Originally Posted by F and E Damp
If I were to get back into motor cycles (unlikely at 71 years old) there would only be one choice for me - a late model, electric start, 850 Norton Commando. Before I emigrated to the US to join Boeing in 1968, I spent the last 20 months or so in the UK, working in the R&D department at Norton-Villiers.
To me, the Commando is one of the best designs of the era, but manufacturing limitations and the company's decline into insolvency made for a difficult and nasty demise.
I'd have to get one of the electric-start models, because I don't think I'm strong enough to kick one of those beasties into life. During my (approx) 30,000 miles of test riding, I only had to step off once, with just minor scrapes.
I did have one major scare, when doing high-speed endurance tests at the Motor Industries Research Association track. I was on the high banking of the track, doing about 105 mph, when the 1/4" drive chain snapped. Engine revs went off the clock (the tach needle was bent) and all kinds of parts that should have been inside were outside. We switched to a 3/8 drive chain on the production models, but I thought we should have goe to 1/2". We were adjusting the chain on the test bikes every time we stopped for fuel.
I was lucky to get off the high banking without a problem, because Aston Martin were testing the prototype DB7 and he was coming up behind me at about 160 mph.
The engine was turned into a boat anchor!
I'm playing catch-up here, but Frank that's a remarkable story.
I got back in the saddle in 2008 after reluctantly selling my 1972 850 Commando in 1976. Sure the Nortons had a bit of a bad reputation for reliabilty and the odd leak, but that '72 was a gem. Didn't leak a drop, started first kick hot or cold and ran smooth as silk on the isolastic mounts. It was a bit of a rarity too in the Canadian market as far as colours go - JPN white with the blue & red stripes, though not JPN per se. Prior to that bike was a '69 750 fastback. Looked great, sounded good with the Dunstall pipes, but I was forever fiddling with the carbs, clutch, points, etc. Same maker, very different bikes.
When I decided to ride again, the new Triumphs were the closest to reigniting the look and feel but they looked so small - and still used carbs! Ended up on a Yamaha FJR1300 sport/tourer. Great bike - fast going & stopping, handles like a dream, has that slightly forward riding position and is dead reliable. Still, not quite a Norton. Guess sometimes there's really no going back.