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NORTON COMMANDO 961 Mk II (2015-on) Review

Published: 30 October 2015

The 961 SF Mk II is all about refinement

NORTON COMMANDO 961 Mk II (2015-on)

The 961 SF Mk II is all about refinement

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

The 961 SF Mk II is all about refinement. The original 961, though characterful and desirable, was also fairly crude. Five years have improved that tremendously, particularly with the transmission. In the flesh, although the basic elements of the bike are the same, it is noticeably updated (particularly the brakes and seat), the new Titanium grey colourscheme is mature and classy and it is also conspicuously more refined in terms of build quality and finish over the early ‘MkI’ bikes. Better, classier, an unchanged price and Norton itself more established, suddenly a 961 doesn’t seem the leap of faith it once was.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

From the saddle, though respectably light and lithe, the 961 is a fairly big, roomy roadster with a pleasing view ahead over classic twin dials.

Stability, steering (bar a slightly restricted steering lock) and manageability are all intuitive and natural; the posh suspension and brakes, classy and effective. All of which leaves you to focus on the heart of the matter: the drive and delivery of that big Norton twin.

Wind it above four thousand rpm and it’s truly invigorating and a joy. It doesn’t take long to realise how good it is through the turns. The steering is accurate and reassuring, the suspension and brakes more than capable of handling twice as many horses plus it’s stable, planted and just good fun.

Engine 4 out of 5

Norton’s pushrod twin has evolved significantly since 2010 so many of these changes were introduced up to 18 months ago. However, the MkII, compared to the 2010 original, now has: die (rather than sand) cast crankcases etc; Nikasil (rather than steel)-lined cylinders; an uprated crankshaft (all of which improve running and reliability) plus a significantly updated gearbox, with new bevel-cut gears to improve shifting and reliability. The engine is now also available with black-finished barrels and/or head.

As before the 961 starts with a slightly reluctant shudder and low down the big push rod twin is mechanically lumpy, jarring almost, and a touch hesitant. Above that out on the open road, however, the improving refinement shines through.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

The Mk II has been notably updated to the bike it is superseding and, while the original 2010 961 Commando wasn’t a bad machine by any standard, the Mk II build on the original’s successes and is more refined in both build quality and finish over the Mk I machines. 

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

Owning a Norton is like joining an exclusive club, they’re not mass-produced bikes that are shipped out from massive factories, it’s a lovingly hand crafted and exquisite piece of machinery that commands respect. As such, the relatively high asking price seems far more justified and its resale value makes it a worthy investment.

Equipment 4 out of 5

The 961 SF and Café Racer variants have always been fitted with top notch suspension and brakes and as these have improved, they’re now fitted to the MkII versions which feature the latest radially-mounted Brembo Monobloc calipers, now finished in graphite, compared to the gold two-piece radial Brembos fitted to earlier versions. The Mk II also has the latest, more compact, Brembo brake and clutch master cylinders.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2015
Year discontinued -
New price £14,495
Used price £12,200 to £16,500
Warranty term -
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £88
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 79 bhp
Max torque 66 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption -
Tank range -
Specification
Engine size 961cc
Engine type 4v pushrod parallel twin
Frame type Tubular steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Seat height 813mm
Bike weight 188kg
Front suspension Ohlins
Rear suspension Ohlins
Front brake Radially-mounted Brembo Monoblocs
Rear brake -
Front tyre size -
Rear tyre size -

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