Long-Term Norton Ownership and Windshield Repair

Reader letters about troubles with new and second-hand bike sales, as well as a recommendation from a longtime writer.

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by Bob Andren
Bob Andren's sweet 1971 Commando Roadster.

Long-term Norton

I purchased my Fireflake Blue 1971 Commando Roadster new through a “fly & drive” program from Taylor-Matterson Ltd, London. I rode to the factory at Andover for a tour and to replace the clutch cable which broke shortly after heading off from the dealership. They graciously SOLD me a new cable after the tour. After riding around England and Scotland, the Commando was air freighted to Boston for the grand sum of $125. At the Boston airport, customs people told me to remove the tires so they could check for drugs. I refused and said that if they wanted to remove the tires, to go right ahead, and then put them back on again themselves. After checking with their supervisor, they finally let the bike in.

The Norton has performed wonderfully in my 50 years of ownership. About 25 years ago, I did a complete ground up restoration with many of the usual upgrades including a Boyer ignition, which has never been touched since. Most fasteners are now stainless, as are the spokes and BUB exhaust system. A Norman White belt primary was installed about 15 years ago. Most recently, my 77-year-old right leg convinced me to install an Alton electric starter. Best upgrade ever! Just push the button and the engine springs to life. Fantastic! Someday the Commando will go to my nephew, then hopefully to his son, and perhaps even to his son after that. And she looks as good to me today as she did that day 50 years ago when I picked it up.

Bob Andren/via email

Remembering the CB400F

What a delight to see your article on the CB400F Honda. I purchased a 1976 model around 1995. Someone had put a hideous fairing and pull back bars on it, but the rest was almost perfect. I tossed the fairing and put original handlebars back and had the sweetest little bike EVER. It became my go-to bike for the twisty roads of southeast Minnesota bluff country. Sadly, I was moving to Russia for work, and sold it in 1998. I’ve never so regretted selling a bike. Thanks for featuring this gem of a bike.

Bruce W. Nelson/South Range, Wisconsin

Yes, it’s Clement!

A short way into the article about the 1949-1954 Norton 500T it occurred to me that the cadence of the writing was familiar. The specifications presented, the descriptions of the different machines, and the history depicted, had a pleasing and familiar flow. I stopped. “Who wrote this?” I said to myself. Aha! Clement Salvadori. How nice. Thanks for the great product, Motorcycle Classics folk. Your work provides readers genuine pleasure in a world that, of late, seems less than friendly.

Doug Shelley/Tyrone, New Mexico

Breaking things

The other day I had what might be called an “interesting” experience. Rolling along on my Honda ST1100 on a straightish stretch of back road, a bit over the speed limit, I saw half a dozen carrion-eating birds munching on the corpse of a small deer. They were on the left shoulder, and as they heard me coming, began winging it off to the left. I should have slowed, but didn’t, until WHAM! A bird-brained version flew right and hit my windshield and then the face of the Scorpion helmet I was wearing, and finally glanced off my left shoulder.

The blow took me by surprise, sort of knocking me out of my full sensibility, and I slowed, stopped, and carefully put my foot down. I was intact, and my helmet did its job, but the windshield was split right down the middle and staying together thanks only to being bolted to the fairing. I was not interested in what happened to that feathery missile and continued on home.

I’ve damaged a few bikes over the past 65 years, but I have only destroyed one, a Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 which lost out to an 18-wheeler. But never have I broken a windshield on a full fairing. What to do? Well, if you live in Atascadero, California, as I do, you call up Rifle Fairings at 800-262-1237. This small local company has been making aftermarket fairings (back in the good old days it might have been for an economy run or top speed at Bonneville or anything in between) and windshields for over 40 years. Gary Gatel is the owner, and works with his associate, Dennis.

“What can you do for a 2002 Honda ST1100?” A windshield is no problem, I was told, it’ll be ready in a few days. Rifle makes a good living out of replacing windshields on elderly touring bikes, and has the plans for over a hundred models, whether it be for a Honda or a Harley, and sends them all over the country. I got a phone call, showed up, and in ten minutes Gary and Dennis had a new windshield in place. Visit Rifle online for more info.

Clement Salvadori/Atascadero, California 

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