First day on my 961...

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May 30, 2014
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At last, after 6 months of waiting, my silver 961 Sport was registered, taxed, insured and ready for me to collect from Krazy Horse in BSE today (Tues 2nd Sept). Its been there a week and was driving me nuts waiting for 1st Sept (New registration plate in UK).

I turned up at 9am, was given tea, keys, demo, receipt for purchase and pointed at my commando and told 'don't bend it'.... Very old school, fantastic...!

Then I first started it up. I thought it was broken, there was so much mechanical clatter and took ages to idle properly. I was warned about this as the bikes are set up so lean at first, but its not a nice noise to anyone with any mechanical sympathy.... The leanness of the engine is very noticeable, especially with only 5 miles on the clock, it feels very tight and lumpy at first.

As the day has worn on the bike has got smoother and quieter, tickover is now perfect after the first 10 seconds or so from cold start. The bike still 'chocks' as we used to call it when its in a slightly higher gear than it wants to be in but if you keep it between 2500 and 3500 revs its perfectly happy. In another 2 days I will be able to reach the heady heights of 4500 revs, at which I think things are going to get more interesting, whoopee... 3500 revs is an exercise in self control as its a bike that wants to rev.

The bike handles like its on rails and I cant wait to get it run in, remapped, open piped and on some decent roads as it feels like that's where it wants to be. after 1 whole day in the saddle it feels like its a bit of an old bruiser, not refined, but very raw and visceral. Think of a 50 year old bouncer in a modern nightclub. Hes got a shiny suit, health and safety training and a first aid badge, but underneath hes still a tattooed thug that just wants to fight... That's a Norton 961.

One thing I think will get boring is everywhere you stop, people come up to you and talk to you as if you've known them for years! Its always ' I had one of those....' and its been photographed at least 20 times today. I went to a bike meet on it tonight and it was literally the centre of a crowd all evening. When I left everyone was watching and youre constantly thinking 'don't stall it you twat...' but I think that's something Im going to have to get used to.

So so far, almost a 100% positive experience on my first day. Apart from: LH mirror wasn't tightened and the end vibrated off in the first 25 miles... Good job it was getting chucked anyway. 2nd minor problem was the headlight bolts were loose. I only found this out about an hour ago when after I went to my local bike night here in Cambridge and went to ride home in the dark, only to find the headlight pointing down at the front wheel! Thank god for Leathermans tools...

Its now 10pm, Ive put 144 miles on it today and it now has a small black number plate and a bar end mirror and looks stunning. Chucking the mirrors gives it a much more streamlined look IMO.

I intend to have it run in and back at KH next weekend for open pipes (long peashooter style) and remap if at all possible, happy days....

Further updates to follow.

Dozer :D :D :D :D
 
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Dozer said:
Think of a 50 year old bouncer in a modern nightclub. Hes got a shiny suit, health and safety training and a first aid badge, but underneath hes still a tattooed thug that just wants to fight... That's a Norton 961.

Yeah... that's about it :)

Congratulations!

About the idling and mechanical noise... mine has now about 10.000 miles, and i do remember the same as you describe when i was running it in. It even stalled sometimes. But now, it has a very strong idle when cold or hot. And the noise got slightly better.

The ignition seems to fear a battery that is not 100% in top shape. Keep that in mind. Mine was not idling anymore at some point and stalling every time i started it recently. Replaced the battery and now everything is back to normal. That same battery is now being used in another bike without any problems.
 
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Its now got 280 miles on it, courtesy of a commute to London. Feels better by the mile. Havent done more than 20 miles on a motorway yet as I, for the first time ever, have followed the instructions and kept going up and down the gears and revs, hence back roads. I should be able to open it up a bit tomorrow to 4500, which will at least be over 70...

Its booked in at Krazy Horse for first service, pipes and mapping next Thursday when I imagine Norton will relieve me of approximately £1500.... Exotic bikes are expensive! Ive gone for the longer open pipes as IMHO they look better on a sport, a bit like a Triton must have an alloy tank, a commando must have peashooter exhausts....!

One quick question, oil level, the oil appears to be very clear and thin and hard to see on the dipstick? I can see theres oil on the dipstick and in the tank but its really hard to see a level line on the metal? Any one else found this?
 
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I also can't see the oil level on the stick. I lay the stick on a piece of paper towel and look at the oil stain on the towel to judge the level. I also found my bike is sensitive to level, if overfilled, it spits it out a drain tube under the engine (only after longer rides). It is hard to know it you have it overfilled because the checked level moves around some, depending on how hot the engine is and just how long you wait to check it after shutting down.
Before anyone warns be about how and when to check oil in a dry sump vehicle, I have had several before, I understand how it works.
 
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Good tip about the paper Ill try that tomorrow. The manual appears to be quite specific about how to check the oil level, just not about what to do if u cant actually see it!
 
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The oil will get easier to see around 400 miles, then of course go clear after the first service. Everything seems to improve as miles accumulate. They like to be ridden hard and run best that way!
 
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They told me never to fill up above the minimum mark. I don't know if there is a difference on new bikes, but i had only 0,5cm from the minimum mark to the bottom of the dipstick. It made it almost impossible to check. My bike used to burn almost 1,5liter of oil in 1000km. So i simply put a piece of clear petrol tube over it. It was possible to see the marks and the dipstick was extended.

Since the rebuild id doesn't burn a drip of oil, so i check it less regularly now. I did shut it down a few times immediately when the oil pressure light went on, but that is what they do when driving in rain :)
 
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Very good report, Dozer. Thanks. I can relate to everything you posted, thinking some broken part was slapping around when starting and muttering "well THAT aint good". The manual actually recommends opening the throttle a little when starting in the cold, but it seems to work quite well all the time. Yeah....he's a bruiser all right. Just a perfect blend of old Brit grunt and modern handling. I get the "I had one of those" and even "grandpas bike" a lot too. Enjoy. Look forward to reading more.
 
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Day 3, 341 miles, 4500 revs, things got a lot more interesting today....

Now able to actually overtake articulated lorries on the motorway, rather than the other way round and them laughing at me. Engine seems to come alive at 3500 - 4000 revs and start to howl, which is going to become seriously addictive...

Lots of vibration at 4500 revs, enough to make fingers and toes numb in 50 miles, but bearable. More than can be said for my oh so cool bar end mirror, which committed suicide on the M11 and tried to do an 'odd job' (James Bond baddie with a razor blade hat) impression on me at 75mph and cut my head off when the glass came out...

Oil dipstick issue is now sorted, as it now appears to be light brown and visible on the dipstick, at this rate it will be black by next week. Question: Do Norton use running in oil? I remember when bikes used to put some old rubbish in at the start during running in, to absorb all the crap from the new engine, then put the good stuff in at the first service?

Yet more petrol station selfies with complete strangers. 2 guys on bikes actually sat and waited for me to come out of the toilet so they could hear it start up. I had to warn them that it was new and only 300 miles old, so one end sounded like a sewing machine and the other end sounded like a tractor and would probably stall.... They still loved it though. I should have got a 2 seater cos at this rate im going to meet a supermodel at a petrol station...

160 miles to go to the magic 500, and not hearing this awful mechanical clatter at tickover and actually getting some fuel into the thing when u open the taps... (hopefully). It must be massively lean as the last two fill ups its averaged 58mpg.

Onwards and upwards....
 
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Richard, my pleasure...

Yesterday (Sunday), took the 961 out for a blast to rack up some more miles ready for the 1st service. I live in Cambridge, UK, and decided to head up to the coast at Hunstanton in Norfolk. Gorgeous day and loads of bikes about. As I got further up the A10 I started seeing literally hundreds of bikes and slightly odd, hundreds of scooters, complete with parkas. mirrors and accompanying haze of 2 stroke blue smoke.... When I turned up at Hunstanton sea front, there were hundreds of bikes and scooters on the green for the 2014 Mods v Rockers rally! (For our American Cousins Google Mods v Rockers in the 60s, great times)

I pulled the 961 onto the green in the middle of a huge crowd of people taking photos of it and had a walk round, it was the only 961 I could see in the whole place. There was some seriously cool old iron parked on that piece of grass. Had an ice cream and headed home, another 100 miles done, now up to 450 ish.

As to the bike, Im loving the 4500 rev threshold, as between 3000 and 4500 theres a really nice drone from the motor which sounds like nothing else apart from an old Ducati Darmah or Guzzi Le Mans. I had a play with a new Triumph Thruxton on the way back (superb looking thing in satin green) and we had a chat at a set of lights. My running in revs are about the same as a Thruxton on full chat so we had a bit of fun between roundabouts. He said that the 961 sounded fantastic at revs, even with strangled pipes on, which is nice to know, as all I can hear is the mechanical clatter from the engine. The engine is noticeably looser now and runs great especially in the more interesting regions of the rev counter...

I also cant get used to how well it handles, it is so flickable I was going up the inside of race reps on roundabouts, (admittedly pretty poor riders) just some old greybeard on a Norton, it was great. Then the R1s etc would come flying past again... lol. I think they were wondering what this strange mechanical clatter was behind them... Even if you hit a bump (these are British roads) mid roundabout it just shakes its head and carries on. Ive managed to deck my boots and scrub the edges of the tyres in now without ruining underwear. If I tried that on my Triumph I would have gone gardening...

Its still doing high 50's mpg, still sounds like a bag of nails, goes like a train and is a complete photo magnet. Its not an easy bike to ride though, but rewards you if you put the effort in, needs to be ridden hard and put away wet as the saying goes. Loving every minute of it. Sorry to disappoint the negative crowd, but this is a very special motorcycle.

One other thing, got stopped by a bored motorcycle policeman yesterday morning, who only wanted to have a look at the 961... Totally ignored the miniature black plate... All he wanted to know was how much it cost and what it went like!
 
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Sounds like your loving it... Is the "clatter" and "bag of nails" noises expected from a new 961??... I would have thought that the noises from the motor would be minimal. Do other owners of new 961's experience these noises???
 
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Nice, i agree completely!

Yes, these noises are pretty normal for a 961. In fact, it is pretty normal for most air-cooled engines to make mechanical noises. Every moving part that has some tolerance will add up to the noise. The 'big' brands spend a lot of effort in filtering them away (rubber parts to reduce vibration, isolation materials in the engine cases, anti backlash gears etc). These mechanical noises are no indication of wear, or bad components. It just means they reach your ears.

There does seem to be some difference in noises between bikes. And the noise goes partly away when it is properly run in.
 
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I am loving it, the noises do take some getting used to though, as does the vibration.

Goes in tomorrow for 500 mile service, remap, decat and open pipes, which are supposed to make a big difference, even if it just drowns it out.

Dimitri is correct, I used to ride Japanese race reps and the character of the modern engine has been totally engineered out in most cases. The last Jap Multi I owned (10 years ago) was a ZZR1100, now THAT was a bike with character, the new versions, although technically better, seem to have lost a bit of personality. Or Im just old... I now have a Triumph Explorer which is as close as Im likely to get to a Japanese multi nowdays. Although it has been slightly de 'characterised', the triumphs, especially the triples, retain a certain attitude and character that I like, very grumbly and raw. Apart from that I went over to V twins years ago, mainly Harleys and especially Moto Guzzis, partly for that reason of 'character'.

Unfortunately 'Character' in an old Italian bike usually involves waiting for the breakdown service to arrive... At least until the original electrics have been totally replaced like I did on my T3 café racer. One of the best sounding bikes I ever owned was the MG Griso 1100, I ended up owning 3, one after another. A Griso with an open Termignoni pipe is a fantastic sound, very Nortonesque, clattery, grumbly and with a glorious howl once you open the taps. The 961 is still mechanically noisier though, at least until tomorrow! ( I really really hope....)
 
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I don't expect it to be any quieter once you have had the 1st service, these are just extremely noisy motors! I wouldn't worry to much mine seems to get noisier with every thousand miles I cover but the performance also improves and the bike revs freely. Mine was one of the first bikes delivered almost 4 years ago and I did have problems but only in the first year and 2,000 miles, since then it's been good. However I've never been happy with the gearbox it has got slightly better with use but it is still worse than any other bike I've had in the last 40 years, including British, Italian, Jap and German makes.
The engine is always at it's best above 4k revs and will cruise at 5k-6k all day long where it all seems to smooth out but still gives around 50mpg.
 
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Jaymac, 6k is 90mph I think? I imagine mine wont spend too much time up there, but the 3.5-5k range is addictive, 3rd gear cranked over on a roundabout at 3.5k is a really sweet spot to open up from. It digs itself in in spades and pulls like a train on the way out... I actually engineer that position now whenever I can.

I actually really like the gearbox! Mine is neat and crisp, better than my Triumph Explorer and another world from my Guzzi and Harley... Im not sure if they are the same unit? I was originally told they were Harley sportster/Baker gearboxes but when I did the factory tour July 14 Im sure I was told that the gearboxes were now UK sourced and made?

That was the major brake on expansion of production as only 12 gearboxes could be made each week. When I was there there was a delay in engine production because they were waiting for gearboxes if I remember correctly.

If its a noisy motor then so be it, however Krazy Horses demo 961 isn't bad and that's run in, with shorty pipes on, and that's been abused....
 
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Jaymac,

Mine did actually get quieter over time. It has now 10.000 miles and is 3 years old. It doesn't sound too noisy for non-Norton enthousiasts anymore.
Be sure to check the timing chain tensioner (not sure if it's a timing chain... but the chain under the right engine casing). It has a non-automatic tensioner. Mine was out of spec at one service (might have slipped). I got used to the noise, but my dealer said immediately when i arrived "you've got something loose in your engine". Sometimes it is better to compare the noise to similar engines. They adjusted it, and it was more silent afterwards.
 
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WoW, so mechanically noisy engines are OK, and virtually straight off the production line!............
 
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9 days after getting my 961, 600 miles.... Just back from Krazy Horse, complete with decat pipe, long sporty silencers, fuel remap, new oil and a £1400.00 hole in my bank account...

Bike sounds fantastic, I went for the long open pipes because of the look of them, rather than the shorties. It feels crisper, more responsive and ticks over a lot more quietly as theres a lot more fuel getting through. The clatter is noticeably better, especially at low revs. At tickover its now fine as its drowned out by the exhaust! It sounds like a proper brit twin now, rather than a bike that's on the verge of stalling all the time.

As I can now rev to 6000 I thought it only right and proper to test said rev range on the way home, it pulls clean and smooth and howls like a banshee. A pleasant side effect is the growl from the airbox now, which again sounds great. Im not embarrassed to start the thing up in front of strangers now...

As an aside, I got the choice of using any of Krazy Horses 22 demo bikes as a loaner while the service was being carried out. I chose an Indian Vintage as Id always fancied having a go on one and it was the smallest in stock, the other two were like chrome narrow boats on wheels. Nice bike but not for me, it felt like it was trying a bit too hard to be cool, acres of bright chrome complete with leather tassles... Nice engine though, very lazy 1800cc v twin. But if I was going to have another Harley copy, I think Id just by another Harley.

So, 961 sounding the way it should, running great and looking superb, which means somethings about to go wrong. Im in West London tomorrow for work and Im going to take it to the Ace Café to show it its spiritual home! lol.
 

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olChris said:
WoW, so mechanically noisy engines are OK, and virtually straight off the production line!............
Have you ever heard a new Ducati? They sound worse than any 961...! Or a dry clutch Guzzi? I sold my Griso last summer and the guy rang me up that night because he thought Id sold him a dog when he pulled the clutch in! Incredibly noisy things....
 

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