Newbie - pre-purchase advice please!

Aug 23, 2004
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Like many previous first-time "posters", I am in the final stages of procurring my first Norton. But before the deal is sealed, I wonder if someone could share some first hand experience on a couple of topics.

The bike I am considering is something of a bitsa, but it seems to run strong, and doesn't leak much oil at all... Not a matching numbers bike, but the engine (on a .60" overbore :? ) and frame are both '69. There is a long distance tank mounted, single Amal (I will get a 32mm mikuni, and the second Amal in the deal, plus intake for double Amals but not the mikuni, ), there is a boyer ignition, hydraulic grimeca clutch conversion, "swept back" pipes, tapered bearings in the steering head and an extra breather mounted where the tach drive should be. Otherwise frame/ fork/swingarm/wheels are original for 1969.

Problems/questions are:

1. The bike hops out of first gear when starting off, but does not hop out when shifting down from second. Maybe not so much to go on, but any ideas?

2. What is the maximum rim/tire dimension that anyone here has tried? Is a 3.00 rim/130 tire rear possible? 3.00 is the rim size Avon recommends for the 130 Supervenom which is a tire I really like. Don't have the bike so I cannot measure. I am aware that "beefing-up" the tires can bring to light chassis shortcommings, and I'm not interested in sticking a big fat tire on a too skinny rim, just want to get the most amount of usable rubber possible without completely re-engineering the chassis. I would be very interested to hear from someone who has tried wider wheels. Same goes for the front rim/tire as well.

3. I've read the various threads regarding disc brakes, and have settled for dialling in the drums - at least for the time being. Have heard/read mixed results regarding the "stiffening kit", but cost-wise it seems like it should be tried before going to Disc brakes. However, in combination with question 2 above (and with the thought in mind that this is already a bitsa...) I thought i'd see whether anyone has tried transplanting something like a honda cb750 front end to the commando? The purists among you may cringe 8) , but I have a limited budget, and there are plenty of honda front ends to be had relatively cheaply...

4. Has anyone tried mounting an electronic tach (driven off the coil I assume)? Anything available that looks somewhat stock?

5. Anything else one should think of??? Chassis improvements to match the overdimensioned tires??? :wink:

Well that's all I can think of at the moment, hope that someone can shed some light on these topics. Thanks in advance!
Apr 7, 2004
skippy, Well there are some good things about the early Commandos. Engine numbers would call it out but this one should still have the old style Atlas tripple trees they have a nice arch on the lower tree. The center stand should be mounted on the frame not the cradle. You should have one of two types of oil tanks the all steel no cover Fastback tank or the square box central type. These older bikes can look good with no side covers at all and make nice cafe bikes. The front neck of the frame should be checked for cracks but as long as the cracks don't have big gaps it's repairible. You should also have the old style chain guard and these look and work the best. Plan on going through the swing arm and the trans for many updates in engineering. Most shifting quirks can be traced back to both or one of the chains being out of adjustment. It is also common to find owners that don't properly re-tighten the gear box after adjustment this cracks the case of the transmission. It is also very common to find a clutch giving shifting problems pull it down clean readjust it before looking deeper. If you re-lace an 18 inch rim you can run a 110/90-18 with no mods to tire or frame. I have run 120's by shaving a little rubber off each edge but I think that you will find the 110 is just fine. You don't need to over tire it because you will learn to like the quick steering of the bike. If you ride it hard and you will you willneed a new back tire every riding season. Yes there is an electric tach that looks the part but it's not cheap. Get a tech digest from the states and have lots of fun. norbsa



Get an 850 head steady. You should be able to get one cheap at a swap meet or whatever. I agree about the the chains being a likely cause of shifting problems. I am running a 110/90 x 18 on a WM3 rim. It fits with no trouble and looks great but is probably actually a little too big. I'm going to go down a size when it wears out and see.