Hi, I am completely new to this forum and Norton’s. I have always admired Commando’s and of course many other Classic British bikes but have always had concerns regarding reliability. So up to now I have always owned relatively modern Japanese bikes. I therefore have a pretty comprehensive set of metric tools to hand but virtually no imperial tools. However, yesterday I finally took the plunge and purchased a 1976 Commando 850 Interstate. I’ve only ridden it 30 miles or so and already I love it to bits and wished I’d bought one years ago. I do know and completely understand it’s going to require far more maintenance than any of my previous bikes. To that end can I kindly request what imperial tools would fellow owners recommend I should purchase to properly maintain my new bike?
Thanks in advance for any recommendations.
I strongly recommend Norman White’s restoration book on the Commando, which will also give plenty of info to answer your question. I bought mine direct from the publishers. It’s quite a learning curve....
Thanks for the advice I have placed an order for one this morning. In fact Norman White restored my bike in 2009 totally rebuilding and restoring the engine and gear box and a host of other things at great cost to the previous owner. The bike hasn’t covered too many miles since then and runs like a dream (at the moment) so it seems it was worth every penny.
“It’s quite a learning curve….” Sign of many hours of blood, sweat and tears to come but hopefully many, many happy times as well.
Afternoon Phil and welcome to the club and commando ownership!
You say that Norman White rebuilt the engine for the previous owner. My question is did he fit a PW3 cam when doing the engine?
Thanks for the welcome. I will have to check and let you know. I don’t t know why but your name rings a bell with me. Perhaps it was another Peter Shand I have met in the past.
Well that was easy to find. Norman did indeed fit a PW3 camshaft as part of the rebuild. Could I ask why the interest?
Well just looked it up and very pleased with that!
You're probably aware that you'll need both BSF/Whitworth and AF spanners and sockets. AF tools are readily available from the likes of Machine Mart, but BSF/Whitworth tools are a specialist item these days. The sets offered in the NOCShop section of this site are good value.
If you want a toolkit to carry on the bike, the Andover Norton replica toolkit is also good value and contains some really excellent open-ended spanners as well as good quality box spanners. It also includes a shortened Allen key for dealing with the carburettor Allen bolts (but you'll still want to bend the long arm to clear the nut of the inlet rocker cover), and the crucial conical ramp thingy to enable you to refit the timing cover without knackering the camshaft oil seal.
If your bike has benefited from recent attention from Norman White you will with luck not need to acquire any of the galaxy of special tools needed to delve into the interior of the machine. There is a list of these in the factory workshop manual.
Box spanners are handy for your bikes tool box, but for garage work, I prefer sockets. Funny thing with sockets is that though most of the world is metric, the drive square is either 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2. For motorcycle work, I mostly use 3/8. A good thing is that US and Imperial allen keys are the same. A set of them will probably be needed. As you nowadays rarely can't find imperial tools in your local hardware store, they now are easy to get from webshops. The usual classic bike webshops often have the tools you need though sometimes of poor quality. I found that spares for the most popular old British bikes are easy to get. To get parts for a pre 1990 Japanese bike is more difficult, sometimes impossible.
... can often be picked up for a few pence at car boot sales.....
Look for Williams Superslim, Gedore, Kamasa or snap-on (although the latter are rare).
I have now bought a new set AF combination spanners and got a great condition vintage Gedore 1/2 inch socket set (AF and Whitworth) off eBay. I will keep adding further tools as and when I find them. Put 150 miles on the bike since my last post and what a fantastic time I have had. It is a joy and she hasn’t missed a beat or spilt a drop of oil. Hoping to meet up with my local Cambridge branch members very soon and getting plenty more miles under my belt. Got to add the exhaust note is addictive as you open the throttle. Keeping it very steady at the moment at 3 to 4K revs maximum until she is all bedded in again. Only minor irritation is the 30mph limits as she doesn’t sit well at that speed which I believe is to be expected. Usually changing between 2nd and 3rd to keep her happy. Will be changing the engine oil after the next 100 miles or so just to be safe.
You might want to read Jim Comstock's excellent oil analysis on Commandos on the American based website Accessnorton, it's a good site with some very knowledgeable members. Good luck with your Mk 3, I've had them for nearly 40 years now and will never tire of them.
Thanks ever so much for pointing me at this review. I’ve seen the site but hadn’t come across the oil analysis which as you say is excellent. My bike has been running on Castrol Classic XL 20-50 and I already have a can in my garage ready and waiting for the oil change. This is Jim Comstock’s verdict:
GB Castrol Classic XL 20-50
1.94 Total heat from friction
331 lbs load 2.97 heat from high pressure shear .011 heat from friction High load capacity and extremely low heat from
viscous friction would make this a good choice
for hard use in a Norton.
The only thing that would stop me from giving
it an excellent rating would be the medium/high
heat generated at high loads.
l’m quite happy with that and will stick with it especially as it will be a like for like change. I’ve read many other oil reviews and the Castrol Classic always seems to fair well.