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#865631 12/08/21 3:46 pm
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MikeG Offline OP
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I have very little experience with lacing wheels and less in truing them. The few times I've needed it done I have either farmed the whole job out or laced it myself after cleaning and refurbing the hub and having a local shop true it. I did this with my Commando rim last time and it's always been offset (to my eye) far too much to the left side. Was reading in Roy Bacons resto book last night and he mentioned that offset is measured in relation to everything in place, brake drum, spacers, and speedo drive with rim either centered or offset to specs to the total. When I took mine in for truing all he had was the hub and I'm wondering if it was centered to the spoke flanges rather than the total width of everything on the axle and if this is why the rim appears too far left? The shop that did it is gone now so I can't go back and ask.


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Regardless of what the previous guy did you want to get it right. Front wheels are easy as they are just centered in the forks. Rear wheels are more of a challenge. You need to establish a good reference line to determine the center line for the bike. You can do it with a level and string line to set a line parallel to the frame top tube. The frame has to be accurately vertical. I have just hooked a string to the steering damper stem and then eyed it as centered on and parallel to the frame tube when stretched to the rear of the bike. If you don't want to remove fenders and other encumbrances you'll need to transfer the line to the ground (bike on a flat, level surface). Once you have a good reference line it is not too hard to determine if your rear wheel is in line. You might be able to do this whole process easier with a laser level but I'm not that high tech.


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Open a can of worms!

For the stock WM2-19, part number 06-7712 chrome rim, used in the Commando rear, Central wheel uses 3/16" from the brake side face of the rear cush hub to the edge of the rim. Their 07-7712 WM2-19 rim outside width measures 2.75".

Conundrum:
• The width of the Central Wheel WM2 rims measure 2.750 inches. Others vary as much as .250 inches.
• Norton experts cannot agree on the offset of the swing arm. Some say 1/8" others 1/4", etc.
• Norton frames bend easily and are rarely perfectly straight.
• Some people give measurements to the center line of the rim, others to the outside edge.
• Experts like Roger at RGM will give you measurements taken from wheels he has that often give you 2 or 3 different dimensions.
• To make things worse I have seen rims currently being sold where the width of the folded edge is different from one side to the other. This means you could get the outside of the rim centered and the tire offset wrong. Go figure!
• Even the Norton Owners Club has its own Wheel offset commitees with wildly different opinions. https://www.nortonownersclub.org/support/technical-support-Commando/wheel-offsets

You did not say which wheel you have. These offset figures will vary with different models, manufacturer of the rim.

If you bike tracks well and doesn't pull to either side measure the outside width of the existing rim and the offset from a fixed point on the hub and use this figure to make any adjustments (caused by replacement rims different outside width).

Or make you measurement to the rim's centerline (often not as easy to determine than the out side edge.

Or if you are anal about this contact a shop like:
https://www.computrackboston.com/Motorcycle-Frame-Straightening-s/3003.htm

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[quote=John Healy]Open a can of worms!

For the stock WM2-19, part number 06-7712 chrome rim, used in the Commando rear, Central wheel uses 3/16" from the brake side face of the rear cush hub to the edge of the rim. Their 07-7712 WM2-19 rim outside width measures 2.75".
/quote]

Thank you John. This was my real question. I know the Commando has lots of variables when it comes to rear wheel centering, and I've seen the 3/16 figure quoted a lot, I just wondered what the datum point was as. Going by Bacons writings I can see where you could get it way wrong. Mine tracks OK but it looks wrong. I'll be digging in deeper this winter.

Last edited by MikeG; 12/08/21 6:29 pm.

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As Slowlearner mentioned; adjust the front so the rim is centred between the fork stanchions or a pointer through the steering stem lines up with a reference line on the rim centre.
The rear is more difficult, you cant go by the 3/16ths offset as there is too much variation from frame to frame. If you don't have access to a surface table you'll have to assume the swinging-arm axis is perpendicular to the steering head axis. With the inner chaincase removed, measure as accurately as you can from the swinging arm spindle centre to the rear wheel spindle centre and by adjustment of the rear wheel adjusters get the dimensions equal on each side and tighten the rear wheel spindle nut.
Next, using an engineers edge or string line from the rear wheel and with the front wheel rim parallel to the line/edge carefully measure any difference between the rim and reference line or edge. The dimension should be equal on each side, if not, by adjusting the spokes move the rear wheel rim as required to line up the wheels.

There's a few other things to check on a Commando rolling chassis which will affect wheel alignment including; swinging-arm alignment, 'free' position of front isolastic mount in relation to front frame mounting brackets, fork yokes.

P.S Just included before and after photos of a frame I recently corrected. A lot of Commando rear wheels are off line to the left as you describe yours and the one below.

IMG_0817 (1).JPG IMG_0864.JPG
Last edited by Chris the camper.; 12/08/21 9:16 pm.
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I think Chris has it right.

Best guarantee that both wheels are centered is to do both "in the frame."

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Quote
There's a few other things to check on a Commando rolling chassis

Or you could just buy a Triumph beerchug

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Originally Posted by John Healy
Quote
There's a few other things to check on a Commando rolling chassis

Or you could just buy a Triumph beerchug

No thanks, I couldn't stand the vibration. Triumph frames would have been just as badly made as Norton frames i.e hand bent tubing - to what tolerance?, bolted into one of several jigs - manufactured to what tolerance? and then welded together by different welders. So you can see the frames would vary from one to another. Assymetric front tyre wear is an indication of wheel and/or frame misalignment.

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Originally Posted by Chris the camper.
. Assymetric front tyre wear is an indication of wheel and/or frame misalignment.

Asymmetric tyre wear could just be that you go around more left corners than right.
Or vice versa. Or more enthusiastically. Or worn forks. Or brakes out of round.
Take care !!?

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Originally Posted by Rohan
Originally Posted by Chris the camper.
. Assymetric front tyre wear is an indication of wheel and/or frame misalignment.

Asymmetric tyre wear could just be that you go around more left corners than right.
Or vice versa. Or more enthusiastically. Or worn forks. Or brakes out of round.
Take care !!?

Really? Don't you think left and right corners would just about even out and not affect tyre wear noticeably considering you get some where in the region of 1,000miles/mm of tyre wear - unless you live on a small island i suppose and you just rode clockwise all the time. I don't see how out of round drums would cause a tyre to wear on one side more than the other. Ditto worn forks.

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Originally Posted by John Healy
Quote
There's a few other things to check on a Commando rolling chassis

Or you could just buy a Triumph beerchug

LOL, John. Spoken like a true dyed in the wool Triumph guy. I’ve got both, and honestly all my Triumphs were much, much straighter dead stock than my Commandos were.

For instance, as someone said above, “If you don't have access to a surface table you'll have to assume the swinging-arm axis is perpendicular to the steering head axis.”

But that is a very big assumption that may simply ignore the normal Commando slop in an unmodified swingarm pivot, and correcting that is fundamental to getting one straight and behaving well.

But it’s important to understand that an extreme level of alignment is not necessarily necessary, or possible, especially for a street Commando. I mean, a Commando is kind of two fairly flexible motorcycle halves flying along close to each other separated by nylon sliding discs and rubber doughnuts and two long stretchy bolts—precise alignment will be a real challenge to say the least. If you are really serious about getting your Commando STRAIGHT straight, you might take a look at Kenny Augustine and Stevan Thomas’s article, “World’s Straightest Commando” at https://nortonclub.com/docs/Straightest_Commando_Frame.pdf
But that may be a bit excessive for most folks. I know it was for me.

What I did was this: After I put external clamps on my swingarm pivot to hold it true (a huge step forward), https://www.inoanorton.com/docs/swingarm.pdf and added Mk 3 type isolastics and an isolastic head steady and a front and rear set of 18 inch Akronts on 8 gauge Buchanan stainless spokes to stiffen them up, I finally trued the wheels by stringing them and got them pretty close—enough that it didn’t shake its head anymore and went pretty straight. My final truing alignment was basically loosening all the nipples on one side of the wheel I was adjusting one facet or half a facet all the way around the wheel while tightening the nipples on the other side an equal amount, until I got the “close enough for horseshoes” or Mama Bear “just right” result I was trying for. And once you get to a certain level of trueness and centeredness, my experience is it’s far more important to have the wheels centered and aligned to each other than it is to have them perfectly centered in the frame, but that’s just me. But the 3/16 measurement with stock parts that John mentioned is probably also good enough if you aren’t a real perfectionist.

And for more good ideas about stringing a chassis you might look at Rob Tuluie’s articles: https://www.motorcycle.com/how-to/chassis-alignment-basics-3444.html And
http://www.daviderenda.com/albums/userpics/10197/controllo_telaio_part2.pdf which contain some really useful methods and advice, from an actual F1 engineer and all around smart guy, and former Norton racer.

Last edited by linker48x; 12/08/21 11:07 pm.
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Originally Posted by Chris the camper.
......If you don't have access to a surface table you'll have to assume the swinging-arm axis is perpendicular to the steering head axis.............
And that's not a great assumption to make but gravity makes a reliable reference plane too. If you have access to a lathe and some 3' lengths of drill rod, (one 3/4" the other 1/4") and some chunks of aluminum, you can make a cone and rod mandrel to center in the steering head .

This by itself won't help you much but if you attach the second smaller piece of drill rod so it sticks out forward at 90 degrees from your bigger rod that goes through the steering head, then you can hang a plumb bob from the end and line it up centered with the bottom of the rod in the frame.

This creates a vertical triangular reference plane attached to the front of the frame and that top rod will be aiming in some direction. At this point, double check that your swing arm spindle is level and then sight down the rod to the rear tire.

If the rod sights centered right down the top tube of the frame and then on to the tire center, you are good. If the rod aims off to either side, your neck of your frame is bent to one side.

I built one of these fixtures back in the seventies and used it to check several frames, some before and after straightening. It worked pretty good.

There are other methods using laser pointers and levels, plumb bobs and chalk lines that can be quite accurate as well.

So anyway, there are ways to get around needing a surface table.

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Originally Posted by Stuart Kirk
Originally Posted by Chris the camper.
......If you don't have access to a surface table you'll have to assume the swinging-arm axis is perpendicular to the steering head axis.............
And that's not a great assumption to make but gravity makes a reliable reference plane too......
So anyway, there are ways to get around needing a surface table.

A plane in this sense is a horizontal 2 dimensional fixed surface from which a 3rd vertical dimension is established. A string line is one dimensional and not much use for determining dimensions of a 3D object.

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Originally Posted by linker48x
Originally Posted by John Healy
Quote
There's a few other things to check on a Commando rolling chassis

Or you could just buy a Triumph beerchug

LOL, John. Spoken like a true dyed in the wool Triumph guy. I’ve got both, and honestly all my Triumphs were much, much straighter dead stock than my Commandos were.

For instance, as someone said above, “If you don't have access to a surface table you'll have to assume the swinging-arm axis is perpendicular to the steering head axis.”

But that is a very big assumption that may simply ignore the normal Commando slop in an unmodified swingarm pivot, and correcting that is fundamental to getting one straight and behaving well.

But it’s important to understand that an extreme level of alignment is not necessarily necessary, or possible, especially for a street Commando. I mean, a Commando is kind of two fairly flexible motorcycle halves flying along close to each other separated by nylon sliding discs and rubber doughnuts and two long stretchy bolts—precise alignment will be a real challenge to say the least. If you are really serious about getting your Commando STRAIGHT straight, you might take a look at Kenny Augustine and Stevan Thomas’s article, “World’s Straightest Commando” at https://nortonclub.com/docs/Straightest_Commando_Frame.pdf
But that may be a bit excessive for most folks. I know it was for me...

I did forget to mention that there can be play between the swing-arm tube and spindle on earlier Commando's but not the Mk3. I made the comment because with string you cant determine accurately the position of the swing-arm axis in relation to the steering axis. If you cant do this you wont get your wheels accurately in line with each other or the frame centre line. If the wheels aren't accurately in-line then there will be a front wheel steering bias which means there will be a constant force trying to push the wheel back in line - this is because of the designed in front wheel trail. So there will be a constant struggle between the rider and steering geometry which does develop into steering wobble which means the rider holds the bars tighter which only makes matters worse. Let go of the bars on the majority of Commando's and the bike will go left because of mis-aligned wheels.

The rubber 'doughnuts' on a Commando are only there to dissipate vibration, they have no effect what so ever on wheel alignment or frame stiffness. The nylon/ptfe/plastic washers are there to reduce wear between two sliding components and have no effect on frame stiffness. What is critical is the gap between the sliding components which should be at a minimum - no more than 0.004" total.
There's nothing wrong with the isolastic system. Peter Williams proved this on the 'monocoque' racer which set a new lap record on the Isle of Man and was the best handling bike Peter Williams said he had ever ridden.

Ken Augustine's method of frame alignment utilises a surface table which is essential for accurate rear wheel to frame alignment but the author's (S Thomas) description/method of especially aligning the rear wheel is extremely poor (maybe he forget how Ken did it). But I'm grateful Ken Augustine allowed his knowledge to be published before he passed away.

Last edited by Chris the camper.; 12/09/21 7:30 am.
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I'm hoping the OP has now gotten enough info to solve his Commando alignment problems. The OP's simple question was, how do you tell if the rear rim is located correctly? As is apparent from this thread, the answer is not as simple as the OP would probably like it.

That question first led to the observation that the front wheel is easy to eyeball because it simply needs to be centered in the fork. It probably bears repeating that due to the way the front hub is designed on the disc brake models, the front wheel is trued with an extreme offset on the hub in order to get the rim centered in the fork, and if someone trued a disc brake rim centered on the hub, it will be way off.

But the OP's question related to alignment and truing of the rear wheel. As mentioned above there is a 3/16 specification for roughly truing the rear wheel in the correct location, but these things are variable and not precise and the best way to get the rear wheel truly centered is to string it to get it in alignment with the front wheel. You can easily string along the lower portion of the tires, and the picture above of the string centered on the top tube and extended over the rear tire, with the fender removed, shows an alternative way to do this that is perhaps easier to visualize. To adjust the location of the rear rim requires truing it to bring it into alignment. At this point the OP may feel like he got his questions answered.

However, working with Commandos you come to realize that there are a number of closely related problems. The first of these is that the wheels can easily be out of plane, too, and you will want to figure this out to get the chassis fully in line, and to get reproducible results when checking alignment. The problem is not so much in getting the wheels in alignment and pointed in the same direction as it is in making sure that they are in the same plane, and stay that way. This may seem to go beyond the OP's immediate question, but aligning a Commando can involve more than initially meets the eye.

I gave the URLs above for the Dr. Rob Tuluie articles on how to string a chassis to get it precisely aligned in 3 dimensions. These articles are great because Rob basically and clearly explains how to use thread to get a three dimensional measurement result that might require someone else to use a surface table, and also because he cautions that extreme accuracy is not required. The only version of Part 1 of this series easily locatable on the internet does not contain the drawings showing his approach, but I think you can probably figure it out simply by reading it and working on the bike. The Kenny Augustine article I also mentioned, probably unnecessarily, uses a surface table and achieves a very high, and probably unnecessary level of accuracy.

However, in my experience aligning a number of Commandos, unless you address the common problem of wear in the swingarm pivot tube and spindle, the rear wheel will be difficult to get in consistent alignment--you can measure it and then the next time you do, the answer can be somewhat different. The solution is to get the swingarm pivot spindle firmly located in the tube, because due to wear in these parts it will move around out of alignment. (Mk 3s already incorporate this fix.) These parts quickly wear and fall out of alignment to a degree sufficient that the bike will eventually defy your efforts to get it closely aligned because the parts will move around in relation to each other. The easiest fix is to clamp the tube firmly and then use bolts in the clamps to press on the spindle to hold it in alignment. Above I gave the URL for the INOA version of the solution to this problem, that requires just a bit of garage work--this article has very complete directions and diagrams. You can also buy these parts already fabricated and ready to install complete with directions, on eBay from the Classic Bike Experience at: https://www.ebay.com/itm/1842624533...-xZjt9iOzjl1XkDc7nUWdtxdzwxoCY7UQAvD_BwE

Norman White's new book on Commandos contains a different and much more involved solution to this common Commando alignment problem, involving cutting holes in the tube, welding on intersecting tube attachments, and inserting a tapered pin like from a Triumph kickstarter. That may work better, I don't know, but there are a lot of bikes out there with the simple clamp arrangement, and it has seemed to work satisfactorily.

One last observation is, the head steady on the earlier Commandos relies on rubber biscuits to hold the engine cradle and rear wheel in plane with the front, and they of course do not really work as well as an isolastic head steady. The rubber biscuits work well enough for casual street riding but really aren't enough for hard riding. An isolastic head steady makes a big difference especially in spirited riding because it holds the wheels in plane while underway.

Once you get the wheels centered and then make the swingarm pivot and head steady modifications, you begin to realize the full advantages of the isolastic system without some of its problems. That is a lot more than a simple answer to OP's question about correct rear wheel offset, but once you start down that road there are a number of related problems you encounter and solving them all gives a big benefit in handling.

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Or Jamie, you could buy a Triumph... Oh, you already did.

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Originally Posted by Chris the camper.
...... A string line is one dimensional and not much use for determining dimensions of a 3D object.
I apologize for not having any photos handy to make things more clear, and for maybe packing the info a little too tightly. Part of my technical background is in aviation. Some aircraft rigging dimensions can be verified with plumb bobs against chalk lines on the hangar floor.. Properly done, it can be sufficiently precise and with some creativity the same concepts can be applied to a motorcycle frame. I know because I have done it myself. All you need is a chalk line, 2 plumb bobs, a laser pointer and bushings to accurately center it in your steering head bearings and a level for your swing arm spindle. If your steering head is say three feet off the floor, 1 degree will be about 5/8" (.625"). A chalk line will be maybe .060" which means a tenth of a degree twist in your frame will be easy to identify right there on the floor. The last bent one I checked was off 2 and a half degrees.

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Its not too difficult either to push a steel rod down through the steering bearings, and simply eyeball if it looks square from a distance. Having a suitable steel rod to hand may be the tricky bit.

Something similar in the swingarm slots will tell you if your axle/swingarm/pivot are all uo to snuff too.
Which may be a little off track with the OP - but is useful to verify that things ain't too bad in the basic alignment depts.

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Originally Posted by Chris the camper.
[Don't you think left and right corners would just about even out and not affect tyre wear noticeably considering you get some where in the region of 1,000miles/mm of tyre wear - unless you live on a small island i suppose and you just rode clockwise all the time. I don't see how out of round drums would cause a tyre to wear on one side more than the other. Ditto worn forks.

I'd comment that maybe folks don't wear out tyres like they did of old. !
I've had tyres on projects that showed abnormal wear - down to the canvas.
With each of those symptoms evident, to some degree at least.
The wear signs are different though, they don't all just wear one side of the tyre down !

I lived in sunny Sydney for some time. The fast right hand turn off the end of the Harbour Bridge probably produced more tyre wear than any other corner in (suburban) Sydney, it was FAST if you gave it some welly. And was a long long corner.
But then one day a man in a blue shirt with a radar gun killed that sport, the traffic was slow and congested for a reason.
Tyres wore more evenly after that ...

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Originally Posted by Rohan
Its not too difficult either to push a steel rod down through the steering bearings, and simply eyeball if it looks square from a distance. Having a suitable steel rod to hand may be the tricky bit......
Yes. We're on the same page here. Machining a couple of cones to center the steel rod in the bearing races is another "tricky bit" that adds to the accuracy of the eyeball check.

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The man showing the horn removal on a Mk3 inadvertently showed the wheel alignment fundamentals.
If you align that black line down the centre of the Dunlop along the backbone of the frame, then the wheel offset is done ??

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

And on a bare rim, you can use through the hole for the valve to plumb-line centre the rim.
Old Commando MC41 rim.

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

I've never found measurements to edges of rims etc to be very reliable - there is too much variation in rims ?
And techniques ?

P.S. Actually this was the pic from above I was thinking of showing good alignment along wheel and frame spine...
https://www.britbike.com/forums/ubbthreads.php/ubb/download/Number/13699/filename/IMG_0817%20(1).JPG


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