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Norton 88


I am interested in buying either a model 50 or an 88 but feel that I ought to be able to try one out especially to see if my strength allows me to kick start. Can anyone advise me how I can do this please.?


Model 50 and 88 are the easiest to kick over of the single and twin Norton's, though I can't speak for lightweight twins as I don't have one. 

I have never had to use the de-compressor on either of my Model 50's.

If you live in North Yorkshire I might be able to help you.

But it is the weight of the bike I find most concerning, even on a Mod 50 or 88 as one's strength is not was it was only a few years ago. Kick starting the least of my worries.


I have very limited strength in my right leg. My 99 has 8.25 CR and very good rings/valves even though its not been apart for 25+ years  and in continuous use.  I need it to start first or second kick when warm. And it mostly does. If it does not play ball I have to put in on the centerstand and use the left leg. ( very awkward) .When cold I bump start on my hill. I am using 10/40 oil , I don't attempt a wet sump start. Sometime soon I am going to have to replace well worn  big ends . At that time I will be adding a tooth to the engine sprocket (reduces start gearing)  and fitting a compression plate. I may fit a smaller box sprocket to compensate for the engine sprocket . If you are agile a longer kickstart lever will help.A rebored carb next to give a more reliable tickover.


My easiest starting bikes are my B31 and my A7 Star Twin. Both start first kick with minimal effort, despite the A7 having the high (7.5:1) compression pistons. Well, 7.5:1 was high in 1951.

Pretty comparable to a model 50 and an 88. So much depends on having a good magneto of course.

However, neither are lightweights and if strength is a serious concern, perhaps look for something lighter and with an electric start. North of the Border if that's of any help.


Thanks Neil. The weight of a model 50 does not worry me as I have a Norton 650 SS and the only problem with that bike is starting with the kick start. High compression and my reduced strength makes starting difficult..So I intend seeking a Model 50 or an 88. Incidentally have both these bikes a decompressor to aid kicking.over.?

Thanks Robert for your comments.

The 88 I understand has a higher compression ratio than 8.25 so maybe I should be looking for a 99. I really think though that I intend looking for a Model 50 with a featherbed frame.

Interesting comparison with the other makes and I may look into obtaining an electric start for any future purchases. I understand that they are not available for Norton motorcycles except for the Commando ( now there's a thought , maybe I should go for a Commando but too expensive and I am not keen on the energy absorbing rubber mounts ) Thanks Gordon for your comments.


A 99 will be harder to kick over than an 88.  I would go for coil ignition with EI back up for a big spark. No valve lifter on the twins (yet!) . Pre 1960 heads give a lower compression on 88/99.


... were essentially 2 singles on a common crankshaft so not like a Dominator. I don't believe any parallel twin had a decompressor. An 88 is effectively two 250 singles for starting purposes.

As it happens my 1952 ES2 with 8.5:1 piston (approximately) is a very easy starter provided the drill is observed to the letter.


I have an ES2 (1957) which has a decompressor.  The technique to start is to retard the ignition a bit, press the tickler but not too much, move the kickstart to compression and ease it just past.  Release the kickstart.  The bike is now ready to start.  Use a long, slow push on the kickstart with just the tiniest bit of throttle.  As soon as the bike fires, advance the ignition and you're running.  It seems almost effortless to me and I imagine a Model 50 would be even easier.  The main thing is to make sure you continue kickstarting all the way to the bottom.  A mate of mine with a Velo watched me start it.  He stepped back and said "dammit, I don't believe that".


Dear Members,

I concur fully with Christopher Shepperd. I have a coil ignition 1960 Easy2 so cannot manually adjust the ignition timing but the important point is to continue kickstarting all the way to the bottom. I fully choke the machine but don’t tickle the carb unless I haven’t run it for about a fortnight.

I guess one gets used to the idiosyncrasies of every bike.


Anthony Bolton 



... the Venom I owned a while back responded better to the classic method as described above than it did to the recommended Velo procedure.


Starting most of the Norton Twins becomes a lot easier if low compression pistons are fitted.

Alternatively, a compression changing plate somewhere below the cylinder head. The only downside of doing this being that the pushrods may need to be lengthened. Worn bores also help with kick-starting.


I agree with the comments, and mostly the 'keep it simple' philosophy.

All the production Nortons were easy to start "back in the day" because they were set up properly, and hence did not need a super-hero to kick them over for hours.

The key, as ever, is engine condition (compression), carb health (no worn sliders or needles) and a decent spark.  




After fitting new rings and a  very good valve job  the Atlas (with Commando pistons ) is a proper lump to kick over ,definately not for wimps or old crocks  (me now!) 

you got that figure of 8.25:1 compression for a Model 88 from.  Mine's a 1955, and standard compression was somewhere around 6.5:1, but it did get higher in the later bikes


Hi Paul , There are a variety of pistons (and CR's ) that can be fitted to an 88.  The later heads also increased ratios by about 1 atmosphere. My 99 is fitted with 650 SS pistons and I am guessing that I have around 8.25 as the stroke is different  to the 650. I bet Phil knows.


Hi Roger,

Can I suggest you get yourself down to the local branch, Shenstone meet about 10 miles from you,

And I am sure there will be a number of members who will let you try various 'kicks'.




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