First Norton; New Rider

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Sep 26, 2003
Wow, this is a great site! I'm a new rider completing my AMA training sometime in October. I want a "retro" bike, but NOT a Harley(like every accountant/lawyer/engineer/etc.)! I saw a guy on the 405 riding a Norton Commando w/ fairing... cool, real cool.

What should I look for in a beginner's bike? What's a reasonable price range? I'm looking for the Commando w/ fairing, small seat, curved rear cap, etc. for local weekend rides.

Thanks in advance!

What does it take to ride a Norton?

In 1968 the Norton advertisment in Cycle Magazine contained the following phrase, Only the seasoned cyclist with a lot of ability, experiance and know how will really enjoy the thrill of these high performance motorcycles.
Buying a Norton

You can check on e-Bay and (access through classic section) to get an idea of price ranges. General rule of thumb is that you can get a ratted out bike that may run and has lots of mechanical and cosmetic issues for $1,000 - $1,500. A decent runner that is reasonably sound mechanically and looks okay will probably be in the $3,000 - $4,000 range. A fully restored bike with all the appropriate upgrades and new cosmetics will be ~$7,000 and up.

As a new rider, you need to be aware that these bikes are >30 years old and even if updated and restored, you are still dealing with 1960's technology. Modern motorcycles have appliance-like reliability - you just start them and ride them; they don't leak oil or require much maintenance. When you finish a ride, you just park them until the next ride. Comparitively speaking, a Commando requires a lot of attention and maintenance, and has known problem areas that can drive you crazy. Updates to the ignition system and carburation help, but fundamentally you are dealing with technology from a time when it was expected that motorcyclists were also good mechanics.

If you are just getting started in riding, you should consider a used <600cc Japanese standard-type bike and keep it until your riding skills are honed and you are sure that you really like motorcycling. At that point decide if you want to upgrade to another bike. Personally, I would never recommend a Commando as a first bike. Yes, they are beautiful bikes and are a blast to ride, but you may spend a lot more time wrenching (especially if you get one with some problems) and a lot less time riding, and then decide that you don't like motorcycling and quit the sport.
I think "mgrant" gave some good advice - far be it from us to discourage you from a lovely British bike, but for your first ride I'd consider something else.

Depending on what kind of funds you have (and seeing as how you're ruling out a Harley merely for the "me too!" aspect I suspect you may have a few bucks to spend), I'd encourage you to look at a Buell Blast!

Why? Well, 1) it's a 400cc one-cylinder [i.e., low-tech] w/ decent enough power to get on the freeway 2) engine by Rotax [been building cycle engines since God was knee-high to a grasshopper] and 3) you can pick up a good used one locally or on eBay for $2,500-$3,000, thus leaving you enough to buy a ~$2,500-$3,000 Commando to play with while you have something dependable and stable to learn on.

The girls won't fall all over you & you won't be beating any inline-4 crotch rockets, but you'll have a solid, dependable and forgiving bike to learn on, and when you find out what the crotch-rocket jockey is paying for insurance you'll laugh all the way to the bank...

If you like to tinker or if you've got the funds to have a decent bike mechanic keep the Commando for you, have at it; don't get the idea that the old bikes are fragile, but they just aren't built to "appliance spec".

Have fun!


P.S. - and reserve some funds for some decent safety gear!

C-Stu said:
What should I look for in a beginner's bike? What's a reasonable price range? I'm looking for the Commando w/ fairing, small seat, curved rear cap, etc. for local weekend rides.
New Rider? First Norton

Hey mates,

thanks for the great advice and positive feedback! A major reason that I wanted a "cult" bike was due to the camaraderie of the enthusiasts that appreciate the history and lore surrounding the machine.

With that stated, I'll take my lessons and cut my teeth for about a year or so on a "trainer" (that Buell sounds nice). In the meantime, I'll look for a nearly restored commando.

I apologize in advance for any future novice questions or ranting...
Commando for sale

I noticed you mentioned you saw a Commando on the 405. Well it could have been me, who knows.

Anyway, I am in the area, and know of some really good Commando's for sale now.

Drop me a line and I will arrange for you to have a look if you like,

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