Norley meets Buell Lightning

To paraphrase Robert M. Pirsig  “it is better for a good idea to destroy a motorcycle than for an owner’s club to destroy a good idea”. Sometimes a chap has to stand upright in the face of those without clear vision and those who would seek to maintain the “status quo”. Nigel O’Connell is just such a man and, close to the Welsh seaside town of Aberystwyth, he found Paul and the guys at Norley frame kits were willing and able to turn his wet dream into cold steel.

Buell XB12 feather bed frame kit

Norley have been making Manx Norton frames for 40 years and also produce frames for other high-profile companies involved in the re-creation of iconic motorcycles. The café-racer things has always appealed and whilst everyone wants an Ogri-bike few can afford the Vincent technology to power it. After spotting this gap in the market a few evenings were spent with beer mats in the pub and the Harley/Buell engine’d Norley frame was born. Weighing in at 15.5kg including swinging arm it shares its geometry with the original Manx Norton featherbed design.

Nigel’s project began with a perfectly good Buell XB12 that was a nice, but not quite mint, example. The sort of bike you’d be happy to ride in all weathers and not have to worry about cleaning nano-seconds afterwards. Yet smart enough to impress outside the pub.

Buell XB12S

Why not drive it down to Wales in the back of the van and completely dismantle it then? I confess to being initially sceptical but after the first visit and talking with Paul I began to see a chink of light. This is the first XB frame kit that Norley have produced and so the first job was to take the bike apart and build a new jig using the original frame. The motor is suspended from the beam frame in the donor bike and this means some lateral thinking when moving the lump across to its new home.

Buell cafe race frame kit

The concept of the new bike is a not-so subtle blend of new and old that retains the essential characteristics of the classic café-racer and the Buell Lightning. To Nigel, this means keeping the original Buell wheels and especially the unique rim-mounted disc brake. A conversion to chain drive is unavoidable and to retain the fat Buell rear wheel caused a number of alignment issues. One rear wheel was sacrificed to the cause and Nigel now has all different varieties of Buell front forks coming from his ears.


The amazing thing is that it all does fit together and looks in proportion to boot! I’m looking forward to our next visit and a chance to see the completed rolling chassis. There’s a lot of work to do yet of course but this will be a massive step forward and I’ll publish some photos as the project develops.

Nigel with Buell Norley frame



4 thoughts on “Norley meets Buell Lightning

  1. I am serously looking at building a featherbed Buell cafe racer in the same manner as you – utilizing the parts of the Buell less the frame with a few tweaks, as it were.
    I am really looking forward to seeing this build progress and that you keep up the build progress on line for us to share.
    Shame we can’t buy cheap Buell’s over here – much much cheaper in the US !
    Good luck, I just know this is going to be awesome when it is finished.

    • Thanks for the comments, this is actually Nigel’s concept and project so I can’t take the credit for this one! Keep us up to date with your own projects and we’ll put up some pictures on the blog.

  2. Hi.
    I’d like Your Project and want to get in Contact with the “Norley guys”, but the website seems to have shut down.
    I’m an owner of a XB 9 -03 Engine and would like to have a frame to put it in.

    Regards Kaj

  3. Hi Kaj

    I’m so sorry but I just found your query on the Sunbeamland site in a spam foder hence the delay in responding.

    JW Motorcycles Unit 6, Tyn Parc, Llandre, Dyfed SY24 5BU

    01970 871511

    I hope this helps

    Kind regards


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