NORTON COMMANDO 961 SE (2009 - on) Review

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Annual servicing cost: £250
Power: 79 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.0 in / 813 mm)
Weight: Medium (415 lbs / 188 kg)


New £15,995
Used £9,500 - £13,900

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Revived Norton’s new Commando 961 SE is a ‘feel good’ bike par excellence. It gives riding and owning pleasure by the skip-load and is a machine you’ll park up and spend hours admiring in the garage with a cuppa.

Yes, in this full-bling, limited edition, £16K, SE trim, the 961 is arguably more ornament than transport, but that’s’s arguably irrelevent now this version has sold out (but it bodes well for the future, cheaper Café Racer and Sport) and, besides, I can’t think of any bikes that fulfils both roles so well.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Norton Commando 961’s chassis is simply ‘there’: Neutral-feeling yet with enough sporting prowess to have fun and scratch with; light, slim and sharp-steering flickable, plus, of course, incontrovertibly good suspension and brakes.

I doubt it needed any adjustment. If it did, it’s all there, available.


Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Although a beautiful lump of metal, this is NOT the best bit. That’s not a major criticism.

We rode the first production machine which is something of a development bike so there was bound to be a few teething troubles, most notably a flat-spot around 5000rpm. Even so there’s plenty to commend.

The Norton has plenty of low-down grunt from around 2000rpm, snicks though its gears happily enough and emits a quite addictive bark.

Eighty horses, or somewhere between a Bonnie and a Monster, feels about right and is enough to have fun with.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

It’s hand-built, in the UK, using some of the best components available anywhere in the world so quality, on face value at least, is top drawer.

It’s still too early to say about reliability, although any doubts should be assuaged by Norton’s commitment to customer service and determination to correct any problems that might crop up.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

With the Norton Commando 961 SE more than most, value is difficult to assess objectively.

The cynics will argue that, on paper, the performance is hardly eart-shattering and it’s a fairly basic, unproven machine for your £16K.

On the other hand, it’s a mouth-watering return of a legendary name, an instant classic, beautifully specced and never likely to depreciate…


4 out of 5 (4/5)

As a straightforward, old style roadster, the Norton Commando 961 SE is fairly basic in terms of equipment – there’s obviously no luggage, fairing and so on.

But what it has is top-notch. Brakes, suspension, wheels, switchgear, instruments are all among the best there is, as befitting a ‘Special Edition’ model – and it’s price.


Engine size 961cc
Engine type Air-cooled, 2v parallel twin, 5 gears
Frame type Steel tube double cradle
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Seat height 813mm
Bike weight 188kg
Front suspension Ohlins 43mm, fully adjustable
Rear suspension Twin Ohlins shocks, fully adjustable
Front brake 2 x 320mm, four-piston calipers
Rear brake 220mm disc, two-piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 45 mpg
Annual road tax £117
Annual service cost £250
New price £15,995
Used price £9,500 - £13,900
Insurance group 17 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 79 bhp
Max torque 66 ft-lb
Top speed 130 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 205 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2009: Norton Commando 961 SE launched

Other versions

Commando Café Racer: Brief comments
Commando Sport:

Owners' reviews for the NORTON COMMANDO 961 (2009 - on)

4 owners have reviewed their NORTON COMMANDO 961 (2009 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your NORTON COMMANDO 961 (2009 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Engine: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Equipment: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Annual servicing cost: £250
3 out of 5 Sunday Sweetness
25 March 2024 by Tosh

Year: 2023

Annual servicing cost: £250

Great for a Sunday blast but not the bike for any distance. Marmite of a bike, need to test ride before committing to buy. Fantastic looks.

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5

For me the bars are too narrow, and they really need weights in the bars or rubber mountings to damp out the annoying / numbing vibrations which make your fingers tingle so bad after just 40mins riding. The steering lock is a joke, you would think with all the supposed testing someone would have said it's not good enough in this day and age. The tank cut-outs are too much for me too, you cant grip the tank properly. The engine is a lovely unit, almost too smooth as you don't get the raw feel which I associate with the old Norton, also it needs a higher top gear ratio to help cruising speed.

Engine 4 out of 5

Lovely and smooth almost too smooth, needs higher top gear ratio, great for mid range overtaking though.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

It is a beautiful bike with quality fittings and fixtures but I have not put enough miles on to say what the reliability is like yet.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5

Got everything you need for a Sunday blast.

5 out of 5 THE SF featured in the MCN review IS £16495. The base Sport model has the £14k price tag
03 November 2015 by STEVO

Version: SF Mk 2

Year: 2015

Cool Retro

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

I never give top marks

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5 Not a pocket rocket
02 September 2015 by Iain Mason

Version: Sport

Year: 2014

It's a great looking bike with the performance from a bygone era,it takes time to get into its zone but given quiet country roads at 60-70mph in third and fourth it's a peach.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

If you are an iron butt you can run the tank dry ,about 180 miles

Engine 4 out of 5

1960s performance with to-days quality and reliability, and not a single drop of oil on the lounge floor.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

The only slight issue I have had is with the gearbox ,when accelerating hard in fourth and changing up to fifth it does not always engage properly.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Bought the bike second hand in July 2015, I have only done 2000 miles on it (total mileage 3500).

Equipment 5 out of 5

Looks great ,I could spend all my time looking at it.

Buying experience: From a dealer £13495 price as advertised and paid

5 out of 5 Commando 916 - Sex on a Stick
18 January 2011 by

I ordered a new Commando as soon as I could. Having got the bike and put a few miles on it before the weather really struck, I am very pleased with it. It rides well and as an old diehard put it: "That's motorcycle porn that is". The negative comments here are purile, clearly from people who don't understand what the bike represents. You are not going to get a hand built motorcycle for £7-8k - wake up and smell the coffee. Oil leaks, nope, sorry to disappoint Mr 'Mark My Words'. The world is full of miserable negative people, unfortuatly some of them ride motorcycles and leave comments which are factually incorrect. I've been riding bikes since the 60s and have gone through British, Italian, Japanese, German and American bikes. I am seriously chuffed to be riding British Iron. What Bird1050 says is quite right, the moment someone does something good in this country, someone with a chip on his/her shoulder has to start slagging it off. What Garner and his team at doing at Norton is nothing short of fantastic. In the world of mass produced plastic bikes the new Norton stands out from the crowd, and no one who has seen the bike has had a bad thing to say about it or the Company. Good luck to the Norton Motorcycle Company, I would like to think that this is the start of a long successful celebrated business. As for the neggies, move on sonny - nothing to see here. Steve H

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
Back to top