with fresh oil. I like the kick the engine over 6 - 8 times with the ignition switch off to get the oil flowing from the tank into the engine.

Besides the oil system being different on the '70 (and some '69s but that's not important here), the wiring system was redesigned starting in '71. That's important two ways - 1) the '70 system is simpler and easier to maintain and fix, and 2) like the oil system, it's not as easy to find technical details on the '70 electrical system.

That will get you going on the engine. As others have mentioned, if you don't know the history and maintenance of the engine, it's a good idea to strip the engine completely and inspect it. But you'll need to know the above about the oil system anyway.

Keep asking questions. BY
PrimeOil.png
 

Blewdy Yaink

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Sorry, but that's an old man speaking... (No offence intended)
Mustn't knock styling, no matter how bizarre or 'useless'. It's the 'eye appeal' that can make or break a deal on the showroom floor... 'Eye of the beholder', 'One man's meat... ' etc. etc...
Again, no offence.....

Absolutely correct. We all know that the "S" model made as much sense as putting a loud exhaust system and knobby tires on an Aston Martin DB5 and calling it a "dune buggy". But the reality is that the Commando Fastback was going over like a turd in a Bucks Hice punchbowl in the US -- sport riders in the US wanted something like a HD Sportster or the Triumph Bonneville -- only smarter. With the "S" and the '70 Roadster, they got it and it started an export sales landslide that literally saved the Commando. If they hadn't done that (and spent what money on it that they did -- which really wasn't a lot -- Norton Villiers wouldn't have made it past 1970. The "S" and '70 Commando were the models that saved Norton Villiers and the Commando.

(My deepest apologies for the H*-R*d*r -- the model that dare not speak its name. That's different. Slightly.)
 

NPeteN

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I have a 70 S.
Imported as a Roadster, sold here as an S.
It is purple and it is the best model Commando because it is the one I own.

You can buy a reprinted service manual on eBay whenever you want.
 
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I have a 70 S.
Imported as a Roadster, sold here as an S.
It is purple and it is the best model Commando because it is the one I own.

You can buy a reprinted service manual on eBay whenever you want.
My first Norton was the 70 S model. Still my favorite , light , fast with 19 Tooth sprocket , stock.
 
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Good! Let's go back to basics. I looked online and I can't find a '70 workshop manual (I am sure that someone has a link). It's important because there were major changes after 1970 and the later manuals are not helpful in the details.
The 70 Roadsters had what I call the "cube type" oil tank. It is located in the center of the motorcycle, under the seat. To get to it, remove the seat (unscrew the large aluminum knobs at the top of the rear shocks and it lifts right up. I get confused because of all the Commandos that I've owned and worked on, but I think that oil is drained by taking out the large fastener holding the oil feed hose. You'll have to put an "oil chute" - a flat piece of metal like cut from a gallon paint thinner can - or sturdy cardboard or the oil will just run down the inside of the transmission/swing arm area.
You'll see the filler cap on top of the oil tank, once you've drained the tank and cleaned it, that's where the new oil goes in -- but that's the last thing you do. As others have mentioned, to drain the engine oil, you have to drain the tank and the engine sump. When you have the filler cap off, you can look inside and you'll see a little metal tube that looks like it doesn't go anywhere. If all is well, oil that is being pumped back to the tank dribbles out of that tube. When you finally start it, if you don't see oil dribbling out after 15 - 30 seconds, shut the engine down and investigate why.
Also, after a complete refill (for a bike that hasn't run for a while or after an engine rebuild), you need to prime the oil system. One thing is to pump oil into oil feed system like the sketch. (You don't have to do this -- only if you want to be sure that the engine isn't running dry on oil for the first few minutes.) Then pour about 1/4 cup of oil in each exhaust rocker box cover (that oil drains down and lubricates the cam and lifters on startup). Then fill the tank with fresh oil. I like the kick the engine over 6 - 8 times with the ignition switch off to get the oil flowing from the tank into the engine.

Besides the oil system being different on the '70 (and some '69s but that's not important here), the wiring system was redesigned starting in '71. That's important two ways - 1) the '70 system is simpler and easier to maintain and fix, and 2) like the oil system, it's not as easy to find technical details on the '70 electrical system.

That will get you going on the engine. As others have mentioned, if you don't know the history and maintenance of the engine, it's a good idea to strip the engine completely and inspect it. But you'll need to know the above about the oil system anyway.

Keep asking questions. BY View attachment 82444

Thank you for the info!
 
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