Last September, When Florent told me about a family Commando to restore, despite the mountain of personal projects, i said " bring it and show me that bike !".
Immediately I saw a potential and original work to do for the long winter coming...
Text by Florent Graglia
I remember when i was 13, my dad an I crossed France to admire Valentino Rossi’s curves at Paul Ricard GP, the Doctor ran in 250cc, and Doohan won all races in 500cc. At that time, I ignored, or maybe i had not conscience, that about 20 years earlier my dad was part of the motorcycle spirit golden age of the french riviera and drove motorcycles like Ducati Desmo, Norton Atlas or the famous Commando.
So, this 750 commando belonged to my dad, who rode it from 1975 to 1982. Then, when my big brother born, this bike was parked in a garage in the back country from Nice, in south east of France. Thus, the bike slept there about 28 years... till i decide to reconquer it in 2011.
One year before, Christmas 2010, i said to myself «holly shit, that legendary bike is there, sleeping for almost 30 years, and it’s my legacy! I have to do something». At that time, i was finishing my studies, but i never stopped thinking at the commando. September 2011, degree in pocket , i had enough time to bring the motorcycle back in Toulouse, my hometown.
The beginning of the story starts here, when i went to Nice with the help of my little brother. Let’s go for a ride of 1200 km in two days. My first impression when we discovered the bike was not so good : after so many years, rust ant saltpeter lived on the motorcycle. But who cares? we will find a solution, and the name of this solution was Vincent.
A little bit earlier, several questions came to me, the most important was of course : «who will make the restoration work?». I didn’t have the knowledge (and tools!) to do it on my own, but the light came of itself. A good friend of mine, and colleague too, said to me «call Vincent, he’s crazy about old fashionned mechanical, he will help you». So i began to think, i didn’t know that man, i couldn’t call him and say «hey dude, i’ve got a 1973 norton commando to restore, can you do it for me?». In an other side i had no many other options.. The other one was to let the bike to a professional restorer, pay and wait.
In my mind, i wanted more than that because i desired to know what was the feeling of making that bike reborn. So i took my courage in both hands and i called Vincent. Since this precise call in september, he’s still talking about commando and i’m waiting for the end of the discussion! Like a big brother, Vincent offered me his services an we began to work on the bike in his shed which i call «the lab’».
Since the beginning, i could notice that Vincent was a bit excited by this motorcycle, for differents reasons in my opinion. First, he knows this bike very well because he owns the same and secondly, i think he saw in that bike the potential of making something a bit different than an integral restoration because we decided not to restore the bike as the original one, exploiting the café racer spirit already existing.
We began the job in december, at week end. Long afternoons, disassembling, polishing, reassembling, drinking bears, speaking about everything and more than everything...
When we opened the engine, good news were that the cylinders were in good condition and cylinder-head was a «racer production», giving more power to the engine. Finally, getting that motorcycle start again was quite easy because it has not so much ridden in the past. No big parts were changed inside the engine during the restoration. The most important part of the work consisted in «refreshing» the motorcycle, and bringing ameliorations to that old mechanical.
I have to thank Julien too, because he did a lot on that bike and helped generously when i was injured with my broken arm. I have to confess that i more looked Vincent and Julien work on that motorcycle than i actually worked on it.
Finally we reached to the goal, kick that bike again! I can’t really describe the feeling i had the first time i rode it. I made a jump 37 years back in the past, when my dad bought this motorcycle and rode it over the mediterranean roads, carrying my mother in the steep paths of Nice backcountry. The music i heard escaping from exhausts transported me through ages. All that bike thrilled between my legs and i was just happy. Proud too, because we started a project not so easy, asking for time, with traps, and Vincent knew how to elude them. And now, now.. we all must keep dreaming and go forward to make more projects which gather people and friendship, so : support the impossible team!