2011 Norton Commando 961 Cafe Racer

2011 Norton Commando 961 Cafe Racer

The Commando 961SE was the first machine to be launched by the new Norton Motorcycles (UK) Ltd. in April 2010. Just 200 examples of the 961SE were built as a limited edition signature series with many added extras.

The design was developed from Kenny Dreer's Commando 952, but in particular features a new engine from designers and builders MCT. The engine is a 961cc pushrod parallel twin producing around 80HP. This machine is also fitted with carbon fibre wheels and Ohlins shock absorbers and although it could be said to retain some of the overall look of the original Commando is packed with modern components and design features.

I so desperately wanted to like Norton’s new 961 range. After all, the Commandos of the past are among the most desirable vintage motorcycles in the world: sleek and sexy, and with some of the best frame engineering of all time. The specs of the new 961 are impeccable, with Öhlins suspension, a top of the line Brembo braking system, just the right amount of power, and a dry weight of 188 kg. But there’s something about the 961 that is totally not doing it for me—and this new Café Racer variant hasn’t changed that. Road tests will no doubt extol the virtues of the 961′s handling, but the styling is nothing less than awful.

Similar to the Café Racer, the 961 Sport features its own variation on shock absorbers, has no fly screen and has the conventional 961 exhaust system. The colours available will be as for the Café Racer. A prototype of a dual seat version will be on display at the November 2010 motorcycle show at the National Exhibition Centre in England

The tank looks too big. The side panel is fussy, and it neither blends nor contrasts with the curves of the seat/tail unit. There’s a yawning, inelegant gap between the rear tire and fender. And the yellow color of the publicity bike is simply offensive. The 961 Café Racer will retail for £13,495 in the UK, which is US$22,500—almost double the price of a Ducati SportClassic GT1000, and heading into MV Agusta F4 territory.


Year 2011
Manufacturer Norton
Model Commando 961 Cafe Racer
Engine Type Parallel twin w/push-rod valve actuation, dry sump, 3 bearing crank, balancer shaft
Engine Displacement 961cc
Bore & Stroke 88 mm x 79 mm
Compression Ratio 10.1:1
Cooling Air-Cooled
Fuel System NA
Ignition Crank fired electronic
Starting System Electric
Transmission Constant mesh 5 speed
Final Drive 525 “O” ring chain
Rake and Trail 24.5 degrees / 3.9 in.
Wheel Base 55.9 in.
Seat Height 32 in.
Front Suspension 43 mm Ohlins USD - Adjustable preload, compression & rebound damping
Rear Suspension Ohlins reservoir-style twin shocks Adjustable ride height, reload, compression
Front Brake  Full Brembo system, twin Brembo 320mm semi-floating hi carbon stainless stl discs
Rear Brake Full Brembo system, single Brembo 220mm disc, Brembo 2 piston Gold Line calliper
Front Tire 120/70 x 17
Rear Tire 180/55 x 17
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal.
Dry Weight 414.5 lbs.