“Hand-built at Donnington Hall — England”
By Mark Turner of Blacktop Media.
Norton Motors Ltd (now called Norton Motorcycle Co) was founded in 1898 in Birmingham, UK. Originally a manufacturer of fittings and parts for the two-wheel trade, by 1902 Norton had begun manufacturing their own motorcycles and the rest, you know.
Norton have had a tumultuous journey. Such a rich vein of heritage and racing success, tempered with a chequered, cash-strapped corporate history. Various owners have tried and failed to make a success of the marque. In 2008, Stuart Garner became the new owner and since then, Norton have developed a series of very cool motorcycles. The Dominator and Commando have been in the Norton range for some time and will now be joined by the V4SS/RR, Atlas and Superlight. V4SS and Atlas are supposedly currently in production (although V4SS deliveries are few and far between and I’m not sure if any Atlases have been delivered yet).
The current incarnation of Norton is steeped in controversy and rumours. Suggestions of financial misconduct, customers allegedly queueing up to get their deposits back for motorcycles that they ordered but seemingly will never receive, some resorting to legal action to get their deposits back, suppliers not being paid, CCJ’s and so on.
Despite the chaos, some customers have received their motorcycles and one such lucky customer is David who has taken delivery of a Norton V4SS.
David started riding at the tender age of 10, on his mate’s brother’s FS1E, across the fields of Scotland. As a kid he fondly remembers watching a neighbor wheel his old Norton 850 Commando out of his lock up and try, over and over, to start the thing, until it eventually fired in to life, filling the air with the heavenly sound and evocative smell of an old British four-stroke. That early memory was what got him hooked on Nortons.
When he was old enough to ride on the road, he got himself a Yamaha TY50 and was well and truly hooked. Over the years David has owned a string of bikes, including a CBR600FT, the iconic Triumph 955 Speed Triple, the legendary Ducati Monster 1100 Evo, a Ducati Diavel, a brutal Aprilia Tuono Factory, and BMW RnineT.
In 2016 David put his name on the list for the newly-unveiled Norton V4SS. The V4SS was promised to be a hand built motorcycle from the small UK manufacturer, that was set to rival the best exotica out there. At £42,000 it wasn’t going to be cheap, but with numbers limited to just 250, if they ever manage to make that many, it was certainly sure to be rare. Arguably a very sound investment too.
As is typical from Norton, the journey from concept to ownership hasn’t been a straightforward one. It took David just over 2 ½ years from placing an order to receiving the bike. There were more than a few occasions when he thought it would never happen, then, in June 2019, when he was at the end of his rope, it did.
And what a bike it is.
The engine is a 1200cc 72° V4 with 82mm bore x 56.8 stroke. It makes a claimed 214 bhp @ 12,500 rpm with 128 NM of torque at 10,000 rpm. Simply outrageous numbers for a road bike. It has all the goodies: titanium inlet valves, slipper clutch, 6 speed cassette gearbox and chain driven cams. The skeptics and rumour-mongers suggest it’s actually an Aprilia engine with Norton cases or something like that, as used in their TT race bike, but Norton are adamant it’s their own in-house developed engine.
Suspension is by Ohlins with fully adjustable NIX30 system front forks up front and TTXGP fully adjustable rear shock. David says the suspension is superb. He’s a fit guy and doesn’t carry any extra weight, but he felt he needed to soften it up a fair bit for the road. It’s firm but has excellent rebound and compression control. The suspension works best at speed, like the rest of the bike. It’s very focused and has quite a stiff chassis, not really designed for popping to the shops on.
Norton publish a wet weight of just 190kg (179kg dry), so as you can imagine, with 214bhp, the V4SS is breathtakingly fast. It produces 40bhp more than the sportbike benchmark BMW S1000RR at 8k rpm. It’s absolutely brutal.
David runs the full race exhaust system that comes with the bike. It’s titanium and is a thing of beauty. The engine is mapped accordingly and he says the power is surprisingly linear from 8k rpm on. It sounds like a full fat MotoGP bike too. Beaming like a demented mental patient, he says:
“It’s the most visceral biking experience I’ve ever had. So light to ride, corners like it’s on rails, goes like a scalded cat and sounds the nuts too.”
The dash is ultra cool with a full-colour 7-inch display with multiple functions. There are four rider modes: Road, Sport, Wet, Race. There’s a full colour rear view camera too, very sci-fi.
Norton have installed a full suite of electronics: Multi-setting traction-control, wheelie control using six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), launch control and even cruise control. Amazing for such a low volume manufacturer. There’s also a quickshift system and auto down blipper. In operation the electronics aren’t as polished as say Ducati or Aprilia but still, very impressive. Currently the race mode doesn’t work. Norton says it’s still being developed and will be updated at a later date…but we won’t hold our breath.
Full data logging is built in to the electronics on the V4SS: including: lap times, max lean angle, max speed, max throttle, and max braking force. Clearly a track focused bike from initial design to execution.
There’s no question that the finished article is a wild child. It’s utterly gorgeous, with carbon BST wheels, full carbon bodywork, a beautiful aluminium alloy frame and a host of stunning, hand-fabricated components such as fairing brackets, sidestand and so much more.
Who knows what the future holds for Norton, but one thing is for sure, the V4SS will become like a unicorn. A legendary, mythical creature that few have actually seen. I’m very lucky to have been able to see, hear, and photograph it– it’s just a shame I’ll never be able to afford one.
Rev Off: Ducati Scrambler 1100 vs BMW R nineT vs Norton V4SS
For the right money, she could be for sale.