‘Shiny, throbbing, mobile bollard’
It’s 10 years since I acquired the Commando. After disintegrating into its component oxides, it was rebuilt at Norman White’s and has gently tiddled around for a couple of years since. After a first-kick post-winter start-up, it was clearly time for something more interesting.
Showing 3000 miles since the rebuild, it’s had services by Norman, who passed the twin as fit for using more vigorously. Ex-colleagues at Bike magazine had a track test at Rockingham, so I went along. I dropped tyre pressures by 5psi, as pointless fiddling is what trackday people seem to do, smeared myself in Swarfega and talc and wriggled into musty leathers.
I haven’t done this for years, but Norman passed on plenty of tips while making my Norton into a rideable bike. Resonating
loudly is his imperative to: “Ride through the corner and get on the throttle early”. It’s so true. Smooth is my friend, and if ever I deviate with vigorous inputs, half-arsed attempts to change line or deep braking, the bike waves warningly at me.
Before I know it, I’m out in the fast group (well, everyone else is fast and there’s only one group). With the Bike team on 1000cc superbikes I’m in my own world as a sort of shiny, throbbing, mobile bollard. But the bike performs wonderfully. As we settle into things, I realise how sweet the engine is. There’s nice drive out of turns from 3000rpm, and it gets all cammy at 5000rpm with a lovely surge. The ’box complains clunking into first at the hairpin, so I ride the track in second and third with the odd stab at fourth. Breaks are spent checking bolts and watching for leaks – only a tiny mist and a couple of spots under the bike.
Corners are set up early, and I’m aware the ’pegs are solid and will lever up the bike. Braking is strangely competent because the rear is so effective, the bike is relatively light, and there’s a fair bit of engine braking. Narrow tyres mean it doesn’t need to lean over far to carry corner speed.
I had to ride around some of the issues – and everyone else had to ride around me – but the day was a blast. I have warmed to the Commando even more now I’ve used it properly.
‘THE BIKE PERFORMS WONDERFULLY... THE ENGINE IS SWEET
Skinny tyres mean less lean needed to maintain corner speed
DICKIE FINCHER Journalist and sometime CB contributor, Dickie covered his Commando rebuild on these pages in 2014. Now he’s keen for the big Brit to see some proper use...