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Norton MK2A 850 Commando Roadster 1974



  • Norton


  • MK2A 850 Commando Roadster


  • 1974

Engine details: 

Same engine as the Interstate


60.00 HP (43.8 kW)) @ 6250 RPM

Top speed: 

189.9 km/h (118.0 mph)

Max RPM: 


Transmission type: 


Frame type: 

Double cradle, large back bone steel, with Isolastic vibration system

Cooling system: 




Engine type: 

Twin, four-stroke

Front brakes: 

Single disc

Rear brakes: 

Expanding brake (drum brake)

Dry weight: 

188.2 kg (415.0 pounds)

Power/weight ratio: 

0.3187 HP/kg

Overall length: 

2,235 mm (88.0 inches)




828.00 ccm (50.52 cubic inches)

Bore x stroke: 

77.0 x 89.0 mm (3.0 x 3.5 inches)

Valves per cylinder: 


Fuel system: 

Carburettor. Twin Amals



Fuel consumption: 

5.11 litres/100 km (19.6 km/l or 46.03 mpg)

Greenhouse gases: 

118.6 CO2 g/km. (CO2 - Carbon dioxide emission)

Color options: 

Blue, Red, Black

Fuel control: 



Wet multiplate

Front suspension: 


Rear suspension: 

Twin shocks


1,440 mm (56.7 inches)

Fuel capacity: 

11.36 litres (3.00 gallons)

Reserve fuel capacity: 

3.79 litres (1.00 gallons)

Lubrication system: 

Dry sump



Seat height: 

787 mm (31.0 inches) If adjustable, lowest setting.





Weight including oil, gas, etc: 

199.6 kg (440.0 pounds)

Oil capacity: 

3.00 litres (0.20 quarts)


12v dc

Front suspension travel: 

152 mm (6.0 inches)

Rear suspension travel: 

76 mm (3.0 inches)

Ground clearance: 

152 mm (6.0 inches)

Exhaust system: 

Double chrome pipes
Has there ever been a 4-speed, 750cc, 58 eight horsepower (count ‘em!) machine more loved than the Norton Commando? If you were working at Motor Cycle News during from ‘68-72, then probably not, as it was crowned the “Machine of the Year” for half a decade. This at a time of the first ever computer mouse, IBM’s 8-inch floppy (steady at the back, there!) and a moon-landing. An argument could be made that Motor Cycle News may not have been that familiar with the intricate machinations of space flight, but we don’t make the rules. In fairness to them, it was also a time of an immense amount of pot-smoking, with the first ever Isle of Wight festival also debuting in ‘68, so let’s just imagine not a lot got done across those five years. However, by 1974, the 750cc had morphed into the 850cc. To quote the 1970 classic, ‘and while the king was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown’.

There were a few guises of the Commando, most notably the Roadster replacing the successful earlier Fastback, the ready-for-touring Interstate, and after a liquid-lunch someone at Norton commissioned the Street Scrambler with its ludicrous tailpipe design. Both the 750 and 850 (828 in reality) were air-cooled OHV parallel twin machines, weighing in at about 190kg. The twin cylinder design originated from earlier models ranging back to the 1940’s, but the Commando tilted the engine forward to change the centre of gravity, increasing air-intake and improving design finesse.

The saving grace of the Commando was the vast improvement in frame design and introduction of the isolastic anti-vibration system i.e. isolating the gearbox, engine and swing-arm assembly from the frame through rubber mountings. It doesn’t sound technical, and isn’t, but it did mean that after a good ride you weren’t counting your fillings and checking bones hadn’t simply shattered. Despite the numerous awards from MCN, it wasn’t all smooth running though, as the Fastback had a few quirks with its clutch, side-stand, centre-stand, rocker arm, carburettors, main bearings and exhaust pipe manifold. Then there were the steering head bearings, the rear-chain oiler and the chain guard. And loose seat, of course. And the speedometer issues, tachometer issues, rear-chain adjusting bolts and the ignition switch mount. And if you had purchased a Commando in what Norton described as Fireflake Silver, you’d have the ignominy of trying to explain why your tank looked like a Christmas bauble.

The problems with the Commando though were simply a metaphor for the world-outside: Villiers, Associated Motor Cycles and Norton had joined together under parent company Manganese Bronze Holdings; an ailing government had bailed out BSA-Triumph, which then joined all companies together to make Norton-Villiers-Triumph. Which then went down like a lead zeppelin. The Commando actually had a run of a decade up to 1977, but was facing critical financial problems, which isn’t too much of a surprise when you’ve merged five companies.

And when you thought all hope was lost, the old maxim about it being darkest just before the light came true. Norton produced the 1975 John Player Special. There are a few motorcycles we gush over at Shepster Towers, but this is one where we lean back in our cell, kick the feet up as high as the manacles allow, and announce to our fellow inmates office buddies we’re pretty much done for the day* – the boys at Norton had created possibly the prettiest bike ever made.
*Ed – Back to work!

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