Installing Norton Commando Lansdowne Adjustable Dampers

Install a pair of Lansdowne adjustable dampers on a Norton Commando 850 for a highly recommended upgrade.

Reader Contribution by The Motorcycle Classics Staff.
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by Motorcycle Classics Staff
Lansdowne dampers as delivered, with springs. One-piece fork leg collar and dust boots are installed with supplied pin tool.

In their day, Norton’s Roadholder forks were among the very best. First introduced in 1946, they performed better than almost everything else on the market and influenced fork design for decades, but they do have their limitations.

A damping-rod design, Norton Commando Roadholder forks employ a rod-and-piston damping tube with fixed orifices to control oil flow to regulate compression and rebound. They work well enough, but the design doesn’t allow tuning oil flow for different road and rider conditions.

About 10 years ago, U.K. Norton specialist John Bould designed the Lansdowne dampers (named after Norton founder James Lansdowne Norton). These feature multiple, small compression and rebound orifices, and an adjustable needle valve to vary oil flow. Further, Bould’s approach employs a dedicated compression damper for one leg and a dedicated rebound damper for the other. The needle valve is attached to the top fork nut in a threaded brass insert and passes through the damper rod to the damper body. It’s adjusted using a small, 2.5mm Allen wrench, turning the brass insert in the fork nut.

Bould passed away in January 2016, and that seemed to be the end of the Lansdowne damper until Norton enthusiast and specialty parts manufacturer Donald Pender of Triton Motorcycle Parts in the Philippines secured the rights to continue their manufacture.

Our subject bike is Tech Q&A man Keith Fellenstein’s 1974 Norton Commando 850. In addition to the dampers ($360, plus shipping) we got a set of Triton’s integrated fork leg collar/dust boots ($46/pair plus shipping, includes installation tool) and a set of Leak Proof fork seals ($22/pair plus shipping). Derided by some and loved by others, we’ve used Leak Proof seals with great success on a few Japanese bikes and thought it would be interesting to try them on the Norton.

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