HBC 910 L
The 1972 FIM on my yellow Matchless really sold me on the idea of summer FTing. I signed up for the 1973 IMTC partitour to Portugal prepared to campaign the Matchy once again but in the spring Noddy Muggleton made a visit to the club and declared that he needed to sell his almost brand new Fastback Norton Commando to the first person to put £400 cash in his hand. Plenty of members expressed interest. Next day I went into the Refuge Assurance Company with my life policy in hand and came out with the cash. Later the same day I was the proud owner of a blue metalic Fastback Commando with Combat engine.
The first thing I noticed about the bike was how l o o ong it was. The speedo seemed to be miles in front of me. The second thing I noticed was how much slower everyone else was driving ... until I looked at that far away speedo and realised I was going 20mph faster than usual!
For the 1973 Portugal trip I fitted the Craven panniers off the Matchy. They were painted blue to match a little better and were mounted sideways to avoid the exhaust from the upturned silencers.
The Portugal tour was even better than the trip to Yugoslavia. What can be better than having your first taste of melon in the shade of mountain pinewoods? Or eating fruit from an iced jar overlooking the Atlantic? Or sipping foaming cerveja on a balmy evening close to a glowing monastery? The relaxed days on the Commando contributed a lot to the pleasure.
The following year the Commando was fitted with an Avon fairing for a trip to the Costa Brava with Mick and Helen Ayriss on their World Record Commando. Dave Scrivens was intending to take his proddy racer T150 Trident but some bastard had it out of his garage one night. So the tour was made two up. The bike was fitted with a 2mm thick aluminium head gasket to reduce the compression ratio for cheap continental fuel. On the way home, blasting up a long and steep hill, the gasket squeezed out like jam from a butty. Luckily Mick Ayriss carried a spare and apart from the heat of the midday sunshine there was no problem fitting it.
Dave Scrivens enjoyed his turn to drive on the mountain roads of Andora. I was surprised the Avon fairing had any fibreglass underneath it by the end of the bends.
The Commando was THE bike for FTing, smooth, powerful and beautiful handling - until the Isolastics needed shimming.
The Fastback tank was replaced by an Interstate tank and a single carburettor manifold from Gander and Gray extended range to over 300 miles. An Interpol front mudguard improved wet weather protection even more. I think Dave Smith still has the manifold on his Commando.
The Commando really showed its mettle on the 1975 Lublin FIM Rally with the IMTC.
On a club run into Wales the Commando developed a bit of a rattle but seemed to be running OK. We stopped for fuel at a tiny garage with attendant service from a little wooden kiosk between the pumps. While the others stopped at the pumps I pulled alongside the kiosk and pulled the Commando onto its centre stand without realising that was what was rattling - it had broken in half. Only the leg my side went down and as soon as I let go the Commando toppled over demolishing the kiosk. Damn good job the attendant wasn't still inside.
On an autumn Tuesday night I was returning home after RAC/ACU training when it began to rain lightly. Usually I would turn towards home on the Newton Road which is more direct but a little bendy with farm entrances that spread mud onto the road. I decided that in the interests of safety I would take the A50 to Kilby. As I past the Navigation Inn at Kilby Bridge a Ford Transit suddenly made a U-turn from the nearside verge. That was the end of the Commando and damn near the end of me. I now point north due to metal parts.