Founded in 1898, British motorcycle manufacturer Norton got its start as a chain maker, before they began making motorcycles in 1902. Over the course of four decades, their designs dominated road racing in the single cylinder class, and introduced many industry innovations. Although the company faced many financial and international difficulties, the engineers at Norton continued to improve upon their race-proven designs. In 1998, Norton Motors International reemerged from the ashes, and in 2004, the first new Norton Motorcycle went into production. The 2005 Norton 952 Commando is a café racer bike, and its unique styling and powerful capabilities harken back to the early days British motorcycle ingenuity.
A rider settling into the cockpit of a café racer is intent on pure performance, but with equal emphasis on style, at the very least. The stripped-down appearance of the 2005 Norton 952 Commando arises from a desire to shed access weight and unneeded parts for the sake of performance. However, at the same time, the exposed inner workings of the bike have been polished and styled to such a degree, that the bike itself can be considered a rolling work of art.
The frame of the Norton 952 is composed of molybdenum steel alloy tubular sections, engineered for rigidity and torsional strength. The black-coated chassis serves both to cradle, and to highlight, the looks of the powerful 952cc parallel twin cylinder engine at the heart of the 952 Commando. The engine features air cooling in addition to oil cooling, supplied by the powerful oil pump. Producing 80 horsepower at the rear wheel and 65 ft/lbs of torque, the Commando is more than capable of providing power on demand, and throttle control in all situations. The 952 feeds a steady diet of fuel to the four-stroke engine via carburetor. The internal hydraulic torque limiter keeps the power in check, allowing an aggressively controlled riding style. The electric starter is simple and dependable, thanks to the 300 watt electrical system.
Ignition on the 2005 Norton 952 is handled by an optical-electrical, or photoelectric impulsator. The placement of the drivetrain is low, in order to promote a low center of gravity in a bike that has a rather high and straight, yet forward-leaning cockpit. Norton has given the Commando 952 a five-speed gearbox standard, and an optional six-speed manual transmission, both of which are chain-driven, and provide smooth shifting at both low rpm urban environments, and full-on, high-revving highway conditions.
The Ohlins suspension system of the 2005 Norton 952 is a marvelous example of the wonderful blend of technical high performance and style that fans have come to expect from the British motorbike maker. In front, the Commando depends on the 43mm Ohlins telescopic fork, which allows 5.5 inches of wheel travel. The golden-colored finish of the fork looks great and matches the braking system, as well as the drive chain. In the rear, we find a twin sided swing arm composed of chromium molybdenum, featuring dual-adjustable Ohlins shock absorbers, which allow for four inches of wheel travel. The golden-colored springs and fluid reservoirs keep the color scheme consistent, and bold.
The theme of color and performance continue with the Brembo Gold Line braking system. Tuning the system is possible via the fully adjustable brake master cylinder and clutch. In front, the large 300mm stainless steel Brembo disc is gripped by a four-piston Gold Line caliper. Rear deceleration is handled by the 220mm stainless steel disc, and the double piston Brembo caliper. The 17 inch forged aluminum wheel set is available in either the standard anodized finish, or the optional nickel-chromium-plated finish. The six-spoke wheels are wrapped in radial Avon tires, measuring 120/70 in front, and 180/55 in the rear. The Commando is available in 3 bold and beautiful color choices: Black, Red, and Yellow.
The cockpit of the Norton Commando is built for speed and maneuverability, together with a simple layout. The single vinyl seat is positioned at 31.5 inches in height, and works well with the fuel tank that is molded to allow the rider to tuck their knees, and to really become one with the machine. The digital instrument panel provides vital information, and the speedometer, tachometer, and trip odometer are within easy view. The fuel level and temperature data are also available via simple warning lights.