Just Picked it up a few weeks ago.....


Jun 1, 2007
Just picked this up a few weeks ago. WOW! is all I can say. 8700 original miles--this thing still has the safety wiring on the exhausts and cases. It pulls like a pissed off freight train and corners like a race car. Even though the tires are hard as a rock, I have to admit, I did make it go fast a few times. Just to see. I did my homework, or as much as I could gather about this bike in particular. Not as much out there about the 860's as there is all other earlier twins. Some good reviews, some bad, but what old bike doesnt come with it's share of issues? Anyone else have any experiences to share about one of these? Cheers.

Just Picked it up a few weeks ago.....

Just Picked it up a few weeks ago.....
No but I keep looking at Ducatis. There recently was a very similar looking one for sale over near here.
I have to finish my garage extension first but if the right duke came along....
Where is "near here"? Just curious. I picked this one up in the San Fancisco Bay Area. Funny thing-- I have absolutely loved my 75 Norton Commando and will continue to do so as it has been my favorite motorcycle so far, but for some reason this old Duke has stoked the fires a bit. Maybe because of the lack of information available. Maybe because of the legendary aspect of the marque itself. Who knows. It completely lacks the fluid style and organic lines of my Brit bikes. It looks and performs more like some kind of weapon with an absolute and deliberate function. My Norton, Triumph and BSA dont seem to have the same agenda if that makes any sense. They just chuf along casually and happily at whatever pace I set them to. The Ducati feels like Im holding back my Rottwieler on his leash after not walking him for several days. Too esoteric?? Probably. Just happy to be able to say I own such a bike that adds that touch of variety to the stable. If you've been looking like you said, this 860 is a great "toe dip" into the bevel-driven world without having to mortgage your soul or sacrafice the addition to the garage. Cheers.
JD thats a seriously rubbish bike, best thing you can do is ship it over to me & I'll dispose of it for you :D
It may be rubbish, but it still has a BASIC value. I'd say $500. I can do it in all hundred dollar bills if you like...
San Mateo is in the Bay Area down where SF's airport is. That is probably the bike that was for sale around here I also considered. I wouldn't think there would be two of them up for sale at the same time.
I decided to back off because I had the front porch to finish, I'm building a motorcycle side for my garage, and I still have to complete Caltrain's holiday train.
Like you I wanted to add some variety to my stable. My Norton breaks up my three Goldwings and two Changs but another sport bike would be nice.
I think I might like another sport bike that is an easy start like the wings, something that I could just hop on and ride to work.
To Alpha and Grandpaul-
It may be rubbish, but it's MY rubbish! Glad you all approve :wink:

I found this bike in Oakley, Ca. San Mateo is where I went to primary school. I was living in Foster City when the shcool I was attending was shut down, this was in the early early 80's. I was then bussed into San Mateo to attend there. Small world. According to Ian Fallons book, which just arrived in my mailbox yesterday, only about 1800 or so of these non-electric start bikes were made in 1975. Based on my VIN and engine #'s, this one is pretty early. An absolute keeper. Cheers.
If that bike was in Oakley I think that may have been the one I looked at on CL.
It is a bit of a small world sometimes, I think the school you went to may be just a few blocks from here.
It must have been the same bike. Strange. I put a set of new tires on it this morning and took it out to ride it like it should be ridden. It allows a ton of confidence in its handling and performance. Doesnt have the slightest bit of vibration anywhere in the power band. I need to adjust the rear brake a bit, but other than that, its rock solid.

Is that school next to you George Hall? I attended there in 1983 just after Lakeshore had been closed down in Foster City. I think some apartments are there now, and on the corner is an assisted living community. Memories.....
I think this one is just called San Mateo High School. They tore it down and rebuilt it for earthquake safety. Must not be the same school, but quite likely the same bike.
Ducatis are the same sort of bike that would appeal to a lot of Norton guys I'd think. Good handling and power and lots of history.
I'd like to get a little done on my Norton tomorrow. Today we decorated the Virginia City, or at least hung them.

We got transformers hooked up and a 6,000 lb generator on a flatcar. When I get done I just manged to do the shopping and chores with my wife.
I kind of miss a little progress on my own projects but this is a busy time of year for me.
Interesting project. Are you building a train, or the facilities to run one? I checked out the link you sent. You've got your hands full.
George hall was or is an elementary school. For the life of me, I couldnt tell you the street it was on. I can, however remember when the Hillsdale mall was an outside mall and the QFI grocery store and Cost Plus were all underground. All across the street from a very old Sears building.
I've checked out some of your other posts and would love to see some pics of the Dominator with Commando parts. Like I mentioned before, I absolutely love my 75 Commando. It is a multi show winner that I restored from the ground up. But unlike some other trailer queens, this one can back its play. Maybe Im a bit anal, but I prefer to have all the bikes in my shop or garage functioning as they should have, at will, all the time.
I work for SamTrans, Caltrain, and the Transportation Authority here in San Mateo County. I am also available to all the cities and I advise companies like Oracle and Google (and darn near anybody else) on shuttle programs.
We run the shuttles for BART and Caltrain for business and such. My responsibilities take up two pages so that is probably enough info.
Since I find my job quite easy I've become the special projects guy for these agencies. Now this is fun and challenging stuff, not just running spreadsheets and sending emails.
Right now is the time for Caltrain's Holiday train.
We are lucky enough to have help from a great crew of volunteers to decorate an entire train to raise toys for the Marine's Toys for Tots program.
My friend Janet and I are the actual employees who help supervise this project while all the other labor comes from volunteers. We raise much of this from donations and the thousands of kids that turn out for Santa and the carolers make it worth it.
Years ago I was a show quality guy as I lived in Maine and had long winters.
Now I've gone over to oily rag type restos as much as possible. For example my Chinese Chang M1S needed a complete resto after it's career in the Chinese army so I don't feel bad a bout that.
On my Yellow Goldwing I went way out of my way to keep everything original as a bike is only in factory finish once. On my LTD I expect to spend twice as much time touching up original paint and matching it as I would just painting and re striping.
The Norton has an interesting history since it was owned by a Kennedy cousin, a musician, and even a Republican representative's son. I kind of enjoy the history aspect of an old bike. I'd like to find out where the conversion was done because it was in CA, New Hampshire, Maine, and I've brought it back to CA.
Most of my bikes run well, I used to run a hippie bus company that ran old greyhounds from SF to New York and a lot of my work tends to be commercial bus type work.
There is a very good chance that if you were to set out for New York with my recently serviced yellow wing you'd get there with no hassle. I've put the LTD up until she gets a complete rainy day service this winter.
I think I'll donate my M5 Chang to Hiller Aviation Museum when I'm done, she has two major points left on her checklist, ignition, and transmission before she is ready. No rush there, they will be happy to have it whenever I complete it.
I have one Goldwing that needs much work and I robbed some bits to restore the other two wings. I'll do some work on that one this winter too.
I just try to make some bike progress each day if possible, it's just a hobby after all.
The red Chang does a few shows each year and is starting to get just a bit too tatty so she needs some work this winter. I don't compete in concours, my bikes usually just go to the fun shows.
I spent a few minute on the Norton today and she is being a bit annoying. I cleaned the carbs and installed new slides but I'm still getting an inconsistent idle. this makes me think the right hand carb body may be too worn for the slide to compensate for.
I'm trying to decide if I should try a used pair of combat 32mm carbs I have or just bite the bullet and buy new Amals. I don't think Mikunis would look right on an old cafe racer do you?
That was one possiblity, I just bought a set of Kehins that I'll try on it.
I may send a set of amals out to be resleved after I am satisfied with it's idling. I guess I lost patience with it.
Gorgeous bike. I have a Duc parked next to my Commando too, but it's not a bevel. Still looking (and for that Laverda Jota, and R75/5).

And don't let Grandpaul swindle you out of it for $500 in hundreds. I'll give you $550 in small unmarked bills, no questions asked....

Good luck with it.
I've posted several times on the Norton portion of this site--I'm onto your
tricks! All kidding aside, I was quite lucky to stumble on the Ducati. Strangely enough, Cookie looked at this same bike. We live about 5 hours from eachother, but managed to miss eachother only by a day or so. Small world, and Im glad he didnt buy the bike. The R75/5 is another bike I'd love to have in the garage. Not sure if you saw the red one on ebay that didnt sell. Beauty. I am currently in the middle of a ground-up resto on a 76 Bonnie. I paid way too much for it in the pile-o-crap state it was in. Moment of weakness, I guess. Im just glad that decent parts are quite cheap. I started with the sludge trap and worked outwards from there. The engine is done, powdercoat and cad is done. Just waiting on wheels to come in and a last order of misc. bits and hardware. I suppose I could get some pics posted. Cheers.
Duc's do seem to attract old Norton riders don't they? Triumphs too but I've never actally owned one, just had them around.
My BMW designed 750 Changs work just like the old R60 I had around for a while in college and do errands very well. An R75 tends to be as reliable as a post if kept in good shape.
I thought I'd try some classic Goldwings for a while as I'm pretty familiar with BMW models, they are proving quite interesting. They are a bit like driving a truck beside the Norton.
There is a guy in SF that has a P11 for sale that tempts me too, but I think he wants too much for its shabby state.
Be very wary of the P-11. It was a scary piece of work. When I was at Norton-Villiers in Wolverhampton, we found out about a lawsuit in California against N-V for injuries in a P-11 off-road accident. Nobody at N-V knew what a P-11 was!

We tracked it down to the US importer (Berliner Motors, I think) who had stuffed an Atlas engine into a Matchless 500 Scrambler frame and badged it as a Norton. We got one to test. It had the candy-apple red tank and black frame - quite a handsome beast.

It had a very unsettling dynamic characteristic. I did the initial break-in miles, limiting myself to less than 75 mph. It felt slightly uncomforable in the yaw axis and would start to weave as speed built up, getting to about about 12" from side to side at 60 mph, and you couldn't do anything to stop it. As speed went up, the amplitude of the weaving got bigger, until at 75 it was almost a full freeway lane wide from side to side.

The other test rider, who did the later testing, was braver than me and he found that at about 85, it straightened out. We tried all kinds of changes trying to fix it, but wthout decent test instrumentation we couldn't really sort out the cause.

That bike and my old 650SS commuting bike were still in the experimental shop at Marston Road when it closed down. I don't think they went to Andover. Have no idea what happened to them.
That was supposed to be a P11 problem all right. I never rode one, just its Matchless predessor. The P11 was great in a desert race but that's where it belonged. I'm surprised somebody would buy an off road racer and sue but welocme to California.
It was also a bit of a stoplight king for a while, not that I ever did that sort of thing....
Well, Ok, I used to do it a bit with my G15 CSR. That bike was only beaten once in my time and that was when I missed a shift against a new Honda four.
This site echoes some of the things Frank mentions about the hybrid bikes if anyone is interested. Having owned the G15 CSR and now owning a Featherbed I'd have to say the observations are spot on. It also echoes everything I'd heard about riding P11s on the pavement.