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Norton Dominator SS
One small step for man, one giant leap for Norton...
The 2016 Norton Dominator SS marks a significant step for Norton as it expands itís model range beyond the successful Commando 961 platform.
All Dominator SS models are hand built here at the Norton factory within the grounds of Donington Hall. They feature the famous Ďfeatherbedí styled chassis and the wonderfully hand crafted aluminium fuel tank. These components are all hand made on site by our skilled fabricators. Just a few of the components that make the Dominator SS a very special motorcycle indeed.
Ride past the grand Norton sign, and down the long driveway of the Norton factory at Donington and you step into their world.
A world of design, metal and love for the Norton brand that goes way beyond a badge on the tank of a motorcycle.
The factory at Donington Hall is always buzzing. Itís the home of the historic British brand and just walking in brings the Norton name to life.
In reception sits a Norton trials bike and a timeline of their
history from 1898, to more recent events like in 2008 when new owner Stuart
Garner bought the name.
The factoryís spares department looks over the work benches
where the bikes are assembled. Engineers in black Norton racing shirts pulling
together the new bikes before theyíre boxed, shipped and sent round the world.
The room is where the Isle of Man TT team spend 12 hour days trying to perfect the V4-powered TT racer and their ambitions of one day winning the prestigious Isle of Man TT race are born.
And then, round the corner is the ultra-rare Domiracer. Itís
Number 1 of 50 and the exact bike we rode last year, and ran up the hill at the
Goodwood Festival of Speed. The Goodwood scrutineering stickers still telling
the story of the weekend, where burnouts in front of the main grandstand where
the order of the day.
But weíre not here to ride this bike today. Weíre here to ride Number 1 in the production of the new Norton Dominator SS, the latest bike in a run of 50 for the UK, and a total of 200 SS versions to be built worldwide.
Itís a more production-ised version of the Domiracer sold last year. Though the basic silhouette is the same, dig deeper and the level of detail is not quite to the same level as the ornate brackets and finishing on the Domiracer, the spec is a bit lower. But itís still a stunning motorcycle and £24,000 as it sits in front of me.
Domiracers which were bought new for £24,000 (plus £2000 for a road homologation kit) and just one year on are already fetching between £38,000 and £44,000 in the used market. Thatís some investment.
The lads are attaching to the trade plate to the Dominator, then run it up on the dyno to check everything is in order before parking it outside and chucking me the keys.
If you were at Motorcycle Live last year then youíll already
know what an uncorked Norton 961cc motor through straight-through handmade pipes
sounds like. Itís a noise your hearing will ever forget. Pardon?
More sensible pipes are at least available, apparently. They have to be to meet noise limits and the law, but If you want sensible, then donít buy a limited edition homage to a sixties Cafť Racer. However, if you want an authentic old school experience but with the reliability of a modern motorcycle then step this way.
Thereís not a load of power, it only makes a claimed 80bhp after all, but thereís enough to be bowling along at 80mph on a sunny day, and still have plenty left in the tank. Itís crisp on acceleration and pops and bangs on the overrun just like it should.
It feels light and agile. Never too quick to steer but you can get it cranked over before the pegs, or those handmade head pipes touch down.
As it was a brand new bike, owned by Nortonís CEO, and Iíd
already left a small dent in the tank of the Domiracer previously when removing
an on-board camera, I never pushed it hard. But ride it quickly and the
Dominator is rewarding. Itís revving out about 8000rpm, and really thereís
little point in going above 6500rpm where power tails off.
The Brembo brakes too are high-spec and have a lovely feeling to them. Theyíre really progressive right until the point the front tyre will squeal if you try. Thereís no ABS, and it doesnít need it. Thereís not much weight to pull-up, and plenty of feel. This is pure motorcycling, sixties style but with modern kit and grippy Dunlop tyres too.
But as pleasant and defining as the Dominator is to ride, the way it looks is even more special. Park it anywhere and old men tell you about the time they had a Villiers/Triumph/Norton/BSA, and even kids stop and Snapchat it. Whatever that is.
The biggest difference between this and the Domiracer to the untrained eye is that the detailing isnít quite to the same obsessive level, but itís still a work of art.
From the machined top yoke, the black engine, the polished engine covers, the hand-laced spoke wheels, and that petrol tank which mimics original cafť racers right down to the angle of the fuel cap, the Dominator should be in a museum, or a film even.
With talk that it may be in the next James Bond film (it appeared in the back of a James Bond Instagram pic), we wouldnít be surprised, however Norton bosses refused to be pushed on the point. Weíll have to wait and see when Spectre appears later this year.
But for now, just sit back and admire that carbon seat unit complete with ripped Union Jack flag painted over the carbon fibre, and the carbon fibre airbox with #1 on the side. Itís a shame that I have to give it back.