New British bike: Norton Superlight targets TT victory

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Norton peeled the covers off yet another all-new bike at Motorcycle Live last week.

Hot on the heels of the first deliveries of their V4 SS superbike, and the unveiling of two new Atlas 650 models (the Nomad and Ranger) comes this gorgeous new 650cc Superlight.

Built to do battle in the wildly competitive lightweight class at the Isle of Man TT, the new Superlight is a thoroughbred race bike aimed at taking on the best in the world.

This isn’t a budget 600cc supersport replica, it’s the real deal – and that doesn’t come cheap. The Superlight will cost £19,950 and for that you’ll get a road-legal version of the bike you’ll see carving over the Mountain Course next summer with John McGuinness on board.

Don’t be fooled by the recent unveiling of the Atlas range of 650s, either. While the new Superlight shares an evolution of the same 650cc engine, everything else about it is separated by just a couple of genes from the firm’s £28,000 V4 RR.

“We’ve gone to town on this bike; it has all the high-end parts that the V4 has got,” says Simon Skinner, head of design at Norton. “It’s a razor-sharp road bike. This is a super-pure and fast sportsbike for the road. It’s like a modern RGV250 or RS250; it’s a purist’s bike. We wanted light weight, reasonable power, with great cross-country ability and super handling.”

You look familiar

The Superlight is a dream in carbon. Sharing near identical lines to the V4 RR and SS, it’s actually a marginally smaller bike in almost all dimensions, but not so much that your average biker would feel cramped by its focus.

The carbon fairings, cowl and tail unit are all aimed at making it cut through the air with the minimum of disruption. It also gets the new aero version of the front mudguard, which creates a much-improved airflow around the front wheel and into the radiators.

With only a little more than half the power of the V4, it’s details like this that make all the difference to its speed on the road. Even the carbon-kevlar tank is different from the V4’s, while you’d be hard-pushed to spot the difference and the capacity is the same 18 litres.

You’ve been framed

The frame is a near exact clone of the V4’s with concessions to the more compact nature of the parallel-twin 650, which is a shorter engine than the V4. The wheels are the same 7-spoke BST carbon fibre rims, while the rear is expected to wear a 190 Dunlop GP Racer D212, rather than the V4’s 200 section tyre.

The single-sided swingarm is identical to the V4’s, as are the fully-adjustable Öhlins NIX30 fork, bespoke TTXGP monoshock, and steering damper.

The Norton Superlight’s suspension is top-spec Öhlins

“The chassis is very similar to the V4,” says Skinner. “It’s aluminium, with similar stiffness and structural characteristics. Think of the Ducati 916 and 748; it’s the same sort of relationship between our V4 SS and the Superlight. The weight distribution is very similar to the V4, too. It also has an adjustable headstock angle and swingarm pivot point.”

Braking comes from the same Brembo M50 calipers as its big brother, biting onto 330mmm full floating Brembo discs – more than up to the job of hauling down its 158kg dry (circa 175kg kerb) mass.

Keeping control

The engine is a race-developed version of the 270-degree parallel-twin used in the new Atlas range. The changes result in a jump to 105bhp @ 12,500 (from 84bhp) and a fattening of the torque to a peak of 55ftlb. This is all brought about with the help of the cylinderhead from the V4.

That means titanium valves, and cams which deliver greater lift and duration, a higher compression ratio, and new conrods and pistons, as well as different throttle bodies. It boasts the same electronics package as the superbike, meaning a 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) which controls everything from the multi-mode traction control to the ABS, quickshifter and autoblipper, anti-wheelie and launch control.

It also has keyless ignition, and the same 7in TFT dash as the V4, and three modes: Road, Sport and Pro-race. There will also be a full titanium race system that releases another 6bhp at peak, while lopping 6kg off its mass. Obviously, that’s only for race use only, officer.

The Norton Superlight has the same 7in full colour dash as the V4 RR superbike

Racing pedigree

The bike will make its debut at the TT in 2019 and, if it can perform in line with the expectations aroused by the spec sheet, this will be the bike to beat on the island.

“On paper it sounds good and in reality it looks good,” says John McGuinness. “I’m super excited. It’s a awesome looking thing and I commend them for making it, but the proof will be in the pudding when it gets on the race track. It’s generating a lot of attention and the figures and facts around the bike look very good. It’s what the Lightweight class needs.”

Norton Superlight highlights

  • Öhlins suspension and BST carbon wheels
  • 650cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine
  • 105bhp / 55ftlb
  • 158kg (dry)
  • 824mm seat height
  • £19,950 (road spec)

Norton’s order book is open now, with delivery expected to start in late summer 2019.