Complete guide to upgrades?

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Oct 9, 2004

I now own a '71 Fastback. Its been on my "lust list" since I can recall. Its been buggered into a cafe racer replica, but will make a solid platform from which to start.

My goal is to get the greatest possible enjoyment out of it by making most, if not all, of the sensible upgrades out there.

I'm also at a point in my life where I can attend to my hobbies patiently - with a decided focus on doing everything correctly the first time.

What I'd like to know is is there a compendium that addresses the bike's worst faults and recommended resolutions?

My late father (a SCCA hobbyist) stressed an order of operations for mods that I'm a big fan of. In order: chassis, brakes/steering, suspension/wheels/tires, drivetrain/gearbox, engine durability with performance mods last. (AKA: make it solid, make it safe, THEN make it fast.)

Trying to make a list in that order for my Commando, I've come across a lot of suggestions for improving durability, ridability and performace. Nowhere, however, have I found one generally agreed upon collection that covers even a large fraction of what I'm looking for.

Thanks in advance.

PS: Sorry for the long pre-amble, but I wanted folks to know where I was coming from.
Hi David,

Congrats on the new bike! Taking the time to do things right is definitely a good idea. Will save time and money down the road.

Regardng the compendium, I'd say the best way to start is to join INOA and purchase a copy of their Tech Digest. Best $20 you can spend. Ordering info is on their website, A copy of the factory service manual (still available) and a parts list (reprints available various places including ebay) are must-haves also.

71 750 Roadster

Thanks for the welcoming note.

Joined INOA, but can't seem to find any reference to the Tech Digest. Care to provide a link?

FWIW, I purchased every Norton manual in sight before I even pulled the cover off the bike.

Thanks again.
Dave check out the "Bracebridge Street Depot" on the INOA website that is the name of the "store".

Welcome to the world of Nortons, you have lots of work to do but if you take it one step at a time you'll have good results and lots of enjoyment from your effort.
I resurected mine from sitting dorment for ten years in the back of the garage. I've done a lot of the upgrades, some by choice, some because they had to be done. (seethe story above about transmission endplay)
This project will bring your willpower and patience to a new level but the rewards will outstanding.
Ride On
upgrade list

Dr Hiller
The reason you may not find the "conclusive list" of norton upgrades is that over the short life of the commando (68-75), you may eventually learn that every model year of the commando series has multiple changes or faults. Do to these ever changing variations the "upgrade list" would be by model year or partial year specific.
Also, upgrades are as opinionated as politics, so it is not black or white.......suggested upgrades are always based on, or limited by the skill level and experience of the person. Few norton owners are really familiar with all the model years so the advice is not always appropriate.
Good luck...
Dave Comeau
INOA Tech Digest Contributing Editor
63 atlas
66 atlas
68 dunstall atlas
71,72,73,74,75 commando
BSA A-10 61GF, 63SR, 63RGS
Triumph 68 T100R
Ducati 02 monster S-4,
92 907IE,
92 907IE 916power
.......suggested upgrades are always based on, or limited by the skill level and experience of the person.

Quite true that upgrades are subjective and each person has her/his own priorities and values. For example, me. My bike has the TLS drum front brake. In its current state it provides extremely poor performance. Lacking the skill level and experience to set it up properly, a disk brake conversion is the upgrade I value most. This at a time when others are pulling the disks off their bikes to replace them with the drum. So cool, so retro. Not to me however.

dynodave, OTOH, apparently has a shop full of Nortons with drum brakes. I'm willing to hazard a guess that a drum-to-disk conversion would have little appeal to him. So there you go.

Hi there David and welcome to the forum!

I ditto the notion that upgrades are largley subjective.

However, there are several sensible upgrades that will increase the reliabilty of your Norton. For example, the lay shaft bearing in the transmission should be replaced with a roller type. Also, the main bearings that support the crankshaft should be upgraded to "Super Blends".

In addition, certain O-ring seals should be replaced with lip type seals, the tach drive and kick start come to mind. There are some more sensible upgrades to improve the reliability of your Norton but my "compendium" is low on steam. Perhaps another forum member can pick up where I've left off.

Happy tinkering,

Dr_Hiller, Just a few more things to add to the list. An RMA cam chain auto adjuster is a must. I also would use a Veirnerr cam sprocket adjuster from Norvil in England. The cam timming on Commando's is all over the place. The cam you use and the compression ratio is where it all starts and everything goes from there. Map Cycle in FLA. has some of the best Valve guides on the market ( high heat sinking) nascar Amco 50 these go with Black diamond valves. Mushroom head adjusters from British Bike Connection. Some lightening of the rocker arms at the ends is easy work and helps any motor work well. Drill out the the intake rocker shafts with an 1/8 drill to get rid of the cross over oil feed. Use the the free oil spigiot for a presure gage. Spoke up a 18 inch rim for the rear wheel to open up tire options. Get your seat very comfortable and go for long rides. norbsa
Welcome David,

I would also suggest a copy of the Commando Service Notes available from the Norton Owners Club (UK) £4.50 ~ phone Neil Shoosmith (PM me to get the #), or email him from the NOC site and wait patiently. The notes are rambling in style but very informative (giving you an insight to the minds that created the bikes in the first place).

In my way, I am (slowly) trying to do as you suggest - create a resource for other would be Norton restorers/weekend mechanics. As pointed out - this will only deal with my experience on a 1970.

Read everything you can and stick around this forum - these guys know their stuff!

I will order myself a copy of the INOA Tech Digest - didn't know it existed ~ thanks.

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