After Stuart Garner – a UK based businessman and present owner of Norton Racing Ltd, bought all the trademarks back from the US-based Norton owner of the past fifteen years – we can now finally look, talk about, and walk around what is nowadays the pride and joy of Norton Motorcycles, the all-new Commando 961 SE.
Relying on features of the original bike, the new Commando is all about unique style and modern performance and it is ready to cheer all nostalgic hearts out there.
In accordance with its name and heritage, the new Norton Commando is powered by a 961 cc, air-cooled, parallel twin engine, which manages to blend perfectly in this classic scenario while developing an impressive 80 Hp and 90 Nm. That is due to the electronic fuel injection system which, together with the three way catalytic converters, ensures that the Commando meets Euro 3 regulations.
A multitude of carbon fiber pieces lighten the bike and, according to Norton, this thing weighs only 415 pounds dry.
While qualifying for a decent power-to-weight ratio, the new Commando features goodies such as the electric start, constant mesh five-speed tranny and wet clutch, all being absolute must-haves considering today’s requests and fierce competition. So are the Brembo brakes, Ohlins suspensions and 17-inch modern, carbon fiber wheels that enhance the already consecrated sporty nature of this British icon.
But how did the Norton Commando end up precisely that? It is all related to the twin-cylinder engine that first powered the Norton Model 7 Twin in the late 1940s, when it was launched. Displacing only 497 cc at the time, this engine type was retained and continuously improved years and years after.
Motorcycles such as the 650 cc Dominator and 750 cc Atlas were also powered by the same type of engine, which in the late 1960s (1967, to be precise) ended up being adopted on the first ever Commando model, the Mk1 750 cc. The engine and transmission of the new model were rubber mounted on the frame and so dramatically reduced vibrations.
Cylinder capacity was increased to 850 cc on the next generation model (Mk2), which was launched in 1973.
Only two years after, Norton introduced the updated 850 cc Mk3 Commando. This brought the first electric starter for the bike while the classic kick starter was retained as well. The bike carried on unchanged until 1977 when production was ceased.
After many reviving attempts, the Commando 961 SS came to light in 2000 under the ownership of Kenny Dreer. Now, it’s once again up to the British to show off their capabilities and they get the job done with even greater pride now that the company celebrates the respectable age of 100 years. So that’s what the “SE” (Special Edition) was all about…
Nowadays, the Norton Commando competes with motorcycles such as the beautifully crafted 2009 Triumph Thruxton (we’re talking about the same engine type and approximately the same displacement here so there’s plenty to argue about) and even with the Ducati GT 1000, although this last isn’t a veritable café-racer replica.
Carrying on being built in strict concordance with the defined style, the 2009 Commando shows both roadster and café-racer influences, distinguishing as a beautifully shaped classic. It’s a joy just to look at it and as much as we thought at what might need to be changed, not even a perfectionist’s critic eye couldn’t spot a possible correction waiting to happen.
The bike’s sinuous lines are carried on from the wide front carbon fiber mudguard wrapping around the 17-inch wheel, all across the sculptural, 17 liters gas tank and 813mm seat to the bee-like rear end showing a perfectly integrated taillight.
Everything appears to be mounted as low as possible and the attempt is to keep both of Commando’s sides virtually identical. That is why they have the two-into-two exhaust, double disc brakes up front (not that it doesn’t need those or anything) etc.
The decently sized headlight and gauges are the only wind deceivers you’ll get and these, together with the sporty bars, 43 mm Ohlins fork and 120 mm wide front wheel, are sure to make the Commando recognizable wherever you ride.
The engine looks muscular and almost like a necessary concession for the “motor” part of motorcycle and it’s almost like going back in time from the very first glance.
A luxurious black with gold striping color scheme characterizes the 2009 Commando 961 SE and this is exactly what the bike needs to order to stand out wherever it is ridden.
Being designed and built from the ground up and yet retaining the very essence of the Commando in what both design and mechanics are concerned, this year’s model is not only about modern engineering meeting timeless looks, but about indicating new trajectories for Norton’s strategy in the future.
Frame : Steel tubular cradle with integral oil tank
Swing arm: steel construction
Rake: 24.5 degrees
Front suspension: 43mm Ohlins RWU - Adjustable preload, compression, and rebound damping.
Rear suspension: Ohlins reservoir-style twin shocks - Adjustable ride height, preload, compression, and rebound damping.
Front wheel: 3.50 X 17" BST Carbon Fiber
Rear wheel: 5.50 X 17" BST Carbon Fiber
Front tire: 120/70 X 17"
Rear tire: 180/55 X 17"
Front wheel travel: 115mm
Rear wheel travel: 100mm
Brakes & Hydraulics
Brembo 320mm semi-floating hi carbon stainless steel front discs
Brembo 220mm rear disc
Brembo 4 piston "Gold Line" axially mounted front calipers
Brembo 2 piston "Gold Line" rear caliper
Brembo “Gold line” front brake master cylinder
Brembo “Gold line” hydraulic clutch master cylinder
Brembo rear brake master cylinder
Brembo hydraulic clutch actuation slave cylinder
Engine type: Parallel twin with push-rod valve actuation, dry sump
Displacement: 961 cc
Cooling system: Air
Valve Actuation: Push rod, hydraulic lifter, two valves per cylinder
Bore x stroke: 88 mm X 79 mm
Compression ratio: 10.1:1
Power: 80PS @ 6500RPM
Torque: 90Nm @ 5200RPM
Exhaust: 1 3/4" header system with merged collector and twin silencers with catalytic converters.
Ignition: Crank fired electronic
Euro 3 compliant with electronic fuel injection and multiple 3 way catalytic converters
Rear wheel hugger
Rear number plate hanger
Gearbox: constant mesh 5 speed
Final drive: 525 "O" ring chain
Electronics & Controls
Charging system: 300 watt hi-output charging system
Instrumentation: Norton electronic analogue speedo and tachometer with dual trip meters and ‘hidden until lit’ warning lights
Fuel tank capacity: 17l
Dry weight: 188kg
Seat height: 813mm
Billet machined upper yoke
Billet machined lower yoke
Tapered anodized aluminum handle bars
Features and Benefits
Simple and direct engineering solutions are employed to create a motor that is visually and mechanically elegant; efficiently assembled in production, and easily maintained or upgraded in the owner’s garage.
Carbon Fiber wheels reduce un-sprung weight; while 43mm, 3-way adjustable Ohlins front forks, and 4-way adjustable "piggy back" rear shocks provide an unparalleled connection with the road. Brembo Gold Line brakes combine excellent power and sensitive feedback. The chro-moly tubular steel frame and formed aluminum swing-arm, with a 56.5 inch wheelbase, 24.5 degrees of rake and 4 inches of trail provide athletic handling in the mountain passes and relaxed handling in hi-speed sweepers or just along the open road. Careful engineering analysis using FEA and physical testing has been employed to optimize the design for performance and safety.
Gauges and Controls
Reminiscent of the old Smith gauges, the instruments are modern-classics; electronic control, traditional layout and modern LCD display features create an easy-to-read minimal effect. Tapered aluminum handlebars and quality switchgear round out the rider input and display components.