Norton Featherbed frame info...
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Norton Featherbed frame info...

This is a discussion on Norton Featherbed frame info... within the General forums, part of the Caferacer.net Forums category; I'll confess right here I'm double-posting @BritBike, but I doubt all you guys go there so...featherbed frames have a big rep. for excellent handling, but ...

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  1. #1
    Junior Member koob's Avatar
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    Norton Featherbed frame info...

    I'll confess right here I'm double-posting @BritBike, but I doubt all you guys go there so...featherbed frames have a big rep. for excellent handling, but I've never been on one. I realize they are out-classed by modern sportbike frames, but these are not vintage(same with forks).Could some of you guys that have experience with featherbed frames, especially in regards to specials, tell me what they do or don't do better than other frames of the day? How do the repro featherbeds compare with the originals? I came across a pic. from the mid-ohio meet of a featherbed frame w/ Kawasaki 500 triple 2-stroke engine, wonder if that combo. cures the notorious ill-handling of the H1?Hoof-hearted?

  2. #2
    Senior Member o1marc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by koob View Post
    I'll confess right here I'm double-posting @BritBike, but I doubt all you guys go there so...featherbed frames have a big rep. for excellent handling, but I've never been on one. I realize they are out-classed by modern sportbike frames, but these are not vintage(same with forks).Could some of you guys that have experience with featherbed frames, especially in regards to specials, tell me what they do or don't do better than other frames of the day? How do the repro featherbeds compare with the originals? I came across a pic. from the mid-ohio meet of a featherbed frame w/ Kawasaki 500 triple 2-stroke engine, wonder if that combo. cures the notorious ill-handling of the H1?Hoof-hearted?
    Ah, yes it does. They didn't call the Hi & H2 "Widow Makers" for nothing (I have scars to prove it from my H1). The featherbed frame was designed in 1949 for the race bikes because of it's dual hoop design that made it incredible strong and therefore excellent handling on the racetrack. They claim there are 40' of tubing in a featherbed frame. While the Norton Manx was not the fastest bike around in the mid 70's it was still a world class handling bike. The H1 & H2 on the other hand were extremely fast for the times but their frame design was weak and cause tank slapping handling when made to corner under speed (mine was destroyed due to this). The solution for some was to graft the H1 or H2 motor into the Manx Featherbed frame and have the best of both worlds, an extremely fast motorcycle that actually handles. My brother owns a Kawaton, Kawasaki H2 750 in a Manx frame. My H1 motor went into a go kart.
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    Senior Member Hoofhearted's Avatar
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    Hey Marc. I saw a copy of the book "Century of Speed" today. The Metro is in it. Featherbeds. You won't find a finer handlng frame anywhere. Sportbikes are a different kettle of fish. The frame, suspension, tires etc are from a different sphere. Featherbeds came in three different types of tubing. Standard featherbeds were your basic mild steel. Internationals used a high carbon steel and the Manx frame was Reynolds (not to be mistaken for chromoly). All had the same wonderful handling characteristics.

    The nice part is the frame will hold just about anything. The only problem is a small engne will look lost in them. I'd love to see how the H1 looks in a featherbed. I saw a photo on another forum of someone putting an XS650 in a featherbed. Looks like shit. As a unit construction it is way too short. Even unit Triumphs look all wrong. But that's only my opinion. I should talk! I have a Weslake speedway engine in my Norton. Looks lost. But its fast (relatively).

    What do the do or don't do? They handle better than anything of the day and for many years after they ceased production. And when it comes to tube frames they are still the standard. Repro frames are every bit as good. If you have extremely deep pockets you can get in touch with Bakker Frambou in Holland. They can make you a featherbed in titanium. Around 15,000 euros. This is mine with a Weslake and the engine despite being a 500 it looks tiny. The other shot is when it had a Manx in it. Looks a whole lot better.



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    Senior Member o1marc's Avatar
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    Hoofhearted, was it just a pic or a story with it? I'll have to check it out and let Bob know.
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  6. #5
    Senior Member Hoofhearted's Avatar
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    It was a pic with a couple o sentences (speed etc.). Regardless its oh so cool to make it into the book.
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    Senior Member kenessex's Avatar
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    I raced a Triton owned and built by Randy Illg of Framecrafters, in the early 80's. It was very stable and tracked through the curves nicely.
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    Senior Member Geeto67's Avatar
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    Not all featherbed frames are created equal. Racing evolves and as such changes happen. There are a pretty standard list of "refinements" that go into a racing featherbed so you can't just pull an atlas frame out of the garage, shove an engine in, and expect it to be race competitive in this day and age.

    the nice thing s if you buy from a place like unity equippe the new frame will have all the standard racing mods.

    However, you don't need a featherbed to get an h1 to handle. You can do it with kawasaki parts. The frame you need is the 1976 kh500 frame. It's stronger than all other h1 frames.
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  9. #8
    Junior Member koob's Avatar
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    Thanks for replying guys.

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    Senior Member Geeto67's Avatar
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    if you haven't read this yet...this give you just enough information to be dangerous:
    The Vintagent: REX McCANDLESS AND THE FEATHERBED FRAME

    this is even more awesome:
    Yorkshire Ferret: The Anatomy of a 1954 Works Norton Featherbed frame


    Keep in mind a lot goes into the swingarm and forks as well. When the first featherbeds were designed norton roadholder forks were the best there were - but then there came ceriani/betor/marzocchi, and eventually we are up to modern cartridge forks. The swingarms started as oval tube, then tapiered tube, then box alloy.

    If you ask me, a featherbed is wasted on a triple. The kawi triple engine came from an era when motorcycling had mostly evolved beyond the f-bed and was really beginning to dial in the relationship between the swingarm pivot and the steering head.

    Also, while early h1's had the handling reputation, the 73-75 h1's were not as bad (they aren't great but none of the jap bikes from that era are all that great). A lot of it had to do with the open frame design in the rear on the early h1 (69-73) and the H2s (72-73) where the grab rail was actually a bolt on structural member of the frame.

    denco used to put out a bracing guide for the early frames:


    And then compare it to the H1R racing frame, you can see what's there to get one to handle:


    BTW, Harris performance will make you an H1R racing frame if you really want your kawi triple to handle:
    Gallery of Harris Road & Race Machines


    pay close attention to the other things that went into the racing bike. Wheels, forks, etc....nothing is bog standard on a racing manx or an h1r all that stuff is special.
    Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
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  11. #10
    Senior Member crazypj's Avatar
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    They are great to about 80~90hp, swing arm mounts flex a little when you put more power into chassis (not serious though)
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