We admire ambitious plans here at BSN. And we’ve not seen anything much more ambitious than this – Norton’s new V4 SS/RR superbike. A 200bhp, 179kg, 1200cc sports weapon, with handmade chassis, top-spec running gear, and an all-new, bespoke engine, designed and built in-house. For a firm that’s currently selling bikes using an ancient motor from the annals of the British bike industry, it’s a massive leap forwards.
Of course, the Norton folks have been building impressive race bikes of late – as seen blasting round the IOM TT course at an enormous rate of knots. But those machines all used an Aprilia RSV4 motor – a far simpler proposition. Because designing and building engines is hard. Bastard hard. It takes loads of cash and time and the brainpower of loads of clever people. Coming up with a basic design that makes the power you want it is hard enough. Working out how to build it as economically as possible is another step. Then you have to make sure it lasts a decent length of time – 50k miles? 100k? You need to test the motor to the limits, and see if anything wears or breaks before it should. Does the camchain tensioner rattle at 20k? Do the rocker covers warp in the heat of a Spanish summer? Do the valve stem oil seals you’ve specced keep going at the peak rpm your design needs?
Much of this is basic stuff – but having loads of corporate experience helps massively. Knowing that your engineers developed a new camchain tensioner design a few years back, for example, and you can just use that, saves you months of development time and effort. Add in emissions compliance, setting up a spare parts supply chain, plus a thousand other mundane boxes to tick, and you can see why very few small-scale bike builders decide to make their own powerplant.
The proof of all this is shown by how hard even big, rich firms like Ducati and BMW work to get every last ounce of profit out of an engine design. They’ll put the same lump in a sportsbike, a naked bike, an adventure bike – a bloody scooter or a jet ski if they can get away with it. BMW’s S1000 inline-four hasn’t made it into a scooter as yet, but it’s used in four major models. Meanwhile, Ducati’s new 937cc V-twin powers the Multistrada 950, Supersport 939, Hypermotard 939 and Hyperstrada 939 – and don’t be surprised to see it powering more bikes in coming years.
Having said all that – Norton looks to be deadly serious about this project. They’ve got legendary British engine developing consultancy Ricardo involved –and that’s a good sign. They’re also making all the right noises about using the latest tech for design and manufacture: it’s fair to say that modern computer design and advanced prototyping techniques have made this sort of thing far easier than in the past. For example, 3D printing a rocker cover to check the fit and design is a breeze now, and you can get it right in plastic form very cheaply before investing stacks of cash in a load of metalwork.
Away from the engine, we reckon the rest of the project is very achievable for the firm. Small-run production of things like machined aluminium swingarm and frame components is straightforward enough – and the firm has plenty of experience here. Bolting on the best suspension and brakes from Öhlins and Brembo is a matter of ordering the right bits and paying the invoice when it comes in. And even the advanced electronics listed on the spec is less of an arduous task than it used to be: Bosch provides a turnkey service to every bike manufacturer on Earth these days, and it can give you an IMU-based traction control/ABS/rider aids package that’s very close to production-ready, almost off-the-shelf. Stuff like wheelie control, launch control, engine brake settings and power modes are simply more lines of code in the ride-by-wire ECU software – and Bosch has done enough of this stuff now to be able to provide a small firm with a very good solution at a reasonable price.
Norton’s customers are clearly convinced mind. The firm says the first 200 ‘SS’ bikes are already sold off the order book, at a beefy-but-not-totally-insane £44,000. The SS will be followed by an ‘RR” version that’s a bit cheaper at £28,000, and has a less lavish spec list.
See the new Norton V4 at the NEC Motorcycle Live bike show from tomorrow – and let us know what you reckon! More info: www.nortonmotorcycles.com
Type: Norton 72-degree liquid-cooled V4, 1200cc. Chain-driven cams with idler gear for reduced engine height. Titanium inlet valves. Slipper clutch
Bore x Stroke: 82mm x 56.8mm
Compression Ratio: 13.6:1
Power: 200bhp + @ 12,500rpm
Torque: 130Nm @ 10,000rpm
Fuel injection: Electronic fuel-injection system. Constantly variable inlet tracts. 8-fuel injectors. Full drive-by-wire system independent of front and rear banks of cylinders for ultimate control and feel.
INSTRUMENTS: Full-colour 7-inch display with multiple functions. Engine mode adjustability including: Road, Track and Pro-Race. Road modes include rear-view camera.
ELECTRONIC AIDS: Multi-setting traction-control, wheelie control, launch control and cruise control. Uses six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), datalogging function, power modes: Road, Sport, Pro-Race, up- and down- quickshifter
FRAME: Polished aluminium twin tube Shotgun chassis.
ADJUSTABLE GEOMETRY: Chassis is fully-adjustable including swing arm pivot and adjustable rake angle. 23.9 degree steering head angle as standard set-up.
DRY WEIGHT: 179kg
FRONT SUSPENSION: Öhlins NIX30 system front fork. Fully-adjustable.
REAR SUSPENSION: Öhlins TTXGP Norton bespoke fully-adjustable rear shock.
STEERING DAMPER: Öhlins damper
WHEELS: Choice of carbon or forged wheels depending on spec
FRONT BRAKE: 2 x 330mm full-floating discs. Radially-mounted Brembo Monobloc calipers. Brembo discs, and Brembo master cylinder
REAR BRAKE: Single 245mm disc. Brembo caliper and master-cylinder
BODYWORK & STYLING: Full-carbon-fibre bodywork. Available in either bare carbon-fibre, or chrome with Union flag.
LIGHTING: Full LED lighting system
FUEL TANK: MotoGP-style 18-litre fuel tank is all carbon-fibre, with Kevlar reinforcement and chemically coated internally to meet fuel resistance standards. Underside of tank forms part of upper airbox.
FOOTRESTS: Billet foot rests, billet pedals and billet sprocket cover supplied on SS model. Forged foot controls on the V4 RR.