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DailyTidings.com
  • Rally the Nortons

    Fans of the English motorcycle gather at Howard Prairie Lake
  • A new British Invasion launched Tuesday along the shores of Howard Prairie Lake, but there were no screaming teens lunging to get a peek at bob-haired lads.
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  • A new British Invasion launched Tuesday along the shores of Howard Prairie Lake, but there were no screaming teens lunging to get a peek at bob-haired lads.
    Instead, as Sam Justice of Portland concludes about his crew, it's a lot of old men and their old motorcycles.
    Howard Prairie Resort is brimming with nearly 200 owners of the British marquee motorcycle, the Norton, this week as the resort plays host to an annual rally organized by the International Norton Owners Association.
    Groups of riders will zip along mountain roads on organized outings today through Friday. It culminates with a show-and-shine-like "concourse event" from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today that's open to the public for $5 per person.
    Among the shiny chrome and high-end engines will be Chris Grimmett from the factory-sponsored club chapter in England to help sing the Norton's praises. The machines have a cult following akin to Harley-Davidson bikes in North America.
    "Most of us have several Nortons," says Grimmett, 60. "They really grow on you. They're just iconic. They've got fantastic history."
    James Lansdowne "Pa" Norton founded the company in 1898 when he started attaching small gas engines to bicycles. By 1902, he started adding Swiss and French engines, and in 1907 one of his machines won the inaugural Isle of Man TT race. Nortons dominated European motorcycle races up until World War II.
    The company struggled financially and changed hands many times. It was even centered in the United States for 15 years before Norton went back to England last decade.
    Association chapters on each continent have regular rallies like this one. Lake Selmac hosted one in 2005, and the INOA's Oregon Norton Enthusiasts chapter, headed by Justice, was interested in hosting another.
    They teamed up with the Oregon Vintage Motorcyclists to host the event and chose Howard Prairie Resort east of Ashland over a handful of potential venues.
    "We thought this was the best choice," Justice says. "There's reasonable weather and lots of good riding areas. And we wanted to be near Ashland."
    Those among the 1,300-member association who attended the 2012 rally in Vermont voted unanimously to ride the Cascades this year.
    Norton riders have taken over chunks of the resort's camping spaces for the event, but this is no Sturgis, S.D., where the Harleys take over.
    The Norton crowd is pretty sedate, and the only outlaws there Tuesday were those buzzing to the resort store without helmets.
    "No, this isn't Sturgis," park ranger Mark Burnett says.
    The European bikes have plenty of the seductive chrome and power that have wooed riders like Grimmett.
    "I got nine, but they all don't go," he says.
    Norton enthusiasts tend to be older riders who prefer older bikes. Riders of the newer models simply don't show up.
    "We think they ought to," Grimmett says. "I wish they would."
    Members will ride together, swap stories and even swap parts at a meet this afternoon.
    All the while, they will worship all that is Norton.
    "They're great for rutting around," Grimmett says in British slang. "They're not so reliable, though. I probably shouldn't say that, but everyone who owns a Norton will tell you that."
    Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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