Riding off road used to be the realm of brightly coloured, slightly odd-looking, single cylinder dirt bikes. Now, we live in a world of brightly coloured, slightly odd-looking, twin cylinder behemoths taking riders off the beaten track. Norton’s new line of bikes, the Atlas, gives us another option – a beautifully styled light weight twin to rip around off-road.
Norton’s recent resurgence has been led by modern takes on their old recipe. Big, burly air-cooled twins with twin rear shocks and styling that reminds us of days gone past. While no one is complaining about the beautiful 961 Commando or frankly stunning Domiracer, Norton’s all new Atlas range proves that there’s life in the old girl yet.
Based around a steel perimeter frame and new Norton designed engine, the Atlas has been designed to be a serious off-road weapon – not just some poser destined for dropping down city gutters. Norton have even added a sump and headlight guard and braced handlebars to add to the off road cred.
The new parallel twin produces 84hp and isn’t shy of revs, producing its peak at a lofty 11,000rpm. The 270degree crank, favored for less vibration and more low-end shove, allows the 650cc to make a respectable 64Nm. The cylinder head has been tilted forward, with the 6-speed gearbox stacked up high to allow for maximum ground clearance and tight packaging.
Speaking of tight packaging, the adjustable rear shock tucks in tight to the back of the gearbox and uses a rising rate linkage to allow for an impressive 200mm of wheel travel. Up at the other end, suspension is taken care of by a suitably beefy set of 50mm forks that matches the rear end for travel.
The brakes are just as serious as the suspension, with Brembo supplying twin radial mounted six piston calipers and 320mm discs up front and a twin piston caliper and 245mm disc out back. All in, it’s a lot of suspension and brakes for the 178kg package. The light weight is brought about by a heavy use of composite in the bodywork.
The bad news? Norton have no plans to put the Atlas into mass production, with just 250 bikes set for production. It’s a shame really, because at a fairly reasonable £11,000 ($19,000) it would provide some truly interesting competition for Ducati’s Desert Sled.
Find out more about the Norton’s new Altas from their website.