Fitting a Commando to the Rider

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Sep 3, 2007
I have a '71 Commando with under 7,000 miles that I've decided is probably not worth enough money to warrant selling it so I've decided to fit it to myself.

The problem is that I'm 5' 3", have a 27" inseam and weigh 134 pounds. Oh, yeah... I'm 67 years old.

I'd like to keep the bike so that it could be returned to stock since it's a pretty rare "fast-back, long-range."

I figure I can make a new seat to help get a foot on the ground. Does anybody have any other ideas?

I reckon I can learn to ride (again) with the right shift/left brake but is there any way to put first at the bottom and raise a toe to shift up? Mine has first at the top. You must press down for higher gears.

Other than filling my pockets with lead bars, is there any way to make the bike easier to kick to life?

The bke has been in storage since 1976, if I remember correctly. What would you do to get it running?

Thanks, y'all!

Great decision Al, :D

You can certainly lower the seat a little but an LR is always going to be fairly broad at the front. An early Roadster tank and seat might be the easiest type for you. Although it means expense, it is easily reversible.

18" wheels will, if you keep the same tyre widths give you 1/2" saving at the expense of a reduction in ground clearance and shorter rear shocks and attention to the fork internals could bring you a little lower still.

The gearchange is easy as Mick Hemmings (and presumably others) sells reverse camplates, although these are usually bought by people who want to keep one up and the rest down when they reverse the lever for rear-sets :)

Starting obviously requires that everything be in good order. Compression can be reduced by fitting a plate under the cylinders and most belt drive conversions raise the primary gearing which lowers the kickstarting ratio thus reducing the effort needed but of course turning the motor less. This isn't really a problem though as it spins easier and should fire promptly.

Good luck.
79x100 said:
The gearchange is easy as Mick Hemmings (and presumably others) sells reverse camplates, although these are usually bought by people who want to keep one up and the rest down when they reverse the lever for rear-sets

If I remember correctly, quite a while ago, I think somebody here said that to reverse the gearchange selection, it is only necessary to press the camplate spindle from the camplate, and reverse it?


Link to that: ... t=camplate

See reply from 'HRD'

I presume the camplate gear is part of the spindle?
For additional height improvements, use a pair of Atlas fork tubes along with shorter rear shocks. Atlas tubes are about an inch shorter.

Clean carbs THOROUGHLY, paying close attention to the very small orifices. and replace needles and needle jets. Verify that ALL components in the carbs are as originally specified. Check and adjust float levels. Thoroughly synchronize carbs for throttle opening, vacuum balance and idle adjustment. I also like the mod that uses chrome/brass slides in the Amal body.

Tune, Tune, Tune - Make sure it is in an opitmal state of tune. Timing marks on the timing plate inside the primary chaincase are almost always wrong. Latest one I checked was off by 7 degrees. Compensate your timing for this offset.

Visually verify you have a strong spark. Fix all problems that cause weak spark. (Plugs, plug wires, coils, etc.)

Once a commando has been thoroughly tuned, they are quite easy to start. Use full body weight when starting, not just leg muscles.

Don't let your gas (petrol) get old. Modern gasolines go stale rather quickly.
At the risk of repeating myself yet again ~ I had a number of dramas with crook starting and running with the Commando ~

I had to change fuel every two weeks... in view of stale UP/ fuel and erratic running ~
I run Boyer on standard timing and stainless steel slide Amals ~ plus a auto tension on the timing chain ~

The entire fuel, running and starting issues were resolved after the bike ground to an inglorious halt and I found the low tension lead from the coil/ Boyer to the points pick up housing was high resistant and open circuited ~

Replacing the cable has transformed the bike.

It starts FIRST every time.. I took the bike for a run yesterday and the fuel has been sitting in there for months as I have not been out for sizable run for some time ~
It started ~ ran and idled superbly..

SO get your ohm meter out and check that lead.. better still if you have not changed it.. they are cheap and ready available ~ just do it for spectacular results ~
I have invested in a carb tune kit a few weeks ago, and I have to say that balancing the carbs dynamically (2 x concentrics) has improved the tickover a lot, so much so that it does not stall or look like stalling at all now. I'm very pleased with the results, although for some reason starting with the kickstart has never been as easy as with my previous Nortons :?:

Norvil do a smaller Commando frame, it is 2" lower than standard although not at all cheap at £672.00, but just thought I'd mention it.

Get a MK III "angular" kick start lever~ a handy investment.. they were designed to accommodate the angular MKIII muffler and are slightly longer.

Longer means more mechanical advantage.

They can be bought new or sometimes come up on E-Bay~ easily identified by the straight lines rather than the bannana shape of your current lever ~
Stuart SS, I have a MK3 kickstart as mine is a MK3. I haven't had time this year to really fettle the thing properly, but hopefully this Winter/ next Spring I will fine tune it. It starts on the Dave Coneau type starter easily, which is slightly puzzling.

Sorry for diverting the thread slightly.
Reggie said:
It starts on the Dave Coneau type starter easily, which is slightly puzzling.

My Mk3 also positively bursts into life on the electric starter (Prestolite. with 4 brush conv. -heavy leads -AGM battery) even when it had a Boyer ignition fitted, which it doesn't generally do when it is being kick started from cold, no matter how hard it is booted!
Hey, Y'all!

I've been offered a trade for my Commando. A local fellow wants to give me two BMWs (an '83 and an '84 R80RT, both in good shape) for it. That would actually be a good trade for me because my teenage son and I could ride together. I'd really like that!

The reason I'm posting this is that a really nice guy wrote me an email giving me some great tips about fitting the Commando to my little body and said that if I ever decided to get rid of it he might be interested. I thought I'd saved his email address but I guess I haven't. If you're out there, Sir, please email me again. Please use "Commando" for the subject so I don't delete it thinking it's spam. :)

I want to thank y'all for all the good tips on changing the bike so I can ride it. I went out to the storage building, though, and looked at the bike. I just can't bring myself to change anything on it. I think it should stay just the way it came from the factory. It really should be in a museum.

I really enjoy this website and plan to hang around. I've learned a lot of things I never knew about Nortons and have been very impressed by how friendly and knowledgable everybody is!

Whatever you ride Al, I hope that you enjoy your motorcycling.

Any chance of seeing a picture of the LR before it moves on ?
Well, it looks like I'm going to own the ol' LR for awhile longer. The gentleman who suggested the trade was counting on a friend to buy the Commando from him. Seems the friend already had two 850s and couldn't see adding another Norton to his "collection." :) Truth is, (I think), that he's the same age as I and wasn't looking forward to kicking the old beast over. Anyway, the Beemer owner sold one of his bikes so the deal is off the table.

I'm going to get my kids to help me wrestle the LR out of the storage room this weekend so I can clean it up. (It's got about six inches of dust on it. :)) I'll take a picture or ten and see if I can figure out how to post them on the board here.

Maybe I'll take some pics of the old Bonny, too.

Tulsaalva said:
I'll take a picture or ten and see if I can figure out how to post them on the board here.

You will need an account with a photo album hosting website (I like Photobucket: it is free for the basic service and easy to use) and then upload your photos to your new album.

To use Photobucket

To insert photos directly into a message, -select a photo by clicking on the 'Img Code' line (it will highlight and say = 'Copied'), then use paste (right click>paste) to place it into your message.
Repeat for each photo using the photo's own Img Code.

Finally...use the 'Preview' button to check the photos show correctly before posting.

Don't worry if you get it wrong though, as we can generally figure out where the problem is.
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