Commando Recommendations and Slipping Clutch: Q and A



Recommended Commando

Question: I’ve been a fan of Motorcycle Classics since the premiere issue, and your column is always the first thing I look for. I really love my 1979 Suzuki GS1000E, and I’ll never give it up, but a friend had a bright yellow Norton Commando in college, and I’ve always wanted one ever since. Strictly from the standpoint of performance and the joy of riding, what year, model, and upgrades would be the best choice? Do you know of any shops on the west coast or in the Midwest (I live in Alaska) that specialize in Commandos? Other than eBay, where should I be looking for one? Thanks for your advice.

Doug/Anchorage, Alaska

Answer: The Roadster models seem to be the most numerous, with the Interstate models scarcer and the HiRider model the least liked (and perhaps less expensive as a result). The early Fastback model is beautiful, but suffers from a fiberglass tank that is problematic with ethanol-laced gasoline. I’ve got a 1974 Roadster model and with the Colorado Norton Works electric start upgrade (see story at it’s as easy to use as any modern bike. Since you have a Suzuki as your favorite ride, you might be best served looking for a 1975 model Commando with electric start. After 1974, U.S. safety standards required all motorcycles to have left-foot-shift/right-foot-brake, so there wouldn’t be any control confusion between motorcycles. As I mentioned above, I’d avoid any bikes with fiberglass tanks due to fuel issues. As for where to look, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and word of mouth are all options to add to eBay.

Clutch issues

Question: I have a 1966 Yamaha YDS3C with a slipping clutch. When I purchased the bike it had three 3.5mm friction plates and three steel plates. The owner’s manual I have shows a diagram with four friction and four steel plates. I ordered new friction plates (3.6mm) from Barnett and an extra OEM steel plate. I installed everything and put it back together. It still slips when kicking it over. I noticed as I tighten the nut that holds the clutch in it slips worse. I’m stumped and at a complete loss of what to look for. I’ve heard from Facebook forums that there should be five plates but it’s impossible to fit five plates into my clutch housing.

Luke/via email

Answer: I’ll start with the simplest solution first and then move to more complex measurements. Make sure you’re not using a modern automotive oil, often rated a low 5W or even 0W. Those have friction modifiers in them that can cause wet plate clutches to slip. Use an old formulation oil such as Castrol GTX. Next, measure the clutch friction plates and springs to make sure the right parts are installed. The friction plates should measure .169 inches or 4.3mm thick and the springs should have a free length of 1-inch or 25.5mm length with a tolerance of .08-inches or 2mm. Note: I heard back from Luke and he replied: “I ended up fixing my slippage. My plates were for the later year with the 3.5mm clutch plates. I resolved the issue by adding an extra steel plate to get the right stack height, my springs were all 25.5mm.”

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter