Colorado Norton Works

{WEB EXCLUSIVE} 

The following is republished from Issue One. To access the entire back issue collection, you can grab the backpack set here digitally, or subscribe to our print edition and receive an annual delivery of Iron & Air Magazine to your door and device. 

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When violent storms thundered down and rocked the valleys the Sioux believed it to be the thunder god, Haokah.  Using the wind as a drum-stick, he beat his mighty drum and vented his pent up anger and rage.

Now, new gods thunder through the same valleys in Colorado’s mountains. Using the wind as fuel they beat a different drum and vent pure joy and raw power.

Meet the lord of them all…Matt Rambow.

A native of Sweden, he spent his early days wrenching on motors in his parent’s basement (often clogging the floor drains with oil) and was part of a restoration club that focused on classic American cars. He mastered the many phases of the restoration process and learned how to build old iron into better-than-new condition.

The last restoration he did funded a season of skiing in Colorado where the Rocky Mountains grew on him and he realized he had found a new home. So it was back to Sweden, sell off all his possessions and move to Vail, where he opened a small shop and continued to work on old cars.

He tells us, ”It was during this time that I had an opportunity to take my first ride on a Norton Commando. I was absolutely taken by the feel of the bike - how well it handled and the incredible sound of the powerful twin engine took me by surprise. This was without a doubt the greatest machine I had ever experienced.”

A new path had revealed itself. Working on cars took up too much space and a complete rebuild was time consuming. ”I liked the idea of being able to tear down a bike in a day and getting after it. Time and space was so much better with the bikes.”

In 1994 he finished his first Norton Commando on which he spared no expense; first-class materials, top-quality work and complete attention to detail became the trademarks that Rambow would inject into every bike. What may have seemed like risky business to some - taking old British iron and building it into a high level, expensive machine - didn’t phase Matt. He was fueled by a passion that would trump fear and doubt.

CNW is Born

As he moved forward, his business grew and so did his reputation. He became known for being honest, straightforward and for creating some of the most impressive Commandos in the restoration scene. In the fall of 1997, Rambow formed Colorado Norton Works in the small town of Dolores, Colorado where today, they build anywhere from six to nine Commandos a year.

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The average bike represents approximately 250 hours of work. “When we build the bikes, each and every nut and bolt is considered....literally. Not overlooking anything or taking any shortcuts.” One look around at the immaculate shop and you realize he’s not kidding.  “Yeah, I’m one of those anal s.o.b’s that just can’t work unless the shop looks like that,” Matt confesses, in his soft-spoken, laid-back manner that plays juxtaposition to the intense focus of a man bent on creating perfection.

Not only do they use only the best possible parts, they’re inventing and developing their own modification and upgrade components.  For instance, working with Brembo, they’ve created a bolt up kit that replaces the weak original Norton brake system for something that works better than anything else on the market.

For accuracy, reliability and performance they designed a complete electronics instrument package that replaces the original mechanical gauges. For safety, an oil tank modification was created that remedies the shortcomings of the original Norton tank that sometimes led to spillage of hot oil onto the rear tire at high speed.

Elaborating on his inventions, Matt says “Since the very beginning I have developed upgrades and mods for these bikes. That is part of what the rebuilds are all about. Taking what is there....getting rid of what doesn’t work, replacing it with what does without taking away from the great styling and feel of the original machine. It’s the best of both worlds. Vintage, timeless design, yet in a package that works.” The bikes are improved in every aspect to reduce the heavy maintenance weight the originals needed to stay on the road.

An integral part of the building process is the involvement of the customer in all steps along the way. “We want our customers to feel like this is truly ‘their’ bike, that it’s different and unique from any other.” From prominent design elements to the smallest detail, the goal is that the owner gets exactly what they want.

Cafe Racer Series

In 2004 CNW set out to build what Matt describes as “the most technically advanced cafe’ racer style Commando in the world.” The result was an astonishing piece of machinery that received rave reviews from enthusiasts around the globe. Realizing they were onto something, they decided  to build a series of 13 bikes in exactly same fashion. The hefty price tag ($44,950.00 USD) was no deterrent as 12 of the bikes sold before the first one was completed. (Matt’s keeping lucky #13 for himself.) 

The staggering success has Matt’s mind stirring with plans for a future series.

The summer of 2012 finds them moving from a 1600 sq. ft. shop into a spacious 8000 sq. ft. one, “We’ll be in heaven”, he says. The extra space will allow for more parts, an addition of powder coating equipment and a separate area for partial builds and service work.

Gaining notoriety through being featured on Cafe Racer TV, (the highlight Matt says was a day spent with the Bostrom brothers riding the twisties on a newly unveiled Cafe Series bike)  won’t change their mission which has been and continues to be - rebuild the finest Norton Commando bikes on the planet, keep their customers happy and roll thunder through the mountain valleys. 

Get to know more by visiting www.coloradonortonworks.com.

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Kott Motorcycles

Issue One featured the always inspirational California builder, Dustin Kott. Here's a great video that gives you a visual glimpse into his days wrenching and riding beautiful CB's (his favorite). Grab a copy of Issue One here in digital format (or grab every issue digital with the digital pack) for the full story on Dustin. (film credit: Ryan Buller)


Take it further. For more in depth stories of a well-lived life on two wheels, subscribe to Iron & Air - Print | Digital | Newsletter