FROM THE FRONT

Real Classic - - News - Frank West­worth Frank@realclas­sic.net

Ihad a dream. That’s al­ways good open­ing line for a short story – or even a speech! Any­way, this is a short tale about a mo­tor­cy­cling dream. The dream started off like this… I’ve long been a con­sid­er­able fan of Nor­tons – al­though not of the fa­mous feath­erbed va­ri­ety, un­usu­ally. I’ve al­ways en­joyed the non-feath­erbed sin­gles and twins, the 750 hy­brids, Com­man­dos – even the lightweights! And I have rid­den more miles aboard ro­tary Nor­tons than aboard any other Bri­tish bikes: when pro­duc­tion ceased I was se­ri­ously un­happy.

The great 1990s silli­nesses fol­lowed, with ob­vi­ously daft ideas like the V8 and the like pol­lut­ing the great name of Nor­ton. And then, much later, friends in the USA sent me de­tails of a new Nor­ton, an air-cooled par­al­lel twin la­belled up as a Com­mando. It looked awe­some. An Amer­i­can Nor­ton? Why not? If it’s OK to build Harley-David­sons in In­dia and Triumphs in Thai­land, then why not Nor­tons in Amer­ica? Es­pe­cially as the qual­ity ap­peared to be high.

Then that project col­lapsed. Again, I was dis­ap­pointed.

Then that project reap­peared, this time in the UK, where a se­ri­ous busi­ness­man had reac­quired the Nor­ton name and an­nounced plans to build them in the UK. Based on the US ma­chines, th­ese were ev­ery bit as in­ter­est­ing to me – more so, be­cause they were to be built in Der­byshire. This is good.

How­ever, as I have a rea­son­able ex­pe­ri­ence of busi­ness and can do sums, I could not see how a tiny com­pany could build af­ford­able bikes by hand then sell them at both a price af­ford­able by hu­mans and at a profit. At the time it was a pop­u­lar topic of con­ver­sa­tion among my pals and I re­marked that if they ever did get one into pro­duc­tion I would buy one. They did … and I did. It is a re­mark­able and re­mark­ably in­ter­est­ing ma­chine.

The bike ar­rived in the late sum­mer of 2010 and was ev­ery­thing it claimed to be. It’s fast, it steers flaw­lessly, it has ex­cel­lent brakes and looks truly bril­liant. Ev­ery time I looked at it I ex­pe­ri­enced a warm glow of two-wheeled hap­pi­ness. Ev­ery time I rode it I strug­gled with it. The miles con­tin­ued to clock up on the old ro­tary Com­man­der – an ex­cel­lent tour­ing bike. Also on the Mk3 Com­mando – ex­cel­lent for ev­ery­thing bar mo­tor­ways. And on the un­faired ro­tary too, which is in fact just ex­cel­lent – and suits the way I ride. Al­most ev­ery day there was an ex­cuse not to ride the 961 Com­mando. And even­tu­ally I wrapped it up, oiled it to stop the salt get­ting to it and rode other bikes.

And fi­nally, af­ter 7 years and less than 700 miles, it’s gone. There’s noth­ing wrong with the bikes, but I do not ride the way they do, so… So why does it feel like an odd per­sonal fail­ure? Back, then, to less sport­ing ma­chines!

Ride safely

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