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Old 09-28-2013, 07:22 PM   #1
KhaoSanMan OP
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A comparison - '78 RS vs' 75 850 Commando

My brother @Zombeast and I had the opportunity to ride a couple of our father's, @BigBearJim, bikes. A 1978 BMW R 100RS and a 1975 Norton 850 Commando. Both are essentially stock. Thought you guys might like to see some of the photos from today.



As you can see pops has a bum leg from earlier in the riding season. We live up North but flew down to visit and help with some chores. One of which was to give the old bikes some love and a good ride.

ZOMBEAST fit into the vintage BMW leathers my dad had purchased in 1982. Fitted and sent from Germany when my dad was around his age.



The bikes ran great. A little smoke here, a little carb overflow there. But man, what a fun time trading off and comparing the bikes to our R100GS's and the hot rodded R100R I have back home.






Of course we had to do a drag race. I took off on the 850... Only to be taken by the RS in short order. I was surprised, the Norton just feels so much faster and nimble. We are too good of sons to put them to the test in the twisties. Dad had said 'Don't flog em.'

The Norton could probably take it in the long run, especially with a more able rider. The RS bars are very different and take some time to get comfortable with. The fairing sure keeps you warm and cozy in the mountains. The RS transmission, albeit clunky, gives more feedback and made me feel more confident than the Norton's somewhat vague shifts.

Oh, and my R could take both of em ;)

Anyone else have some experience with these bikes that can chime in with some other nuances?

An awesome day on a
some awesome bikes. Hope you all are out there having as much as we are this weekend!

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Old 09-28-2013, 07:38 PM   #2
disston
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Norton guys don't dress in matching outfits. They are much grungier than most other riders and almost the opposite of BMW riders.

Think blue jeans, black leather jacket and chains. That's Norton. BMW is color matched.
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Old 09-28-2013, 07:46 PM   #3
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Haha @Disston you didn't get to see the guy behind the camera. Blue jeans, black leather jacket, work boots and... Dirt bike helmet and gloves lol.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I537 using Tapatalk 4
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Old 09-29-2013, 03:46 AM   #4
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I would think three times before taking my 750 norton on a long trip, I'm off to Spain and Portugal on my 90/6 for the second time this year!
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Old 09-29-2013, 02:02 PM   #5
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Hey...that place looks familiar...



From SoCal 9/13

Was out there earlier this month on my rented oilhead (couldn’t bring the airhead this time).
Beautiful area to ride (San Diego to Big Bear to Joshua Tree and points between)
Oh, and thanks for the comparo! Nice
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:43 PM   #6
Voltaire
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I've done 800kms in a weekend on my Norton but you tend to spend a bit ( lot) time doing prep work. The R90/6 I'd jump on tomorrow and go anywhere.
Nortons are cooler though Getting pricy here, don't see them for under 10k much, twice what you can pick up a tidy BMW for....go figure.
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Old 12-25-2013, 11:23 AM   #7
685
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chasbmw View Post
I would think three times before taking my 750 norton on a long trip, I'm off to Spain and Portugal on my 90/6 for the second time this year!

My brother has a Notrun 850. A wonderful bike to ride--even with the shifter on the wrong side. He's done major rebuilds to it several times--it was basically a restored mess when he got it. And continued to be even after throwing massive cash and time at it. I don't think I'd be able to nominate it for all time great tourer, either. Way too fiddly and unreliable. And even after a major top end overhaul, it still smells like burning oil.

The old Brit bike industry died for a reason, and it wasn't because they were expensive or not great looking (they were great looking.)

And calling them Notruns is only barely tongue in cheek.
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Old 12-25-2013, 02:37 PM   #8
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I've never ridden a Norton with a left hand shift, I wonder if the extra linkages would turn it into a worse shifting box than a BMW ? The AMC box was always the choice of pre unit specials, strong and sweet shifting.
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Old 12-25-2013, 06:22 PM   #9
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A Commando will usually out accelerate an RS up to about 80 MPH in roll- ons. After that, the BMW will pull away-as you've noted. A Commando will drive you crazy with its maintenance needs, if it's not just plain broken.
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Old 12-25-2013, 06:47 PM   #10
Lomax
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Subscribed as I have an 84 R100RS and a 73 Commando. The Norton is still a couple of months away from the road but I can then ride them back to back and compare.

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Old 12-25-2013, 07:15 PM   #11
Voltaire
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmwrench View Post
A Commando will usually out accelerate an RS up to about 80 MPH in roll- ons. After that, the BMW will pull away-as you've noted. A Commando will drive you crazy with its maintenance needs, if it's not just plain broken.
For touring and commuting I like the R90/6 but for a good old 'hoon' the Commando is a blast.....then its back to the shed for maintenance mwahhaaahaaa....
My mates race Commando has 65 BHP ( on a dyno)....my track R90 I estimate about 50-55....I only get near him on the corners. I won the 2012 series thanks to attrition
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Old 12-25-2013, 11:05 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motu View Post
I've never ridden a Norton with a left hand shift, I wonder if the extra linkages would turn it into a worse shifting box than a BMW ? The AMC box was always the choice of pre unit specials, strong and sweet shifting.
There's nothing like letting a commando rip in second gear, changing up to third only to find you've put it into first. Amazing engine braking! you have to love the inverted gear selection on the right hand gear change
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Old 12-25-2013, 11:09 PM   #13
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been a long time since I rode a 850 Norton
but I remember it just kept accelerating
surprised the bm beat it
cheers
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Old 12-25-2013, 11:14 PM   #14
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The standard British shift pattern was up for 1st, Triumph were the odd one out. My Bantam manual stressed the unusual shift pattern (down for 1st) and not to get confused with normal bikes. I didn't normally get confused, but when riding behind my wife's Triumphs, I would be listening to her gearchanges, and sometimes shift my Norton like a Triumph.
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Old 12-26-2013, 06:49 PM   #15
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I believe that I may be able to add to this discussion since we have a 73 Norton Commando 850 that we have owned for 37 years and purchased with 3000 miles on it. We also have a 1983 BMW R100 with the CS package offered that year that we purchased new. Both bikes have upwards of 60,000 miles on them. The Norton is a twisty road fun machine with incredible handling and a gearbox that is well spaced and positive. With the isolastic rubber mounts it can do long days on the road without vibration and fatigue. Luggage capacity is for us limited to soft bags and a tank bag.The Interstate tank and seat are great for the road and extend range.The BMW by comparison when new was downright scary on a backroad compared to the Norton.The mushy suspension and flex frame did not lend itself to corner carving especially with the greasy Conti tires. Since then with the addition of a Telefix fork brace,San Jose Upper triple tree,Race Tech emulators and Koni shocks it handles very well in the turns. The BMW touring bags and a tank bags tansform it into a great sport touring bike.The BMW probably puts out 10-15 more horsepower but the Norton will leave it for dead in every drag race. Lighter weight and a better transmission help on this performance aspect. Both bikes are great fun with the Norton being the better backroad bike and the BMW the better long distance mount.One of the main differences in the Norton/BMW groups reveal itself if you attend a BMW Rally and a Norton Rally.The Norton group talks about the fun of riding the back roads to get there and what they have done to make their bike better. The BMW group talks about the miles ridden and their aerostich riding gear and farkles. I haven't been to a BMW Rally since the 90's but go to every Norton Rally I am able to.
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