Beginning in May, 2011, Norton Motorcycles will again be on-sale in America. Similar in both style and mechanical arrangement to the much-loved Commando of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, three versions of the new bikes will be offered — the basic Norton Commando 961 Sport, the up-styled 961 Cafe Racer and the high-spec 961 SE. All three are powered by a sophisticated 961cc parallel-twin and equipped with modern running gear. In the case of the SE that even means USD Ohlins and radial Brembos. Classic looks, classic experience and modern performance? Yes, please.
Norton Motorcycles USA is being spearheaded by Dan Van Epps, the former CEO of Ducati North America. “We are fulfilling the dream and delivering the excitement of a truly iconic all-British motorcycle,” says Van Epps.
The new Commandos have been on sale in the UK for two years, where they’ve proved a sales success even through the financial chaos that’s still decreasing overall motorcycles sales in Europe and North America. “The orders have been well beyond our most enthusiastic expectations,” said Norton Motorcycles Ltd. CEO Stuart Garner. “we’ve had to ramp-up production much earlier than anticipated to grow on pace with our customers requests.” A visit to the Norton website confirms this, the flagship £15,995 961 SE is sold out.
That air-cooled parallel-twin powering the three bikes was co-developed by Norton and F1 engine-builder MCT. It uses pushrod valves, a dry sump, a balancer shaft and puts out 79bhp and 66lb/ft of torque. The steel tube frame holds oil and contributes to a dry weight of just 188kg/415lbs.
Those numbers compare very favorably with the Commando’s most obvious rival. The much heavier (506lbs) 2011 Triumph Thruxton is equipped with a smaller, 865cc parallel-twin which puts out 68bhp and 51lb/ft of torque. The Thruxton is hardly a direct rival though, it’s much cheaper and equipped with far-inferior suspension, brakes and other components.
Norton describes the Commando as a “continuation of the Norton legacy of defined style and performance. A modern roadster with the soul of the original machine.”