Need tips on getting an old norton ready to ride.

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Oct 1, 2003
I am purchasing a used Norton Commando 850 from a family friend this weekend. He wants $1200 and is willing to take payments so I cant pass up on this deal. He doesnt know the year of the bike because he is not home at the time but gave me the following info. He said that it belonged to his uncle who was the original owner and meticulously cared for it. He rode it every Sunday that it wasnt raining just for joy. He died about 6 months to a year ago and left the bike to our friend. He took it around the block and got the hell scared out of him so he wants to sell. The bike is in mint condition and only has 2250 miles on it. Has clear title. Since the bike has sat for a year or so I am curious on what I should do to it to get it ready to ride. This weekend I will be traveling from north alabama to central missouri to pick it up. Am planning on riding it back. I am planning on checking tire pressure, lubing cables and chain, draining gas and carb, changing the oil and filter, and giving it a good bath. Did I miss anything? I dont want to be left somewhere along side the road and I dont want to ruin this classic before I had the time to enjoy it.

Hi nice purchase sounds great. Lube and change all fluids a must does it have points or electronic ign. you might want to change plugs and take spare plugs with you, if machine has points then an extra set of points would be a good idea too what is the distance you will be travelling?
long ride home

I dont want to be left somewhere along side the road and I dont want to ruin this classic before I had the time to enjoy it.

John save yourself and the classic and pick it up in a pickup or rented trailer. Travelling that distance on an unfamiliar bike with right shift, bad front brakes, heavy clutch, and unknown electrics is not well conceived for a plan to have a good first norton experience. Stock commandos despite the low miles have lots of warts and you must learn what these are first and surgically remove them. Your original plan to ride it home is inviting baptism by fire.
Never ride an unknown bike that far for a test.
Learn what kind of machine you have first or you will be trying to figure out how you ended up painting yourself in a corner and there are no dealers to provide you a part or places available for service.
Just my humble opinion.
E. Spaghetti

I agree with you, but what a tease. I know I would probably ride it.

Hey have you got a Mrs. with a pick up? Why not be followed in case it breaks down.

Please send me some photos of your purchase for the site. I will post them,

New Ride

My first experience with a Norton was not good. I picked up the bike from a motorcycle shop they were selling it for a customer.I had no idea what the bike should have run like, I always liked a norton I remember them from the early seventies when in high school, so in 1985 I bought this bike for 1200 dollars CDN and drove it away. Believing nothing to be wrong I cruised around town for awhile staying within the city limits I think I had the bike for about 2 or 3 weeks when I finally decided to go on a road trip with several other bikers.Well thats when the crap hit the fan, now driving around town I never really had the bike going much faster than about 50 60 mph where possible and only for short period of times.So once on the highway of course I was doing around 65-70mph I think it took about 30min and bing, bang,boom. That was it for my first road trip, now the bike I was told was well looked after it looked good to me however like I said I really had no idea how the bike should have sounded. The bottom line was 1 pushrod too long a connecting rod let go and pretty well destroyed the bottom end because of a gudgeon pin lets say exploded so there I was now the new owner of a basket case. I did manage to find a bottom end of same year and rebuild. The moral of story and I believe most Norton owners will agree is the safe thing to do is open it up and see what your dealing with and save yourself possibily alot of grief. A Norton is a beautifull classic and truly well worth the TLC, many many people turn their heads to see this bike and always talk to me and admire this racing machine from the past.I know, you just want to jump on and go but maybe sharing my story will help you take the proper steps to avoid disaster.Take your time you will not be disappointed. Play it safe.
I will probably rent a uhaul. One quick question though, how many mpg does the 850 commando get? How many miles can I expect on each tank?
First ride on old bike

Yes what a bike, love to get into it!Old bikes need slug tubes cleaned out check tolerances then ride baby ride P.S.tire rot is a possability.Envy you Andrecombat
Carbs !!!!

Hi there,
I am in the same situation as you are and last night I got my Norton home to the garage (on a pickup) for the first time. The 850 -73 hasnt bin on the road for 3 years so Theres lots do to.

A few hints:
Empty the crankcase from oil that leaked down from tank or you might get an unpleasent suprise while starting it up.

Almost certainly the Carbs if Amals will flood, so take em apart and clean out the mess. Dont forget to adjust the floaters to correct level.

When started open up inspection at top and make sure it gets lubed ok. These thin pipes arent very reliable.

Good luck

Your mention of adjusting the Amal floats brings to mind a certain point.
They are normally not accessible to adjustment by bending tabs like some carbs because the adjustment procedure is different. There is a press fit brass bushing that adjusts the position of the valve orifice where the float valve contacts and it must be gently tapped into the proper position with a small diameter drift punch making certain you only catch the rim of the inset and not the face of the valve seat. For this reason they are set to be forgotten and adjustment procedures are scant to be found. Often it is said to heat the insert before attempting any readjustment.
The surprise oil ejection you mention is referred to as a wet sumping problem in which there is a leakdown of oil from the tank through the pump into the normally dry sump area in the crankcase. Folks unaware of this, fill the oil tank to the full level on the dipstick and find that the motor is so full of oil that it unexpectedly ejects a horrid quantity of oil out the puke tube. An important an seldom repeated tip is that the dipstick is also improperly calibratewd and the proper oil level is HALFWAY BETWEEN THE FULL AND LOW LEVEL MARKS ON THE DIPSTICK. It is probably worth mentioning also that the existing literature goofs in the instructions about oil quantity in the PRIMARY COVER. It is specified to be 7 ounces.
That quantity has been revised to be 5 ounces from Norton sources.
Best of luck in your restoration and make sure you immobilize wires inside the points cover because wire vibration in there results in fractured wires and on the road ignition failure. Avoid using connectors because they act as pendulum weights in this high vibe area. Ed

Thx alot for your info. I already started up the mc and did a little test ride. Had to replace old gas and repack carbs and so on. Now it will be turned down into parts and restored in vinter.
Got a little question though...
Was the blinkers only for USmarket on the -73 or were they standard in europe to? There is no signs my bike ever had any of em

Best regards


ps. U can email me on

Ah with blinkers i mean turning lights, sorry im from Europe hehe

I have a '73 750 Roadster I bought new in May of '73. It had no turn signals. I recall there being two Interstates at the dealer at the same time and both had turn signals. This doesn't mean that no Roadsters had turn signals in '73, just that mine didn't. I remember trying to decide between the blue Roadster and the black Interstate and being a 23 year old kid thought the big tank and turn signals wasn't sporty enough. Now, my '73 850 Interstate gets a lot more mile put on it than the Roadster!


It pretty much depended on the local laws during 1973. The turn signals were available in 1972 as an "option extra". California required all motorcycles manufactured after 1/1/73 to have turn signals.
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