hello everybody

Status
Not open for further replies.
Joined
Dec 27, 2008
Messages
295
Country flag
hello everybody! wanted to introduce myself and garner some advice.

i'm 62, married, 2 grown kids, retired. interests are reading, dogs, working out, brewing beer, shooting, archery, rat rods.

i've ridden on a motorcycle but never driven one myself. a couple buddies from long ago had a triumph bonneville and a norton commando. i've always been attracted by mechanical elegance and i still remember those machines.

i'd like to learn how to ride and i'd like to acquire a project nortom. i'm an excellent mechanic [licensed a&p] so i think reworking one of these guys is doable for me.

i've received a lot of different and interesting comments from people when i bring this up; WHY, get the widest tires you can cuz you're going to put it down, get a cheap bike to learn on and wreck, wifey has dug out and researched my life insurance, you get the picture.

anyway i'm committed to learn on my project bike as i go. bought starter stuff many times and know myself well enough that i feel i can learn as i go and am not interested in a learner bike. at my age i know my limitations and think i can operate within them.

so what say you? i've looked on ebay motors and there seems to be many likely candidates. my budget can't exceed 4000 bucks and hopefully i d like to get in for less. i'd appreciate any advice on models and likely sources other than ebay. i live rural and most of my riding would be on country roads in southern indiana w/ occassional excursions on the interstate. thanx in advance, rick
 

Ron L

VIP MEMBER
Joined
Feb 27, 2004
Messages
3,129
Country flag
Welcome rick!

62 and never ridden a motorcycle? I suggest you take the Motorcycle Safety Council's beginner course. They supply the bikes and you'll feel a lot better about swinging you leg over your project bike with at least minimum of experience.

Then I'd read up on Nortons. There are several very good books on Nortons in general and Commandos in particular. My suggestions include "Norton Twins" by Roy Bacon, as well as his "Norton Twin Restoration". "Norton Commando" by Mick Duckworth is another of my favorites. These books can give you an idea of design and engineering that went into these bikes.

When you have a good idea of what bike you want, Atlas, G15/N15, early Commando, late Commando, then I would get a factory shop manual. Familiarize yourself with the various systems and assemblies and then go looking for a project.

Hanging around this forum you can learn what upgrades are popular and what quirks are found on Commandos.

$4000 will get you a decent start, but it will no doubt require some further "fettling". If you search some of the threads on this forum you can see some of the projects. GrandPaul's documentation of the build of his customer's '72 Commando should be of interest.

By the way, are you southwest Indiana or southeas Indiana?
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2008
Messages
1,693
At 62 I'd be tempted by the last electric start Commandos. I'm heading for 59 and before long my limitations may be starting one of these.
If you shopped around I bet you can find one for that range and your skills will allow you to make it the machine it can be.
 

grandpaul

VIP MEMBER
Joined
Jan 15, 2008
Messages
12,505
Country flag
$4,000 will be a tough budget, but it's not impossible with two factors working in your favor: 1) dollar value is slowly inching it's way back against euro currencies, and 2) the economy is shaking some old bikes out of thier warm cubbyholes.

Doubtless you will be on this forum on a regular basis once you get serious about a Norton.

Sure wouldn't hurt to befriend someone with a mid-sized dirt bike or old beater street bike that you could ride around on private property or a large abandoned mall parking lot for a weekend to start learning on. It's not so much a matter of knowing your limitations, but min imizing the impact of a possible mistake.

Welcome.
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2008
Messages
1,693
Those are both good ideas for practicing. I rode bikes while in high school and college, then for a few years after school. I went away from them for quite a number of years and got back into a sidecar rig a few years back.
When I started riding solo bike again my nephew and I took the motorcycle safety course offered here in CA. Folks attend with all sorts of varying skill levels so you certainly don't feel alone.
After that it would be good to have some off road practice on a smaller bike to build your skill level and confidence.
 
Joined
Dec 27, 2008
Messages
295
Country flag
i'm accross the river from louisville. this area is very hilly w/ twisty roads. very rural, very scenic. thank you all for your comments. they are much appreciated. are there aftermarket sources for old norton parts and what about used parts? i'll be taking that beginners course as soon as i can find one. ypu'all have a happy new year
 

grandpaul

VIP MEMBER
Joined
Jan 15, 2008
Messages
12,505
Country flag
Several good sources of parts for Norton, and plenty of OEM stuff available (if you can handle the price). Good used stuff can be had, but most folks seem to hang on to thier good used stuff, sometimes find gems at swap meets.

Old Britts, Fair Spares America, British Only, several other major distributors.

I resell through a couple of those.
 
Joined
Jan 27, 2008
Messages
1,607
Country flag
+1 on a motorcycle safety course. I don't know what the licensing laws are in your State, but many require a Motorcycle endorsement on your license to ride, and many accept an MSF course as proof of competency.

A first bike should be user-friendly and cheap. If you go the new, or nearly new, route for this, I would recommend one of the 250s from the big 4 (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha). These bikes make excellent starters for learning the basics, and in 6 months or a year, when you outgrow it, can be sold to the next new rider at a price pretty close to what you paid.

If you are looking for a larger, cheaper bike, I would recommend one of the big 4 from the late 80s-early 90s, in the 600-900cc class. Again, something like a Yamaha Virago would be cheap to get, cheap to run, user-friendly, and could be re-sold after a year with little or no depreciation. Also, a Virago from this era was air-cooled. A couple of the Jap bikes from the 70s and 80s were pretty faithful copies of 60s britbikes. Yamaha XS 650 is a prime example.

Also, most Japanese bikes did not go to fuel injection until the late 90s, so you'll get an idea of what its like to live with an air-cooled, carburetted bike.
 
Joined
Oct 12, 2007
Messages
2,904
Country flag
A "project Norton" will definitely cost some two to three times the $4000 budget you specified. Pretty easy to get over ten grand in a Commando. I'm not trying to dissuade you from a project. You sound as if you would be an excellent victim, er', I mean candidate. If the $4000 figure is cast in stone and you still want a Norton, I'd say look for one that is in good running condition and is not in need of any major cosmetic work. They are available for the budget you specified. DO NOT buy anything from a picture only, unless you trust the seller. Bikes look a lot better in pictures than real life. If you can't get to the bike to see it, have someone you trust look at it.

Best of luck to you. Keep tuned in here. There is a lot of knowledge on this board. It has been my experience that everyone is certainly well intentioned and have no axes to grind.
 

grandpaul

VIP MEMBER
Joined
Jan 15, 2008
Messages
12,505
Country flag
Decent running, reasonably complete Nortons may be available for 44,000 but they are certainly few and far between.
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2008
Messages
1,693
I've seen a few for that range but they all require some work. As the economy gets worse there will be some more on the market.
I think I bought my first Commando new for a couple grand.
 
Joined
Dec 2, 2008
Messages
96
Country flag
Hi, Rick! Nice to hear that you are getting into our world! As a private pilot, I have a ton of respect for you A&P guys. I think a Commando project would be just great for you! I would have to agree with the other guys, a safety course would be a very good idea, and maybe smething smaller to mess with first. But by all means, get that Commando project going!

The great thing about a Norton is that they are fun old hot rods that you can continue to work on over the years and continue to upgrade, like a nice old Skyhawk. This site is a great spot to learn how to upgrade, and work on them. i would also recommend joining the Norton owners Club. Nice newsletter, classified, and stories.

You had mentioned you had about $4,000 to work with. I bought back my '74 commando for $2,500, in decent shape. I will spend another $1,500 to $2,000 updating ignition, alternator, belt primary drive, o-ring final drive. I just gotta believe you can get a decent 850 Commando for $3,000-$3,500, and spend some on upgrading yourself, and still be close to budget with a nice bike. But that's my opinion.

Good luck, hope it works out for you. Lots of nice and helpful folks on Nortons!!!
 
Joined
Dec 27, 2008
Messages
295
Country flag
again, thanks for the replies! i've found the rider safety course here for 75 bucks in april. meanwhile i'll get my learners permit and read the books i've ordered off amazon. think i'll forgo the learner bike. most of my stuff gets used hard but not put away wet. function over form until i see the unification of both. i'm not much into concourse restoration but mechanical excellence. i've a late model mustang that i baby, i must admit, all too much and a rusty old chevy pickup w/ a built 350, lowered suspension, and it just 'sings' mechanically. i'm looking to 'get in' for the 4 big ones and gradually upgrade mechanically as i figure out what i'm doing and what i'm doing it to. happy new years boys and girls. be safe, rick
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2008
Messages
1,693
I think you'll enjoy working on them. They are duck soup compared to my Goldwings.
I'm doing a couple of hours on mine a week to relax. I used to be a cross country bus mechanic so I really don't make bikes to jeweler's standards, but you can get on my yellow 76 Goldwing and I bet you can go to New York and back here to CA.
 

RoadScholar

VIP MEMBER
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
2,022
Country flag
Age is no excuse

I'm 60, an expert mechanic, even if I have problems with the isolastics... I started riding at age 14, working on Nortons, Triumphs, BSA, Velocetts, other British while in college; have owned a slew of Japanese and European motorcycles and offer you the following advice:

With you love of things mechanical buy a Norton and restore it, take 2-4 years to do it correctly; you will spend well over 15K if you paint it right. Buy a KLR 650 or a Night Hawk 750 or a SV 650 or a FZ6 and lean how to ride and, more importantly, learn how to stay alive. Understand that every person in a car that you ride with or pass going the other direction is on the way to or on their way home from the worst day of their life.

If you don't do this buying a Norton will only get you some grave space earlier in life than you deserve. Your reactions aren't schooled, but they are 62 years old, you got a lot of learning to do. When you ride a motorcyle every one of your limbs and digits has a job to do and to be successful the base reactions MUST be hard wired. When I ride my W-650 I use three fingers on the brake, when I ride my Ducati Hypermotard I use ONE finger on brake. When I get my Norton on the road with its CNW Bembro, I'll have to learn all over again; never mind the torque curves and the tires...

Welcome to the IDEA of motorcycling. Take a safety course, buy a "modern" 600+ CC bike and work it out. Don't forget that pre 1975 Nortons shift on the right, tough on 62 year old reflexes??

All the best, Great Spirit, PM me if you want an off-line version of this post.

RS
 
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
83
Don't let your lack of riding stop you from finding your norton. Don't take this next step in your life without some real thought as to what you really want from your bike purchase. I'm 47 years old and have ridden bikes all my teeenage and adult life and i can honestly say that a norton would not have worked for me earlier in my life. They are costly to restore ($10,000 and still counting). They also need love (worked on) more often than new bikes. My friend has one of the new Triumph 750 bonneys, great looks and very easy to ride. You can also see many riders of your age and riding experience buying 800 pound harleys. Nortons are half that. BE SAFE!!!
 
Joined
Oct 12, 2007
Messages
2,904
Country flag
Re: Age is no excuse

RoadScholar said:
I'm 60, an expert mechanic, even if I have problems with the isolastics... I started riding at age 14, working on Nortons, Triumphs, BSA, Velocetts, other British while in college; have owned a slew of Japanese and European motorcycles and offer you the following advice:

With you love of things mechanical buy a Norton and restore it, take 2-4 years to do it correctly; you will spend well over 15K if you paint it right. Buy a KLR 650 or a Night Hawk 750 or a SV 650 or a FZ6 and lean how to ride and, more importantly, learn how to stay alive. Understand that every person in a car that you ride with or pass going the other direction is on the way to or on their way home from the worst day of their life.

If you don't do this buying a Norton will only get you some grave space earlier in life than you deserve. Your reactions aren't schooled, but they are 62 years old, you got a lot of learning to do. When you ride a motorcyle every one of your limbs and digits has a job to do and to be successful the base reactions MUST be hard wired. When I ride my W-650 I use three fingers on the brake, when I ride my Ducati Hypermotard I use ONE finger on brake. When I get my Norton on the road with its CNW Bembro, I'll have to learn all over again; never mind the torque curves and the tires...

Welcome to the IDEA of motorcycling. Take a safety course, buy a "modern" 600+ CC bike and work it out. Don't forget that pre 1975 Nortons shift on the right, tough on 62 year old reflexes??

All the best, Great Spirit, PM me if you want an off-line version of this post.

RS

That is excellent advice! Hope it's taken.

I especially like your take on the cost of restoration. Now, I know it can be done cheaper, maybe. Depends on how and what. I do totally discount anyone who tells me he has a great looking and running Norton that he purchased in the last ten years and has $2500 in it. I've seen 'em. Pure crap. Would be ashamed to say I owned it. I damn sure would never ride it.
 

grandpaul

VIP MEMBER
Joined
Jan 15, 2008
Messages
12,505
Country flag
At this point in time, I'd say the difference between your average $4,000 Norton and $5,000 Norton is getting slimmer all the time.
 

RoadScholar

VIP MEMBER
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
2,022
Country flag
Not to hijack this thread, but this is what my $4000 Norton looked like when I picked it up last Fall. I count my self exceeding lucky, purchasing from the original owner, with full documentation, including the original warrantee card. This machine had resided in the owners dining room for the last 27 years (6325 miles). With the exception of the Dunstall cans it was 100% dead stock.

hello everybody


RS
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top