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Old 24th June 2024, 02:38   #1
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A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company

“….All's right with the world!”

Sometimes we take things for granted, plodding along with the feeling that things will remain the way they are. However, as is with life, change is constant and sometimes when an assumed constant is no more, even if it's inconsequential to us personally, it can cause a tinge of sadness. Case in point – Honda languishing in MotoGP, Suzuki pulling out of MotoGP completely and sometimes news of a marque dying out which brings me to the brand in question, Norton or should I say The Norton Motorcycle Company (lest someone assume the antivirus company, which is funny because I’ve had a lingerie page open up when I once searched for Triumph on the Interweb, go figure!)

There are certain brands (I'll stick to motorcycles for this topic) that evoke feelings of excitement, nostalgia, aspiration, loyalty etc and then there are some that evoke all those feelings and it's not easy to come by. The brand should have lived long and done more than enough to get to that position. Norton has had the enviable position of being around since 1898 (yup, 126 years). They have cut their teeth in racing, making military vehicles and making great road going motorcycles during the golden era of British motorcycling. They did have their fair share of ownership changes and partnerships but none more impacting than the absolute fall from grace during the Stuart Garner fiasco (2008). Reports of misappropriation of people's pension funds, we are talking roughly 14 million, started trickling in. People lost their pension funds and the bikes promised were undelivered.

Just as the brand was dying, in 2020 TVS Motor Company bought the business and moved operations to a spanking brand new factory in Solihull with the intent to make luxury motorcycles. Talk about impeccable timing! That's the year the world went on hold, Im pretty sure things would have been different if TVS had waited for a few more months before buying Norton.

Fast forward to 2024 and this brings us to the actual topic of my post, A visit to the Norton factory. I saw a post on social media that Norton was hosting an open house on the 22nd of June 2024. It gave the public an opportunity to visit the Norton factory and support two charities “Birmingham Children’s Hospital” and “Mental Health Motorbike” (do look them up if you will).

If you follow financial news and more specifically, news pertaining to the motorcycle industry, you would have come across Nortons financial report, and it wasn’t pretty. This piqued my interest even more and decided to make a 3-hour trip (one way) to the Norton factory and take a look around.

A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-001.jpg

I have been on a few factory tours and in terms of a manufacturing unit it's small, the facility is pristine and looks well organized (has to be, TVS knows a thing or two about running a factory), but one thing stood out during the guided tour, “Pride in the work they do”. The welds are done by hand and impeccable, I’m going to be guilty of overusing the term “Work of art” but there is no other way to describe what I saw. I could sit and stare at those welds all day and still can't fathom how they look so clean even in hard-to-reach places. Places that may never see the light of day, yet the person thought he should make sure it's perfect. The same story goes with even polishing the exhaust pipes. During the tour, they kept stating how they use only the best in the industry when outsourcing, Ohlins for suspension, Brembo for brakes etc, so I had to ask, “Then why are you not sourcing your exhausts and end cans from the best?” Pat came the reply “Because we make them better” and when you look at the finished product it's hard to fault that response.

Nevertheless, I still had that nagging question in my mind, “How are you going to make Norton profitable again?” I wasn’t sure if I would get a response if asked and toyed for a while wondering if I should ask or not but then in the end I did and credit to the tour guide, he didn’t hesitate, it was almost as if he was waiting for someone to ask that question. To summarize the response, Norton is going global (right now they only sell in the UK) and will be looking at other categories of motorcycles. The Triumph-Bajaj reference also came up, exciting times coming up indeed!

It was a factory tour, so for obvious reasons no photography was allowed. But apart from a few things like a paint shop, dedicated test track etc., they seemed to have almost everything in-house. They did say last year they made 500 motorcycles and this year they are targeting 8000, but keep in mind, TVS first decided to fix the bikes that were a fallout from the Stuart Garner fiasco, they didn’t have to but still did. Enough of the baking process and now on to the finished product(s).

The Bikes

A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-002.jpg

Trigger alert for “Work of art”, but to be honest, there is no other way to describe them. To a layperson, it looks like someone said, get all the exotic components you can from the market and assemble them on a frame and make it look gorgeous. To an engineer or a manufacturer, it might sound like a pipe dream, but the bikes look exactly like that. Sadly, I was unable to ride any of the motorcycles to gauge how well put together they were (even if I rode them, I don’t think I would be in a position to judge a motorcycle on its merits., I only know how to ride them) but in the flesh, they look absolutely gorgeous. If you bought any of those bikes just to park them in your living room as a center piece it would be hard to fault you. Golden Ohlins suspension, metallic OZ rims, BST carbon wheels, branded hex screws, lovely blued exhaust pipes (some people take pride in them, I know I do), Carbon fibre everywhere (you almost expect F1 teams to start picketing outside the factory claiming Norton is hogging all of the stuff) and all the while paying homage to erstwhile models.

The V4 block finds its way in a "Neo" Cafe racer and a Supersport, the casing is sourced from Italy and hand-assembled in the factory
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-017v4.jpg

The V4CR model
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-003cr.jpg

Carbon fibre wheels should make this very nimble
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-007bst.jpg

Just look at that beautiful discolouration
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-012blue.jpg

Homage to the bolt-through design and oil filler caps. Not sure I want that near the body part hovering right above it on a ride
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-010hs.jpg

The V4SV (Supersport)
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-005sv.jpg

That exhaust is a work of art that can be easily sold as an accessory for other bikes (TVS, are you listening?)
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-009exhaust.jpg

Lest you forget its heritage
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-009uj.jpg

Nope, you cannot convince me that bolt is perfectly safe on a bumpy ride
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-011hs.jpg

They had one strapped to a simulator rig and I had a go at it, gosh its physical and the person there said MotoGP riders use something similar to train but ill take it with a pinch of salt, leaning without counter steering or centrifugal forces at play does not feel natural (saw how I said I suck at it without saying it?)
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-006rig.jpg[/center]

The parallel-twin engine finds its home in the Commando 961 model that has two variants.
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-017p2.jpg

A special edition Cafe Racer
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-004comando.jpg

They also had three bikes of yore on display. At first glance, they don’t seem like much but then on closer inspection, you start marvelling at the ingenuity behind the designs and courage needed to ride them around. One might scoff at the max speeds capable of those bikes back then but then when you notice the braking and suspension you can't help but admire the courage it must have taken to ride these, as some models were, around the Isle of Man.
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-013heritage.jpg

An Isle of Man legend
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The bolts that gave the bike its name
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-014bolt.jpg

Perforated wind deflector? Must have been for the bugs
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-014fs.jpg

Dry clutch anyone?
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-014tr.jpg

Top speed of ~50KMPH
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-015.jpg

Looks complicated to ride
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-015a.jpg

That top speed takes on a whole new meaning when this is the front brake, a rubber block on a rubber tyre, glad we moved on from that technology
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-015bo1.jpg

Brake deployed
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-015bo2.jpg

At least the rear brake design is different, not sure if this inspired the sowing machine design or vice versa
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-015rb.jpg

After having spent a very exciting day (did I mention there was lots of free food and beverages?) on my way back home I couldn’t help but think, why does every bike need to have Ohlin’s suspension, why do the hex screws need to have the brand embossed/printed? All these things look at home on “one-off” custom bike builds etc but seem pointless on “mass” production bikes. I know most brands have special editions with top-notch parts but also make great motorcycles with relatively budget-friendly components as budget options.

Of all the things that I saw that day, this stood out as the first thing I would stop doing to start on the road to profitability, I have no idea why I feel so strongly about this simple branded screw!
A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-008screw.jpg

There's also the question, who are these bikes for? The demographic that turned up for the event (my unsubstantiated opinion) were people further along in their years who grew up as pre-teenagers dreaming of one day owning one or had parents who owned one, I don’t think Nortons were an “exotic” brand back then and more along the lines of a Triumph or Royal Enfield but I could be wrong. Based on some YouTube reviews of the V4SV around a track the bike isn’t a sharp track day tool either. The bikes look like works of art and cost a fortune, so who are they for?

Any way that’s a TVS problem to sort out and I'm pretty sure they know a lot more on how to make motorcycles and run a business than I do.

Leaving financial news behind and ignoring market share (just for the moment) one can't help but take comfort in the thought

“Passionate people are at work at Norton
TVS is backing the brand
All’s right with the world!”

A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-016ce.jpg

Go on, you can't tell me Clint Eastwood astride a Norton reading a book in front of Big Ben doesn't give you a warm and fuzzy feeling that everything will be alright!

Last edited by Aditya : 24th June 2024 at 05:46. Reason: Spacing, formatting
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Old 24th June 2024, 05:47   #2
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Re: A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 24th June 2024, 08:27   #3
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Re: A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company

Thanks for sharing, deepfreak15!

I once had an interesting encounter with a CRPF personnel at the Mumbai Airport in 2022. I was wearing a Norton T-shirt, and he wanted to know where I bought it from. Told him that I bought it long ago and it wouldn’t be available now, and he suggested holding this T-shirt for long. I offered to give him the same, but he politely declined.

A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-43ad1b34406f4aa3b75680b3eb96a6b3_original.jpeg
Picture from 2018

A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-img_8169.jpeg
Picture taken today.
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Old 24th June 2024, 09:42   #4
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Re: A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company

Need one say more..

Winner of 26 Isle of Man Races

A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-img_2763.jpeg

And then two more ..

A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company-img_2764.jpeg

Last edited by AMG Power : 24th June 2024 at 09:44.
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Old 24th June 2024, 11:20   #5
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Re: A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company

Thank you for sharing your experience @deepfreak15.

Looks like a day admiring "Work of Art"
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Old 25th June 2024, 05:36   #6
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Re: A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company

Originally Posted by deepfreak15 View Post
They did say last year they made 500 motorcycles and this year they are targeting 8000, but keep in mind, TVS first decided to fix the bikes that were a fallout from the Stuart Garner fiasco, they didnít have to but still did.
At 17,000 British pounds for a motorcycle, its best they pair back their expectations and stick to a small number in terms of sales forecasts. This is a hard market to crack and no matter how much pedigree you carry, you've been out of the motorcycle scene for far too long. Then there are its direct competitors. The Italians (Ducati, Moto Guzzi) and to a degree, the Austrian and Germans who have established a Sales and Service network for the markets where they sell.

I like what I see here but honestly, TVS/Norton need to try and reset (again) on what they are trying to do.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 27th June 2024, 20:06   #7
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Re: A day at The Norton Motorcycle Company

I also was aware of the antivirus only until I read the book, "the motorcycle diaries". Che Guevara kicked off his journey from Argentina ending in Venezuela covering 8000 kms on his 500cc single cylinder Norton (LaPoderosa) in 1952.
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