Norton will be revealing their plans to produce a new family of 650cc parallel-twins at the Motorcycle Live this weekend. The brand will be launching two scrambler-styled bikes where one is catered more for the road and the other is more for the adventurous riders that want to rider on the dirt tracks.
“It started off life as half of the V4,” says Norton head of design Simon Skinner.
“We always knew we wanted to do a 650 parallel-twin to create a new range of bikes with a retro engine platform, and a high-performance platform, and a high-volume platform. And that would cover everything we want to do for the foreseeable future as a brand.
“The first bike that the 650 will appear in is a Scrambler type bike. The engine has been designed to have three power levels, with the top-end high-spec 175bhp supercharged version, then a normally aspirated high-performance version at 100bhp, the a low-powered one with just under 70bhp. It’s the same core 650cc parallel-twin engine with a 270-degree crank, which give it nice drive characteristic, a nice sound and a nice vibe – and matches the firing order of the Commando engine.”
“It’s a very lightweight, modern parallel-twin, so it’s not like a BMW or Kawasaki mid-capacity parallel-twin. This is literally half the V4, and by losing the rear bank of cylinders we can make the bike very short, very compact. It shares a lot of architecture with the V4 engine, the cylinderhead and valvetrain are all common. The engine is very versatile with what we can do with it, and has been designed to work across a range of applications and both steel and aluminium chassis.
“The first bike will be the Scrambler version, and that will use a steel trellis frame some aluminium bolt-on sections to give it more rigidity and stiffness. It still needs to be a lightweight bike, and a Norton, but I looked back at what Norton used to with P11s and other models back in the day, and the performance was always a step up from the competition, and that’s our goal. It need to be a proper Scrambler, not something that just looks the part. It needs to be capable, and it should be a proper giggle. This is about rideability, not trying to make an adventure tourer.
“It’s not going to be a cheap bike, but you’ve got to be able to ride it through mud, bash it about, drop it, and pick it up and carry on. It’s got to be a pure and honest bike that can do what it looks like it’s capable of doing.
“One of the stipulations for the design,” says Garner, “is that if I’m out greenlining or in a gravel pit mucking about and I drop it, I want to be easily able to pick it back up on my own and carry on with my ride. It has to be durable. It’ll all be honest, with items like the bash guard being able to do the job, rather than just being there for show. The bike should last a long time, because it’ll be made with proper components.”
“The chassis and geometry is all our own,” says Skinner. “The more off-road focussed version will get a longer swingarm for more capability off-road. We’re certainly intended to offer both versions from birth, a street scrambler version, then a more off-road capable desert racer. The rears will be 17in on both models, and the more road biased bike will get an 18 in front, while the more off-road bias one will get a 19in.
“The tricky part is getting the styling right. I’ve looked back through the old Norton models, and penned some designs with a lot of those traditional styling cues, and they just don’t look right on this. The hard part is paying homage to the heritage, without being old-fashioned, or retro – it’s got to be an authentic Norton, but it’s got to be modern.
“This is an everyday Norton,” says Garner. “It’s honest and faithful, and the sort of bike I’d use as an all-year-round ride. You can imagine someone buying the V4, then having this as their everyday bike – with switchable ABS and traction control – and that’s what it’s for. In volume terms, we expect this to be our biggest seller, and we’re targeting a £10k target for the base model and around £12k for the higher-spec version. And if this bike is a success, it’ll enable us to build the 650 sportsbike – hopefully within a year of the scrambler going on sale.”
Not to mention, the Scrambler model will be getting a sportsbike counterpart using the same 650 parallel-twin engine.