5 Jul 2011

Norton Commando rebuild, work in progress

At the beginning of this year I entered this post, entitled a New Year's bike resolution.


Well, this resolution is getting pretty close to being realised, so I made a trip to the Chatokhine workshop near Chartres last weekend to see the work in progress.

The first stage to rebuilding is stripping things down:

Here Frank Chatokhine (left) explains to me (centre) and his father Roland what is going on. In the background is the new front wheel freshly respoked on an Akront alloy rim and with a modern disc brake on it. The great thing about true crafstmen like the Chatokhines is that they discuss every stage with you in detail. They not only love motorcycles, they also treat their customers as if they were themselves.

Here is a close-up of the new front caliper and mount from Norvin. This, combined with a Grimeca master cylinder, should improve things up front a bit. It has also necessitated a modified mudguard, as the original stays will not go around a caliper set behind the forks.

Stopping the bike is fine and quite essential, but you have to get it going in the first place. So electronic ignition has been fitted, well under the tank and away from water ingress. This shot also shows the new Norvil production racing head steady, to keep the engine a little bit tighter in the frame than the original softer one.

A possibly more simply aesthetic change has been the fitting of these twin K and N air-filters to the Amals, as I dislike the big boxy air-filter that is standard on the Commando. You purists should rest assured though as I have kept all the original parts and the whole thing can be put back as it was. Frank is very careful not to cut or weld on the frame or its attachments. He makes fittings that can be removed. 

The filter box removal has necessitated moving the contact switch to below the battery box, which Frank has achieved neatly by making up a bracket which bolts onto the battery pan, so avoiding welding or cutting. It has been painted to match the frame, which is a non-standard grey that I had done at the last rebuild.

Work in progress on the right hand side. Still to come are the rearsets, which are also Norvil production racing items (see below). On the left is the bracket that used to hold the ignition coils (now removed in favour of the electronic system).

Roland Chatokhine, Frank's father, and one of his rides (12 years old, the ride, and looks like new). Roland held the Ducati concession in Chartres, way back when Ducatis were only singles. He was also the French importer for Norton and Velocette even further back.

Frank and Roland investigate my Ducati Multistrada. Frank owned one too and says it is one of the bikes that he regrets. He had just become a father for the second time that morning. Welcome to the young lady.

Above is the place to go if you want fine craftmanship and a true love of motorcycles.
Below is another place nearby (Chartres Cathedral) where one can go to see other aspects of craftsmanship

all photos by AK

Soon be on the road with this project I hope. Will get you the pictures and a road test then.


  1. You are at the good address!, Roland has rebuilt my BSA engine 28 years ago, it was expensive for me, but what a pleasure during fifteen years! I sold the BSA for my actual Commando...
    Bienvenue au club!

  2. Thanks Vincent. These people know their work and like it. It has been a pleasure dealing with them from the beginning. Hope to have the Commando running in the Gers this summer!

  3. ok! Rendez vous at Lectoure 22/23/07 festival Photo, we have an exhibition there...

  4. Sounds good. When I am down there, I am 25 kms or so from Lectoure.