10 things motorcycle enthusiasts forgot about the Norton F1

The Norton F1 is a unique and exclusive hand-built rotary engine superbike. The rotary motorbike gets more addictive the more you ride it, but it’s quite hard to get your hands on it today. Only 140 Norton F1s were built, and they come in a single livery: black with gold decals. The Norton F1 is based on the RCW588 racing bike, which helped the British motorcycle manufacturer to huge success on the track.



The Norton F1 then morphed into the F1 Sport before production ended in the mid-1990s. As the Norton F1 slips further down the annals of history, here are 10 things you may have forgotten about the rotary motorcycle.

Related: Here’s What Everyone Forgot About Norton Motorcycles

ten British Superbike Championship and Isle of Man TT win

Due to a combination of bad decisions, slow innovation and fierce competition, Norton was strapped for cash in the 1970s and struggling to stay afloat. So when Brian Crighton – the engineer who worked on improving the Wankel engines – approached Norton management, he initially got no support.

However, in 1987 it got the nod from Norton management and soon after the Norton F1 RCW588 won the British Formula 1 championship in 1989 and the Senior Isle of Man TT race in 1992. Birmingham-based also won the British Superbike Championship in 1994.

9 1989 Norton F1 Rotary pre-production prototype

Prior to production of the Norton F1 from 1990 to 1991, the British motorcycle manufacturer built five pre-production Norton F1 Rotary prototypes in 1989 to log actual test miles. The Norton F1 prototypes were made to see how reliable the bike is for street use.

Since the prototypes cannot be sold for public use, after testing was completed they were all destroyed except for one, which was later auctioned off.


8 Twin Rotor Wankel Engine

The Norton F1 is powered by a 588cc liquid-cooled twin-rotor Wankel engine with 94hp and 60lb-ft of torque. Choosing a Wankel engine over a piston engine for the Norton F1 means it will have a higher power-to-weight ratio, no alternate parts, imperceptible vibrations and less sensitivity to engine knock.

The 1990 Norton F1 completes a quarter mile in 12.47 seconds and tops out at 155 mph. The F1 has superior breathing but is just a bit slower than the Honda CBR600F.

Related: The Wankel Engine Is The Almost Sports Car Hero

seven Five-speed Yamaha gearbox

The Wankel engine works in conjunction with a Yamaha five-speed transmission which is smooth, but in all honesty the gears aren’t exactly the best for the Norton F1’s 95bhp. The gearbox is more suitable for the Yamaha FZR1000, which produces 125 hp.

However, it’s no exaggeration to say that you’ll be thrilled just listening to the exhilarating sound effects coming from the Norton F1’s intake and exhaust. That said, separate oils are required for the 5-speed gearbox and the primary drive, so both should be replaced when servicing.

6 The racing version of Norton F1

The Norton RCW588 is the racing version of the F1 and was developed in 1987. It used the code name RC588 until 1989 before being renamed RCW588 after some updates. At first, the Norton RCW588 ran on an air-cooled Wankel engine and later switched to a water-cooled version.

When other motorcycle manufacturers used 2 or 4 lejang engines, Norton had the audacity to use a rotary engine with a capacity of 588 cc. The twin-rotor motor develops 135 horsepower and 78 lb-ft of torque.

5 F1 Sport “TT”

The F1 Sport dubbed the “TT” was born as a way to use unchangeable parts originally purchased for F1 production. But it is now considered the most sought after Norton Rotary model of all time. Finding one today won’t be easy, as Norton only built 70 F1 Sports before ceasing production in 1994.

The TT bike runs on a 35.88 cubic inch twin-disc Wankel motor that produces 95 horsepower. The F1 Sport can reach 143.5 mph before losing its breath.

Related: This Is Why Indian Bike Maker TVS Will Invest $125 Million In Norton Motorcycles

4 Precise handling

With a combination of WP suspension and a Spondon aluminum frame, the Norton F1 delivers precise and inspiring handling. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that the F1 looks more like a liter-class hyperbike than a small 588cc. The F1 is stable and quick in tight corners, but the steering isn’t as intuitive as a modern street bike.

The WP suspension is flexible for road use and stiff enough for track use. However, for a bike with a supposedly lightweight engine and alloy frame, the Norton F1 is surprisingly heavier than the Honda VFR750R and CBR600F.

3 A little expensive

Today, most modern middleweight roadsters can spin rings around the Norton F1, but back then it was comparable to the best bikes in Japan and Italy. The Norton F1 started at $15,063, which was well beyond the reach of most British motorcyclists in the 1990s.

However, at this price, the Norton F1 was a cheaper alternative to the Yamaha OW01, which cost around $16,244. Today, the Norton F1 is worth far more than ever, largely due to its rarity. Here’s a 1990 Norton F1 that sold at auction for $45,363 in 2020.

Related: These 10 Motorcycles Will Only Get More Expensive

2 No ABS

The F1’s triple Brembo setup matches its mass and momentum. The brakes don’t disappoint at high speeds, but the F1 lacks ABS, unlike the Honda ST1100 and Yamaha FJ1200. But the absence of ABS is understandable given that it was still a new safety invention at the time.

An ABS helps keep the bike upright by adjusting brake fluid pressure. Under heavy braking, ABS decreases stopping distance, and is particularly useful on slippery roads.

1 Spacious driving position

The Norton F1 offers the feel and convenience of a big sport bike, which is surprising given its compact nature. With a saddle height of 30 inches, shorter or taller riders will find it just tall enough to feel comfortable.

In addition, there is generous space between the handlebars and the rear footpegs. Whether you’re racing or cruising around town, the Norton F1 is designed to get you there in style and comfort.

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