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12th February 2007

Across Canada on a 1962 Norton Dominator 88
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Last year, RC readers John and Lizzie Powell undertook a monster ride across Canada on a classic bike in aid of their favourite charity. So how did the Dommi cope with the trek?

When John and his pillion Lizzie were left a bequest, they decided that the best way to spend it was to take the ride of a lifetime and - hopefully - to raise some money for their favourite charity along the way.

So last summer they took their 1962 Norton Dommi 88 across Canada, starting at Vancouver in May and heading to finish at Halifax in late July. All this was in aid of Fundukuphila -- a pre-school charity at Natal in South Africa.

Saskatchewan. That's easy for John and Lizzie to say.

John's Norton started life as a standard 497cc Slimline Dommi. When built in 1961 it would have output roughly 30bhp - these day it might be a fair bit less! And you can't just leap onto a 45 year old bike and aim to travel across an entire continent without preparing the motorcycle first. So here's how John equipped his Dominator for the big trip:

  • Kept the 6v electrics but fitted 6v halolgen 35/35 watt headlamp bulb

  • The carburettor is 1 1/16" bore off a Model 99 (600cc version), jetted for the 99

  • Original timing side cover with internal oil pressure relief valve was replaced by the type used earlier, and later, with an external pressure valve

  • Magnetic sump plug with small central drain plug

  • Inline oil filter fitted

  • Hagon rear suspension units replaced

  • Fitted a twin leading-shoe front brake from Norvil (the one without an air scoop)

  • Upgraded the rear brake with Norvil stiffening

  • Brake and clutch cables heavy-duty nylon lined

  • Fitted a luggage rack

  • Initially used the original distributor ignition, but later switched to encapsulated alternator stator

  • Car type capacitor fitted external to distributor

  • The battery is the hard rubber type normally fit externally on older machines. John says; 'I find these give vastly better battery life than with the "see-through" plastic types.'

  • Fitted conical / tapered steering head bearings

  • For weather protection, fitted an Avonaire dolphin fairing. Although not originally off this machine, it is from a Featherbed Norton.

  • Added flashing turn signals

  • Fitted an additional cycle type speedo fit - set to read in kph

  • Random Dominator Stuff on

    After all that you would hope that the Norton survived reasonably intact - and it did. Says John; 'She did all but 15 miles or so in the U-Hail-It truck at Ottawa under her own steam. There were only two breakdowns and the causes were very minor (the diagnosis were difficult, though). Fuel consumption was 70mpg or more, all the way, cruising at 100ph. The tyres held out for the whole trip, but two final drive chains were used due to the heat, dust, gravel and mud, hail, and lightning. The only additional modification I should have made, and did not prior to the trip, was to fit some kind of air filter to the carburettor.

    Lakeside stop, near Jasper.

    'A comfortable speed for cruising two-up and fully loaded was around 60-65mph. She sounded fine even going faster but that could be cruel over long distances!

    John and Lizzie were on their second cup of coffee by the time the Norton dragged itself out of bed and down to breakfast.

    'Everywhere we went we found the nicest people you could hope to meet. We don't know exactly how many miles we covered on the whole trip but it must be more than 5000. We ended a lot nearer to home than where we started from!

    'At the end Lizzie looked a bit wan -- but she was still smiling…'

    There's More!

    You can read John's blog and find lots more details about his trip at


    There's also a link so you can donate to his nominated charity, too

    And Even More!

    The full story of John and Lizzie's adventure appears in print in the March 2007 issue of RealClassic magazine (RC35). You'll be able to buy that issue online in April, or you can subscribe to the mag straight away and have it delivered to you as soon as it's printed…
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