Words by Tim Huber.
First patented in 1952, Norton’s featherbed chassis was originally developed for TT competition and upon its release (and for roughly the next two decades) was objectively the best-handling motorcycle frame in existence — at least until Norton one-upped itself in ’67 with its Isolastic frame. However, while Norton’s vertical twin engines of the same era were far from lackluster, they vibrated markedly more than the mills from fellow British marque, Triumph — not to mention the Meriden firm’s 650 and 750cc Bonneville twins were considerably easier to tune for more power.
After a chance encounter with a Featherbed framed Commando powered café racer, Canadian Jean Des Rosier’s blood started pumping again and he quickly realized he wanted to build something similar. Luckily, Jean had a few parts in storage “I had a featherbed frame, a complete front wheel including a Suzuki front drum brake, a transmission, the front forks, the rear shocks, a bit of money and lots of time” he says. Jean sent us a six page document telling us about his motorcycle history and some details about this Norton Cafe Racer project. This is the abridged version:
I had a Featherbed frame (the one from the ’68 Atlas) stashed deep in my brother’s basement in which I had plans to install an Ariel 500cc single, that project was put away when I raised my family. Even though it was almost complete, the thought of building a nice Atlas and better still an Atlas café racer was in my mind from that day on.
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This Yamaha RD56 is one amazing bike. It looks like its had more action than Paris Hilton’s bed. Unlike Paris I think the scratches and dents actually adds to the beauty. The RD56 frame was a new design based on the revolutionary Norton Featherbed.
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