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.
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. In the US, South Bay Norton has the exclusive distribution rights. I think we need to wish them luck. [Thanks to Stuart Bowey.]