10 Feb 17

Norton Commando 961 Review

The Brand New Commandos

The mere name Norton Commando revives nostalgic memories in the hearts of retro bike lovers. Since its inception way back in 1967, it was the winner of the “Machine of the Year” award for five consecutive years from 1968 to 1972. Now, decades later, Norton Motorcycles has attempted to recapture that magic with a new Commando series that combines the best of the old with the latest engineering techniques. The latest Commando family has three members – the Sport, SF and the Café Racer. They share a family resemblance in appearance though differences in terms of performance and materials do exist. Of the three, the Sport is the one most closely associated with the original Commando.


The Norton 961 is designed for efficiency and power. The engine is a 961cc 18° Canted parallel twin with dry sump lubrication. The absence of a radiator, thanks to the air cooling system, gives the rider a wide-open frame and an unobstructed view of the engine. All the three models have the same layout. By the time the MkII made its appearance, Norton had made a few changes to the appearance, Nikasil-lined cylinders replaced the steel-lined ones of the original model and while the Sport model has right-way-up forks, the SF and Café has up-side-down forks. The engine offers a 66.3 pound-feet torque at 5,200 rpm along with 78.8 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, which makes for good riding considering the agile handling features.

The pushrod-operated valves of the Sport is a legacy of the original Commando. The chassis, along with the classic British design, boasts of the best quality components too. The twin shock Ohlins rear suspension may not be exactly the current fashion, but Norton carries it off well. Both the front and rear suspensions belong to Ohlins. The front forks measure 43mm for all Commandos and the preload, compression and rebound damping are all adjustable.


The ride height is adjustable for all the three Commandos. The heavy gearshift and the throbbing vibration are, for the Norton lovers at least, part of the package and nothing to complain about. The Brembo brakes offer matchless stopping. The later MkII models offer the graphite finished radial Brembo Monoblac calipers as opposed to the gold two-piece of the first model. The passing years have also seen the advent of more compact Brembos and clutch master cylinders. The tires are Dunlop Qualifiers and the spoked wheels of the Café are rather eye catching.

The Sport and SF have handlebars that offer a more or less upright riding position while the Café has drag bars that demands from the rider a more forward-leaning and aggressive posture. All the three have jockey-mount foot controls. However, Norton does come at a price tag that seems to carry off the name; the Commando Sport is priced at $19,995, the Café at $21,395 while the SF tops the list with $22,495. We have used dollars to show the cost as you will have to import the motorbike from America. The colour options make quite a long list ranging from Galactic Black to English White. Some other options are Titanium Grey, Royal Red, Manx Silver and Steel Green.

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