Jack Manning and Nick Woodbury of the Classic Bike Experience know a thing or two about Brit bikes, particularly Nortons.
The Classic Bike Experience
In business since 2008, The Classic Bike Experience got a major push from The Norton Project, a 2010 YouTube clip that told the story of two sons secretly restoring their father’s Norton Commando, with CBE doing the heavy lifting. The video went viral (400,000-plus hits to date), and CBE suddenly found itself swimming in clients. A subsequent Café Racer TV appearance didn’t hurt, and partners Jack Manning and Nick Woodbury have been busy ever since.
Why Nortons? “I love Nortons,” Jack says matter of factly. “That’s what I always wanted as a kid, so that’s what we do.” Brit bikes are fairly plentiful on the East Coast, and long winters mean plenty of time to get them running and keep them working. Jack and Nick are former Lockheed engineers, and it shows in their methodical approach to assessing and restoring Nortons, with the focus on what Jack calls RMS: Reliability, Maintainability and Safety. Once those issues are settled, customers can decide how far they want — or indeed if they even want — to take a restoration.
When it comes to making your Norton more reliable, Jack says to get the basics sorted first. “A well-sorted bike is going to start on the first or second kick,” Jack says, “and it’s going to handle well. Then you spend your money on upgrades.” Favorites include converting to a single Mikuni carb and upgrading to electronic ignition, plus brake hydraulic upgrades for better performance. They’re also the distributor for Alton electric starter conversions for pre-MkIII Commandos, installing 25-plus a year.
Jack’s favorite bit of advice to would-be Commando owners? “Don’t let anybody talk you out of what you want. If you have your heart set on a ’72 Interstate, get it. They’re all fixable, and you can make them all reasonably reliable.” MC
See what it’s like to own one of these British rides: Read Classic Experience: Living With a 1973 Norton Commando 850.