Ouch that hurt - 1st accident in 33 yrs of riding

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Sep 26, 2007
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As you can see from the photos, my Commando and I had an unplanned encounter with the rear end of a car a couple of days ago.

It was a gorgeous afternoon, the bike was performing beautifully, and I was riding with a big grin.

I've said several times recently that after many bikes and plenty of riding since I was 18, I am overdue for a mishap.

Fortunately, I escaped with scrapes and bruises, and what feels like the charlie-horse of a lifetime. Nothing broken, no stitches, and I'll be on my other bike tomorrow.

But - though I have always been a cautious rider - I will now be doubly careful about keeping plenty of distance between my bike and other vehicles. It takes more distance to stop a bike than a car, and vintage brakes are what they are.

Ouch that hurt - 1st accident in 33 yrs of riding

Ouch that hurt - 1st accident in 33 yrs of riding

Ride safe fellow Norton enthusiasts, but by all means ride on!
Get out there!

As long as you are Ok and I'm glad to hear you are, the bike will fix.
If you want to keep the bike looking standard sleeve the master cylinder first, that should give at least 20% more stopping power.
Cash is right, the best thing you can do and retain the stock appearance is the master cylinder sleeve. From the pictures, your bike pretty much lacks only black cap mufflers to be original! And some people will argue that not all Mk3's had black caps. Nice bike!

It's funny how things get damaged in a crash. The taillight is destroyed, yet the headlight and glass is still intact. Did the instruments survive?

I hope the exhaust pipes weren't damaged. Finding a good set of cross-over pipes is quite a challenge. The rest of the damage really doesn't look too bad. Check the frame down tubes and steering head, as the Commando frame is pretty light.

Glad to hear you weren't seriously injured.
Sorry to learn of your accident but I'm glad your injuries are minor.

I, too, have been thinking about how "I'm due".

I'm sorry to read about your accident, but it sounds like you're ok and it looks like the bike's damage is fairly minor. Hopefully the frame isn't bent. It's funny how the forks are so severely bent and the front fender crumpled, but the wheel looks undamaged.

I've almost rear-ended cars several times, by taking my eyes off the road at the wrong time, right when the line of cars in front of me suddenly stop. I'm trying to be more careful about that sort of thing now.

Bad luck mate, glad to hear that you're OK.

Lets hope that the scientifically engineered crumple zone (spindly forks !) has done its job and not transferred too much energy to the frame.

Was the eventual impact speed fairly low ?
79x100 -

Yes, it does look like the well-engineered crumple zone (fork tubes) did their job well.

As to the advice on the front brake master cylinder re-sleeve - absolutely. It was on my list of things during my restoration, but somehow it kept moving down the list, and after $4K into things and the bike running so nicely (and the weather always nice, the road so tempting, etc.), it still wasn't done. But certainly will now! It was a concern every time I rode.

OldBritts offers a master cylinder resleeve, so does Rocky Point, and there are replacements as well.

Who has done the resleeve? Where'd you get it done? Results? what about replacement seals and so forth on the re-sleeved unit - readily available?

Looks like my front wheel is OK, as is frame, headlight, and instruments.

Damage is to:
- forks, front fender, and tail lamp assembly (fairly obvious)
- handlebars - slight bend so left hand is an inch higher than right
- left side mirror (Napolean bar-end mirror, readily available)
- front axle not ground down (cheap fix)
- clutch lever ($60 - what gives there!?)
- left side footrest mount
- left side exhaust pipe dinged/kinked (that will be the toughest to replace - crossover type)

Now if only i could figure out what's shorting out and popping my fuses?

Thanks for the advice - ride safe!

PS - it wasn't completely the fault of weak brakes. I noticed a couple of hundred yards before the impact that the car in front of me had suddenly veered to the other lane and quickly returned to our lane. I wondered what was wrong with him and was watching him closely. Turns out I was watching the driver himself, and seem to have lost my depth focus on the vehicle, because the next thing i knew he had come to a dead stop and I was on top of him.

He told the cop that he had just picked up this rental car, heard a noise that sounded like something dragging underneath, and jerked the wheel to "see if he could shake it off." I think he slammed on the brakes as his next little maneuver. Though he swore he had signaled and was making a turn. Oh well, at the end of the day, no matter what kind of foolishess he was up to, I rear-ended him - my bad.

Keith - Glad to hear you're okay. Coulda been a lot worse.

I had Fred Eaton at Old Britt's do his full front-brake upgrade on my Commando - resleeving the MC, s/s braided brake line, rotor lightened (blanchard ground) and drilled), new pads. While I'm not pulling any stoppies, braking power is much improved. I'm glad I did it.

- B
Nobody is "due" to have a crash.

There are riders that rode 50 years and died of stomach cancer after never crashing all thier lives; riders who raced 50 seasons and are still kicking, never having a get-off.

Then, there are riders who took the safety course and are in the upper percentile of alertness who get clobbered at intersections after only being on a bike 5 years.

There is no "due" time to cause a crash or get clobbered in one.

Sorry for your mess, it's NEVER fun.
The incident reminds me of a nasty experience on the works "hack" 650SS. We had been doing tests on a single carb set-up that was designed to give sidecar drivers more torque and an easier time of hauling the sidecar.

When we put the twin carbs back on, nobody realized that the slides were individually honed to fit each carb body. Needless to say, Mr. Murphy made sure they were put back in the wrong bodies.

That particular works bike was my ride-to-work and at the time I was riding about 50 miles each way between Kenilworth and Wolverhampton. At the end of the workday, I saddled up and headed out into the evening rush hour. In the UK, motorcycles could weave between the slower-moving traffic. I don't know if they still can, but it's something US riders aren't allowed to do.

As I went through the Wolverhampton city traffic, I spotted a gap between a slow-moving car and a city bus. I accelerated hard (full throttle in second gear) and cut in front of the car. Big surprise when I backed off the throttle - it stuck wide open!. I'd already cut back in behind the bus and was now headed for the rear platform, where passengers were preparing to get off.

Luckily, that particular bike had magneto ignition with a kill switch on the handlebars. A couple of milli-seconds with a high heart rate and I didn't hit the bus.

The rest of my ride home was more subdued than usual!

I've been leery of full-throttle acceleration in restricted spaces ever since.

Vintage Brake in Sonora did my resleeve on my stock master cylinder. I've also got a Hyde 12" disk that gives a little better leverage. I'm running a Lockheed AP racing caliper with Ferodo platinum pads and a braided steel brake line and the combination works well. It stops good and is easy to modulate. Definitely not 2 finger braking, however.

Since I don't race, if I had to do it over again, I would probably stick with the stock caliper as the diameter of it's pistons gives a slightly better mechanical advantge compared to the AP. In the Vintage Brake website there's a table giving the piston ratios of various combinations of caliper and master cylinder piston diameters. That may help you in deciding what upgrades you want.

I believe most of the available re-sleeved mastercylinders in the US are Al Miles units sold through many vendors on an exchange basis. I am impressed with the quality of this unit. I bought mine form Jim Noll (British Bike Connection). Good, quick service, good Norton guy! That being said, I would have no hesitation buying from Stan Smith (Rocky Point ) or Old Bitts.
Damn - frame is bent too!

Turns out my quick check the day after my mishap wasn't minute enough.

The upper main tube is bent and apparently both of the front down tubes too.

I will go take a look for myself today, as the insurance company had the bike towed to a shop for an official estimate. It was when they took the tank off and started running a straight-edge along the tubes that the bad news came out. Supposedly the bends are not that serious, but to me, bent frame tubes are by definition never "not serious"

(PS - the guys at the shop know their Nortons well, so I feel pretty safe in that regard).

Now I have a couple of options:
1) have a frame-straightening specialist shop do their thing (which they apparently do all the time (cars, bikes, etc.). (Engine may not have to come out for the procedure, will know when they take a look at it in a couple of days)
2) go the safer but more expensive route of buying a new frame. I see there is one in stock at OldBritts for $1,200

The insurance company is paying, so that helps clarify the decision making process. Although I would probably make the same decision with my own cash. I know i would feel a whole lot more secure in the coming years riding my bike with a solid new frame than one I was always going to be nervous about - wondering if there is an unseen crack in a weld somewhere, etc.

Anybody been through an experience straightening a Commando frame? Would you do it again? If the insurance company is paying - isn't it a no-brainer to just get a new one?

and - what i thought would be a week of downtime waiting for new fork tubes and other misc parts, now looks more like a month. Damn!

I'd replace the frame with a good used one from a swap meet or purchased from a reputable seller.

(sorry, I don't have a spare)
If the tubes aren't kinked or crushed then straightening is an option. If you had an Italian-made frame it would probably have needed it anyway. Most (all ?) Commando frames seem to have a gentle curve above the rear triangulation. It seems to be a factor of the construction method.

Is the Old Britts frame an Andover one ? If you buy NOS, it could be a metric one or indeed have been a warranty take off once upon a time. A second-hand frame could have been stuffed harder than yours and straightened.

If it were mine, I would have it straightened if I could, then blasted in order to examine all the welds with a magnifying glass and then re-finish.

Are your swing arm and isos in good order ? If not, now's the time to get them looked at.
79x100 said:
Is the Old Britts frame an Andover one ?

That's what they say: http://www.oldbritts.com/13_065632.html

Quote: "This frame is exactly like the 750/850 Commando frame (part number 06-2002) except for the MK3 seat locking plates"

But I don't see how the 850 Mk3 frame, or any other 850 frame could be "exactly like" a 750 frame, due to the difference in steering angle?
Regarding my comment about a good used one, I should have clarified, ALREADY BLASTED so you can verify that it hasn't been whacked.
There was a discussion on this forum not long ago about frame integrity, a number of knowledgeable people stated that the top tube of a Commando had a slight downward bend as standard when checked with a straight edge, This 'set' ocurred during the welding and fabrication process. It may only be the down tubes that are slightly askew and therefore repairable. having said that if the insurance company is paying, a new frame is a sure fire way of knowing that things are straight.
If you decide to straighten the frame, and I believe that is the best alternative, here is a link to Vern Fueston. He is in Northern California and while I have no first hand experience, have heard about his work for many years.

If I needed a frame straightened, that's where I would send it.

broken link removed
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