• 2018 Norton Commando 961 California

    Norton Commando 961 California Marking the 50th anniversary of the ’Commando’ series of motorcycles
  • Built on the current Cafe Racer MK II candy metal flake paint job and semi-ape handlebar
  • Twin-pod instrumentation
  • Solo seat complete with a cafe’-tastic rear spoiler/fender
  • Shiny chrome everywhere headlamp, chain guard, twin-pod instrumentation and the Ohlins upside-down forks
  • Brushed aluminum oil cooler and the classic silver cylinder head polished rocker covers sitting on a black cylinder barrel
  • 961cc fuel-injected, air-cooled parallel twin engine claims 66.3 pound-feet of torque backed up by 78.8 horsepower
  • Gets new new crankcases, cylinders, cylinder head, pistons, new crankshaft, and a new gearbox
  • Twin 320mm discs and Brembo radial brake package Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier tires and Bosch ABS
  • Price: $ 22,000 (Est) will be limited to just 50 units
  • Will come in 4 liveries

Marking the 50th anniversary of the ’Commando’ series of motorcycles

The original Norton Commando first saw the light of day all the way back in 1967. Production spanned ten continuous years, but the model slowly lost its steam. The Commando has since seen a number of attempted revivals, with several entities trying to capture some of the success of the original, with varying degrees of success.

For its 50th anniversary, the British maker has given it an update and launched the 2018 Commando 961 California. ‘The easy riding roadster’. It ditches all the darkness and adorns a timeless classic styling with chrome all-over reminiscent of the ‘70s American motorcycling.

  • 2018 Norton Commando 961 California
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-2
  • Transmission:
    5
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    79
  • Torque @ RPM:
    66
  • Displacement:
    961 cc
  • Price:
    22000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • Overall:
    8/10
For its 50th anniversary, the British maker has given it an update and launched the 2018 Commando 961 California. ‘The easy riding roadster’.

STYLING

2018 Norton Commando 961 California Exterior
- image 742444
Built on the current Cafe Racer MK II
candy metal flake paint job and semi-ape handlebar

Ever since the inscription of the Commando, and all of its further installations, have always walked on the edge of the café-racer styling. Even though they came equipped with performance- and materials-oriented changes, the panache each one carried was old-school design. This 50th-anniversary edition California is no different.

The California seems to be built on the same setup of the current Cafe Racer MK II model but chucks the fly screen and the 2-2 exhaust to be replaced with a new chromy 2-1-2 exhaust. Flat handlebars also get replaced with Semi-Ape hanger bars and are given the blingy chrome treatment. This is the first Norton Commandos’ to have a high handlebar, it’s what used to be termed a Western Bar back in the ‘70s.

2018 Norton Commando 961 California Exterior
- image 742440
Solo seat complete with a cafe’-tastic rear spoiler/fender

The shiny chrome is seen on a host of other places like the headlamp, chain guard, twin-pod instrumentation and the Ohlins upside-down forks. And it’s not only just chrome. There is even carbon-fiber on the front mudguard, tire hugger, and number plate holder. It has stripes and badging reminiscent of the ’60s and ’70s machines.

All of it comes as a nice surprise on the candy metal flake paint job lashed around the thin-waisted typical British fuel-tank, side panels, and the rear cowl. Under which lies the mighty 961 heart. Brushed aluminum oil cooler and the classic silver cylinder head and polished rocker covers sitting on a black cylinder barrel.

2018 Norton Commando 961 California Exterior
- image 742442
Twin-pod instrumentation

The chassis and the engine architecture will remain the same with a traditional, double-cradle / double-downtube frame supporting the 961 cc engine made by Norton itself. Just like all previous Commandos’, the California come with the option of running a solo seat complete with a cafe’-tastic rear spoiler/fender (as a standard), or in a two-up configuration that comes with a hard cover.

And it’s not only just chrome. There is even carbon-fiber on the front mudguard, tire hugger, and number plate holder. It has stripes and badging reminiscent of the '60s and '70s machines.

Overall Dimension

Make Model 2018 Norton Commando 961 California Triumph Thruxton 1200 R
Length n / a n / a
Width n / a 29.3 in
Height n / a 40.5 in
Wheelbase 55.1 in 55.7 in
Seat height 32 in 31.9 in
Wet weight 414 lb 458 lb
Fuel Tank 4.5 gal 3.8 gal

POWERTRAIN

2018 Norton Commando 961 California Exterior
- image 742439
Brushed aluminum oil cooler and the classic silver cylinder head
polished rocker covers sitting on a black cylinder barrel

The current Norton Commando mill that has been in production since 2010 makes a scene here but gets scores of updates. It’s powered by a 961cc fuel-injected, air-cooled parallel twin engine with hydraulic actuated overhead pushrod valves. The 961cc mill is mounted in a chrome-moly tubular duplex cradle frame, with its fabricated backbone doubling as the oil tank.

Norton claims 66.3 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm backed up by 78.8 horsepower at 6,500 rpm from this engine. This pushes the neo-retro bike from 0-60 mph in 4.1-seconds. Although it redlines at 8000 rpm, all that peak output of 80 horsepower is produced under the 6500 rpm mark. A balancer shaft helps keep swaying and vibrations at bay.

2018 Norton Commando 961 California Exterior
- image 742441
Gets new new crankcases, cylinders, cylinder head, pistons, new crankshaft, and a new gearbox

Keeping those things down are also then new crankcases, new cylinders, a new cylinder head, new pistons, new crankshaft, and a new gearbox. All sand-casted components are now die-casted making for a superior product, one that’s also now Euro 4 compliant.

Single Bosch injectors mounted above 35mm throttle bodies and managed by an OMEX ECU takes care of the low-end fueling with a well calibrated EFI system. The oil-bath clutch was always a delightful unit, and the chaps at Norton have managed to revise their gearing setup to improve the mechanism.

Norton claims 66.3 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm backed up by 78.8 horsepower at 6,500 rpm from this engine. This pushes the neo-retro bike from 0-60 mph in 4.1-seconds.

Engine Specification

Make Model 2018 Norton Commando 961 California Triumph Thruxton 1200 R
Capacity cc 961 1200
Bore / Stroke mm 88 / 79 97.6 / 80
Output 78.8 hp @ 6500 rpm 97 bhp @ 6750 rpm
Torque 66.3 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm 82.6 lb.ft @ 4950 rpm
Type In-house developed parallel twin with dry sump lubrication Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin
Clutch type Wet Multi-plate Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Transmission 5-speed 6-speed

RIDE AND HANDLING

2018 Norton Commando 961 California
- image 785064
Twin 320mm discs and Brembo radial brake package
Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier tires and Bosch ABS

In-house produced chrome-moly tubular steel duplex cradle frame also gets carried over from the Commandos’ made earlier. The frame comes with a fabricated backbone doubling as the oil tank for the dry-sump ohv pushrod motor.

Mid-mounted pegs and spindly high bars keeps the riding position to a comfortable with the 32 inches solo saddle. The swingarm pivot point has been lowered 18mm to improve anti-squat tendencies and provide for better traction. The Brit-built Commando maintains essentially the same geometry and sweet steering manners for almost half a decade now. The wheelbase is a little shorter than before, at 1400mm.

2018 Norton Commando 961 California
- image 785066
Shiny chrome everywhere
headlamp, chain guard, twin-pod instrumentation and the Ohlins upside-down forks

This Commando used top-spec equipment custom made for them. The Ohlins piggyback shocks get lengthened slightly, giving more cornering clearance and putting more weight on the front wheel for quicker turning. 41mm Ohlins forks are as good as you can get for road use. The twin 320mm discs and Brembo radial brake package provide controllable, effective stopping power with just the right degree of sensitivity. Dual Brembo four-piston calipers at the front and a two-piston at the rear.

Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier tires get wrapped around the retro-looking wire wheels, and the bike now comes with Bosch ABS.

This Commando used top-spec equipments custom made for them. The Ohlins piggyback shocks get lengthened slightly, giving more cornering clearance and putting more weight on the front wheel for quicker turning.

Chassis Specifications

Make Model 2018 Norton Commando 961 California Triumph Thruxton 1200 R
Frame Chrome-moly tubular steel duplex cradle frame Tubular steel cradle, Twin-sided, aluminum - Clear anodized
Suspension / Front Ohlins twin shocks with remote reservoir – fully adjustable Showa 43mm USD big piston forks, fully adjustable 120mm travel
Suspension / Rear Ohlins twin shocks with remote reservoir – fully adjustable Fully adjustable Ohlins twin shocks with piggy back reservoir, 120mm rear wheel travel
Brakes / Front Full Brembo system, twin Brembo 320mm fully-floating high carbon stainless steel discs & Brembo 4 piston "Mono bloc" radially mounted callipers. Brembo radial front brake master cylinder with remote reservoir. Bosch ABS Brembo twin 310mm floating discs Brembo 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, ABS
Brakes / Rear Full Brembo system, single Brembo 220mm disc & Brembo 2 piston calliper. Brembo rear brake master cylinder. Bosch ABS Single 220mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
Tires / Front 120/70 ZR 17 120/70 ZR 17
Tires / Rear 180/55 ZR 17 160/60 ZR17

PRICE

2018 Norton Commando 961 California Exterior
- image 742446
Price: $ 22,000 (Est)
will be limited to just 50 units

Although Norton has not released their official pricing for the 2018 Norton Commando 961 MKII, do expect it to be near the $22,000 mark. The good-ol’ Café came with a $21,395 sticker itself.

You can get the Commando 961 California in four unique liveries, with a bike cover and paddock stand to suit and will be limited to just 50 numbered units. They’re available now, on a first-come-first-serve basis, and each limited edition bike will also have its unique build number etched onto the clock face.

There are four Norton Motorcycles dealers in the U.S. They’re located in Austin, Texas, Villa Park, Illinois, Redmond, Washington, and Westminster, California.

Make Model 2018 Norton Commando 961 California Triumph Thruxton 1200 R
MSRP $ 22,000 (Est) $ 15,000

COMPETITION

Triumph Thruxton 1200 R

Buying a Thruxton R? You can now get a $2500 worth Cafe-Racer kit for free
- image 746467

Over the last many years, the Triumph Thruxton has been giving us the unadulterated essence of motorcycling with its simplistic café racer stance and smooth power delivery. Making the timeless design further enchanting is the ‘Track Racer Kit’, a genuine accessory kit provided by Triumph worth $2500.

The kit enhances the café-racer appeal of the Thruxton R with a host of competition inspired sculpted headlamp cowl, lower clip-ons, rear mudguard removal kit, compact rear light, Vance & Hines slip-on silencers, knurled handlebar grips and an authentic leather tank strap.

It houses a 1200cc parallel-twin engine putting out 96 hp of power and 82 lb-ft of torque. Besides, the motorcycle gets a bunch of high-end tech features like ride-by-wire technology, switchable ABS, traction control and three driving modes. The clip-on handlebars and the slightly rear-set foot pegs offer a sporty riding position.

The Thruxton 1200 R gets a combination of fully adjustable 43mm upside down Showa telescopic hydraulic forks at the front and fully adjustable Ohlins twin hydraulic coil springs with a piggyback reservoir at the rear. Dual 310mm discs at the front and a single 220mm disc at the rear, both of which have been sourced from Brembo, handle the braking department.

VERDICT

2018 Norton Commando 961 California
- image 785065
961cc fuel-injected, air-cooled parallel twin engine
claims 66.3 pound-feet of torque backed up by 78.8 horsepower

Production spanned ten years, and the Commando was crowned “Machine of the Year” by the U.K.-based Motor Cycle News for five consecutive years, starting with its sophomore year in ’68 and running through ’72. Unfortunately for Norton and fortunately for us, multiple manufactures entered the classic neo-retro age and took our breath away.

This California does a decent job at bringing to the 961 family the bold paint, semi-Ape hanger bars and lashings of polished billet, chrome, and carbon giving a dirty dose of Seventies Americana to the party. It is both functionally pleasing and fashionably stylish.

Those semi-Ape western bars make the gentlemanly neo-classic streetfighter feel like a relaxed high-speed sports cruiser. Luckily for the folks at Norton, they know their classics. Being the Fiat 500 or the Mini of the two-wheeled world, their re-interpretation of the 70s’ has not many faults.

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    • Price
    • Lack of electronic rider aids
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