One sunny day, a Norton Commando appeared in our driveway.
We’d been waiting and waiting for her to arrive.
As usual in New Zealand, it takes forever to get anything delivered, but here she finally was.
I went out to say hello.
The hubby was already circling her in the driveway, making friends.
He seemed pretty excited.
There was a lot of grinning and stroking going on.
She’s here! What do you think? Pat shouted proudly.
She looks a bit rough, I replied doubtfully.
What’s all the fuss about?
Pat smiled, and put his arm around me.
She’s a 1973 Norton Commando, honey, he explained patiently.
That’s how they’re supposed to look.
OK, then, I replied.
I’ll give you two some privacy.
I went back in the house.
And slowly, she started to grow on me.
Over the next few months I started to get why a Norton Commando is actually pretty cool.
There’s a lot to like here, and I think I understand why this vintage motorcycle is just a little bit special…
A Norton Commando is cooler than most other vintage motorcycles. She has a personality all of her own. She attracts a lot of attention – even if she’s not perfect. She’s a rattling, quirky vintage motorcycle who’s out on the road working for a living.
10 Reasons to Love a Norton Commando
1. A Norton Commando is not showroom ready
Yep, this motorcycle is a little tatty.
She’s rough around the edges.
There’s some paint missing here, a few scratches there.
A little spot of rust or two on the pipes.
But this is a vintage motorcycle.
The flaws just make her more old-school authentic.
Like your favorite jeans that are nearly worn out, or your old leather jacket that’s seen thousands of miles, this motorcycle’s had a lifetime of experiences.
2. Riding a Norton Commando is like time travel
When we head out on the Norton Commando, time seems to slow down – and even go backwards.
As we chugged along the twisty country New Zealand roads on her, it felt like we’d suddenly slipped back to the 70s.
I almost felt I should be riding side-saddle, in a more ladylike and seemly way.
Maybe I should start smoking a pipe when I ride this! Pat shouted over his shoulder.
What? I shouted back.
It’s hard to hear much over all that vintage motor rattling…
3. A Norton Commando HOWLS when you open the throttle
Yes, this Norton motorcycle is a little tired.
She has nearly 50,000 miles on the clock.
But she still wants to run, and when you let her, she shouts with joy.
She can still get up and go.
There’s some power in the old girl yet.
4. A Norton Commando holds its value
I have to admit, we’re not exactly professional motorcycle investors.
We’re not making our fortune buying and selling motorcycles, that’s for sure.
We buy motorcycles when we fall in love with them – not for their re-sale value.
But in our local market, a Norton Commando 850 is fetching surprising amounts.
This is one vintage motorcycle that holds its value amazingly well.
Even without Concourse level shiny standards of perfection.
Plenty of Norton motorcycles just as well-worn as ours are going for around 20,000 New Zealand dollars (so, say around USD12,000).
That’s around double most other kinds of vintage motorcycles.
5. Starting a Norton Commando is a form of performance art
When our Norton was still settling down in the garage, I had to ask:
Hang on – where does the key go?
Pat laughed at me.
There is no key, sweetie.
He let me rant on for a while about how that was going to be a massive security issue.
If it has no key, then anyone can start it and ride it away, right?
Because then he walked me through the starting process.
We should set out some deckchairs in the driveway and sell tickets for this performance.
It takes so long, I’d also have time to go inside and make popcorn.
You need to prime it three times, then turn the key, then pump it three more times until there’s a healthy (healthy? How is this healthy?) trickle of gas pouring over your hand, then kick it hard: once, twice, three times.
And then it starts.
But by that time, you’ve pretty much had all the entertainment you need and no longer have to go riding.
So I’m not worried about security with this vintage motorcycle anymore.
Any thieves who can figure out how to start this machine probably deserve to keep it.
6. The Norton Commando is surprisingly reliable
Unlike a certain Triumph Bonneville in our garage, who’s broken our hearts again and again, the Norton’s pretty low maintenance.
She hasn’t used a drop of oil since we’ve had her.
She’s never left us stranded by the side of the road in the icy New Zealand rain.
She hasn’t demanded we get a bank loan to pay a motorcycle mechanic for the 400 hours’ work he’s put into her.
We got one that’s cosmetically a little rough, but mechanically very sound.
It’s the luck of the draw, I guess, in the vintage motorcycle market.
But for once, we got a good one.
7. A Norton Commando is effortlessly cool
It’s interesting how vintage motorcycles exist in a hierarchy of coolness.
You’ve got your Brough Superiors and your Vincents.
They’re so rare, so valuable, that they’re at the top of the tree.
But a Norton motorcycle’s not that far behind.
These classic motorcycles have something of a cult following.
And that’s because they’re strangely fascinating and very desirable.
It’s interesting to watch the online auctions when one comes up for sale.
Within minutes, there are thousands of people viewing the ad and putting the Norton on their watch lists.
You just don’t get that level of obsessive interest with many other vintage motorcycles.
8. A Norton Commando draws attention on the road
When we’re out riding, Pat has to watch the road of course.
But as a motorcycle passenger, I have the luxury of watching people’s reaction to the Norton.
I laugh as car drivers do a double-take and try to speed up to take a closer look.
Other riders sometimes pull up alongside us and nod approvingly.
And when you stop for fuel or lunch, you’d better not be in a hurry to get going again.
The Norton attracts people like a magnet.
Older people who used to own one, or knew someone who did back in the day, can’t help themselves.
They have to come up and tell us their history.
And younger guys are also intrigued.
They want to know what it takes to keep one of these machines on the road, and of course what it costs.
Even non-bikers have heard of Norton motorcycles.
They’ll edge up carefully, and make admiring comments, even though they know almost nothing about the bike (or any bike).
It’s the ultimate two-wheeled ice-breaker.
9. A Norton Commando doesn’t need accessories
How many motorcycles have you owned where you didn’t change a single thing?
Usually the first thing you do is change the bars, add a screen, some luggage…
There’s almost always something you need to change to make it fit for your personal needs.
Not this time.
This model has been so well maintained that there’s almost nothing else that needs to be done.
Pat did replace the suspension which was pretty clapped out.
But that’s it.
She already had a luggage rack.
The bars are fine.
The seat’s surprisingly comfortable.
The only other thing we’ve added has been my fault.
It’s a heart-shaped mirror I found online.
Look at this, honey! Perfect for the Norton! What do you think? I said to Pat when I saw this mirror.
It’s heart-shaped, he said dubiously.
Exactly! So it reflects how we love the Norton!
Yeah, OK, he replied.
We twisted it into place, and it looks great.
Some of our cooler friends snort in disgust when they see it.
Others laugh in appreciation.
So be it.
It’s the only serious kind of customization we’ve done to this motorcycle, and that’s a first.
10. The Norton Commando charms everyone – even the cats
It takes a lot to impress our tribe of biker cats.
They’ve been around motorcycles their entire lives, and they know what’s what.
But park the Norton in the driveway on a sunny day, and Hector will offer to do an inspection.
As Head of Motorcycle Security, his attention to detail is impressive.
He rules the security detail around here with an iron paw.
But his job is stressful.
We can’t blame him when he has to rest his eyes now and then by curling up on that super comfortable Norton seat.
So this is why we love our Norton Commando.
She’s cool without trying.
She’s endearingly reliable.
And I don’t care what anyone says: she absolutely rocks her heart-shaped mirror.
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