Steering damper revisited

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May 22, 2004
I mentioned awhile back that I fitted a NHL steering damper to the Commando with great results.

I found the mount bracket was flexing more than I would like and so I built a new one out of stainless 1" box.

A huge improvement !

I finally found resolve.. see below 8)

(Sorry I won't use public domains for this stuff..I do not like entering my address on such sites.. personal thing I guess. )
steering dampner

Hi Stuart,

I put one of the Norton supplied steering dampners on a '73 750 with Interstate bodywork about 20 years ago. What do you see improved? For me it was just another gadget and really didn't make any difference to handling. goes to the login page of the website...not to a picture :wink:

give us a good link so we can see your handywork!

illy.....found the same out...once I got all the other problems with the suspension out of the way, the damper no longer gets used, the lady handles nicely without it...but admittedly, it remains there and looks cool. Maybe that is the point... :lol:

Originally ~ I found that the front was too light ~ "flighty " and lacked real feel ~
So firstly I narrowed the handle bars from 32" to 22" ~ This made a big improvement ..
But the ultimate was the steering damper... it transformed the feeling on my Commando.

It now feels totally solid and precise.

Maybe it is me , as we all know that its all about different strokes .. but I give the application of a steering damper a ten.. very impressive transformation !

And certainly~ not ~ just another gadget!! 8)
sounds like you had way too much air in the tire...or an antique tire..(hard rubber) or some other basic problem. :wink:

As I said, I thought mine was an improvement too...untill I fixed all the problems that had convinced me to mount one in the first, isolastics, good head steady and such. The damper just covers for other problems..IMHO :wink:
I would'nt consider 26-28 lbs too much air to be honest ~ (??)

The tyre was a new item when I rebuilt the bike..

I think my isolastics mght be on teh tight side.. I set them at .008 ~

I would of course be open to any practical suugestion ..
I have k81s and I run 22 in the front and 24 in the rear I think. If I ran 28 in the front, it would be like driving on ice...skitterich. We have been through all this discussion in

isolastics are most likely ok, if they are that tight, the handling problem most likely won't come from there, unless the head staedy is faulty. The original head steady is IMHO a piece of crap...but there are other forum members that swear by them. One way or the other, if all was right in the bike geometry, it wouldn't need the damper. Mine is now just for show.

Read through that thread and see that there are a number of opinions on tire pressures, mostly depending upon the type of tire, but I would think you would want to try it with less pressure up front and see it the problem changes......
hewhoistoolazytologinThanks for the positive feedback ~
I will experiment with the pressures.

Mine to are the K81's//

The challenge I find/ found was not so much "running on ice" ~ more about the front end being "loose " ~ handling is not an issue.. more about the front end being as said too loose..

As for the head steady I fitted the later MK III type.. the interesting part is what is the correct way to adjust the head steady?? 8)

Steering damper revisited
sort of looks like what I built, my bar stock in solid steel, uses "U" bolts to hold it to the frame, and the damper is screwed into a tapped hole on the end of the bar...same sort of thing as you have made....

Adjust. I have a norvil jobbie and there is no adjust on that, so ask the guys who have those....I'm sure though, it will be adjusted as close as possible to "fast", leaving just enough to let it move a bit, up and down, not sideways. It should absorb some of the vibes, but not allow the motor/rear wheel to twist to the side...otherwise the thing isn't serving the purpose of keeping the wheels in line with each other, and you will be twisting the knob on the damper :wink:
Well ~ as a continuation..

I have checked my isolastics.. .008 front and rear

I have backed off the head steady setting as I feel it may be a tad tight !

I am doing a overall tuning and servicing so we shall see !

Only disadvantaage from having the headsteady a bit tight, is that the vibes will be not as well absorbed and you will find the maschine a bit unpleasant to drive for long distances because of it....loosening the adjust, won't improve any handling problems, but rather, if it is made too loose, it will cause any handling problems to increase.....there has to be a middle of the road sort of adjust that will satisfy the need to absorb vibes and still be tight enough to not mess up the will find it :D
Truthfully, I had installed a damper for the same reasons you did, as ,I understand you, and eventually, I found all the little reasons for the lousy handling and cured them, and the damper became will find the reasons too and see what I mean. Don't have a mudflap on the front fender, do you? That turned out to be the biggest reason I had front wheel wobble. A good truing and balancing of the front wheel will also eliminate some wobbles. Steering head bearings can be shot, although, not so often, on a Commando, as they are not adjustable, at least on mine (72). The fork bushes can be worn out, oil in the forks can be gone in one fork and cause the action of one fork leg to be much different than the other....the list goes on and on. Front and rear wheels can be totally out of allignment, etc, etc. BUT....there is a reason for you needing a damper to feel the bike is drivable. Find the reason/reasons....and you will surprised how well the mashine will it should :D
Yes .. well..

I did think about a mud flap . but nope!

I was going to play with the settings.. I figure I am due to have new tyres . the back is well worn.. the front a little tired..

I only backed the head steady off a turn or so .. as I figured exactly what you're suggesting..

The forks appear oil tight and I changed it the oil some time back as the oil was too heavy and the front end too hard..

The handling is not a problem and stability has always been good.. for example I have never had fears of say a tank slapper or anything so dire !

I can only assume at this point the font is aligned Ok (??)

I shall continue with tweaking and subtle experimentation.

Thanks .. 8)
despite being a bit confused as to what the problem is when you say you have no handling problems.......thought that was the jist of it...light front end and such, I go, at this point with a new set of tires. My front end, felt , as you say, "flighty" this summer and it just plain felt like it might want to go out from under me in some nice corner, so I decided to change the tire, it was at the limits of tread wear anyway....and .... lo and behold, the new tire did the trick. The old one was TEN years old and must have been stone hard and the new one had such a better grip on the street, that it is really, now, a pleasure to drive. Pair of tires are cheap insurance anyway.....go that route, at least and see what it brings. Most likely more than just added peace of mind :wink:

there are several ways to line the two wheels up, I use a string looped around the front of the front tire, and running back on both sides to the rear of the rear tire, and looped. It will perhaps clear the center stand, if not, have a buddy sit on the bike and hold it straight and do your checking. With the help of a buddy, a long straight edge, will do just as well as a sting, string is for the ones that have to do it alone. You can then get a good lineup by checking string to sidewall clearance....the norton has no marks on the swingarm to help line things up, like on a Honda or you have to do it the hard way...
Interesting extension further ~ is the point that my Commando does not have the same inspirational handling that of my T160 ~ I always expected a lot more from the Norton ....

I have been told that this is due to the difference of configuration, ( power plant positioning, etc, obvious aside) ~ of the Commando compared to the Trident. Even my 72 OIF BSA A65L was also an inspirational beast in handling .

Just maybe I have adapted to the eccentricities of the Commando ?

But as suggested , a new set tyres is next on the schedule ~ so I will keep you tuned .. (in fact my current tyres are about that same vintage, as the bike did spend some time in storage..)
replace the tubes too front one had tiny cracks in the rubber when you folded the rubber, hard to see...but none the less a sign that it was ready to give up the ghost. Had to drive an hour away to find a tube, 19" isn't the norm anymore, but it was worth the peace of mind to know the tube wouldn't decide to pop in some corner somewhere...saving on a new tube, is no longer for me a sensible way to save money :lol:

PS....I think you will be surprised when you get the lady straightened out...she should indeed handle better than you think.... :wink:
With at least 15,000 miles on the two prototype Commandos, a lot of it as speeds above 100 mph, I never thought it needed a steering damper. The overall structural rigidity of the Commando frame was at least 8 times greater than the Featherbed. I know because I tested the damn thing! Plus, I was riding a 650SS to work about 50 miles every day!

Specifically, the torsional rigidity (what keeps the headstock in the designed relationship to the rear end) was about 8 times stiffer than the Featherbed. In the vertical bending plane, the difference was about 4-times.

If you have handling problems due to torsional instability, that is the steering and the back end aren't following each other, then there's a problem with clearances or stiffness in the Isolastics. If things are awry in that area, the relationship between the front and back ends can change dynamically, resulting in a very squirrely ride.

I'm afraid the Isolastic design wasn't very robust - we even ran into trouble during development testing. It was a daring concept that was a bit short of practical "shade-tree mechanic" input. When it's "right" there's nothing to touch it in the traditional British parallel twin configuration. Unfortunately for Norton-Viliiers, the traditional parallel twin went the way of the dodo bird and the Japanese multi-cylinder configurations took over the world.

Unfortunately, N-V spent more money with the "image makers" that came up with the green hemisphere tank badges that appeared at the 1968 Motorcycle Show than they did on engineering development. I remember the comments in the weekly magazines - "where's the switch for those green turn signals?" "Was this program funded by the Irish Tourist Board?" (a reference to the green globes, the silver paint and the orange seat cover).

What could have been.

Before joining N-V, I'd owned an Ariel Leader. I found out that Ariel had started work on a long wheelbase Leader derivative with a 600cc 4-cylinder engine, shaft drive, electric start. Unfortunately the engine, even with DOHC and all kinds of clever stuff only got 32 bhp on the test bench. Ariel went belly-up shortly afterwards.

I tried to get N-V management interested in something along those lines. I figured a Commando-based bike with a 4-cylinder, DOHC, 1-liter engine (about 85 Hp), shaft drive, electric start and full factory-installed fairings and panniers, would be a good product. No such luck - they were so locked into motorcycles as a cheap alternative to cars, they never saw the "motorcycles as high tech toys" market. My concept would have been a combination of the 4-cylinder BMW 1000 and the Honda Gold Wing, and could have been in production in 1969/1970. Ah well, that's why I emigrated to join Boeing!
Thanks Frank for the you can remember all these details, after 40 years...puts my memory to shame :wink:

Seems at least that you back up my statement that Stuart's bike wouldn't need a damper if the basics were in order. I found out the hard way, by not really knowing what all to check, and indeed, not even knowing there was something wrong. I'd heard all the myths about the Norton handling so well, and I just kind of thought it was something Norton owners said to brag about thier bikies....mine had some unpleasant things about it and it could be darmed unnerving to drive sometimes, but I just didn't have the experience with other bikes to actually know the difference, and to know that there indeed was something with mine, quite wrong, I just kind of figured mine was the way it was supposed to be and naturally I bragged with the best of them about the handling too, even though I wasn't so sure it did handle so well...but , you've got to keep the flag flyin...:wink:
Now that I have, through, a combination of luck(mud flap falling off, tire getting old) and indeed a bit of collected experience and perhaps also "skill" :lol: , gotten all the beasties out of the lady, she now just makes my heart sing...what a rush to drive her. Rock steady and like a rocket. And best of all....she feels predictable and SAFE!
This is why I've been a bit after Stuart and his damper....he's got a surprise coming when he gets his bike straightened out, and, just like I got my happy ending...he should too, and he will with a bit of to all!
Norton marketing

Hi Frank,

It's a real treat to be able to converse with an insider from Norton. Was the Commando really perceived by Norton as a low cost alternative to the car? My concept from my first new Norton - '72 combat roadster - is the Commando is a high performance toy similar in a crude way to the role a GSXR 750 is today.

Very interesting your comparison in rigidity between the Commando frame and the featherbed. The NOCCERs in England typically tout the featherbed as handling so much better than the Commando. My only experience with the older frame is with a '61 ES2. That engine can't propell the featherbed with enough force to be able to make any comparison.
Just a quick comment about Norton handling - any motorcycle that has its swing arm pivoting about the frame in rubber bushings isn't going to have precise handling.

So, if razor sharp handling is what your looking for, you shouldn't be looking at a Norton Commando. The goal behind the rubber mounted engine/transmission/swing arm is simply to reduce vibration.

Thanks (again ) Frank

And thanks 'hewhoistoolazytologin' for your persistent interest in my case scenario !!

Again I will say though mine is NOT about squirrels handling or nasties.. not a bit.. originally I put the bike 'back on the road' after several years lurking in the shed. Previously I lived in arid zones which were in the vast main, long straight country roads.. ie : Northern Territory.. and SW NSW, west of Canberra.. not too much exciting riding stuff there.

(But in saying that I also rode my Trident in this environment and was still very impressed with its cornering etc .. )

Now I live in Far north Queensland.. hills, mountains and LOTS and lots of bends, sweepers and exciting riding terrain.

Originally here I found the (32") US handle bars lacked feel and gave vagueness in the front end. I lopped 6" and the improvement was great.. but the front end was still 'loose' ~

eg : I would never contemplate letting go of the bars ~ while it remained steady and did NOT threaten to "go bush' on me or anything so dire.. it was not 'solid' ~

When ever I ride "our" Gillies Mountain road, 22KM of 192 bends ascending/ descending from sea level to 600m , the ride is exciting and the bike completely stable ~
In fact I have contemplated removing the centre stand as it scrapes regularly ~ There is no squirrelling or horrors emitting form the bike handling..
(The only horror I experienced was being blown away by a Ducati 99~ while going up the mountain ~ absolutely shaming me ! LOL :lol: :lol: )

I will be soon replacing both front and rear 'baggy' , so I guess that may well be a big start .

Again thanks guys all round for your interest,,
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