Monday, December 28, 2015

Douglas

Recently, I took a quick road trip with a friend down to visit my friends Will and Elaine Paley just outside of Asheville, N.C.  Since I had last seen Will in October, he had picked up a new bike: a 1950 Douglas Mk IV.
Will Paley photo
 As far as I know, all the bikes Douglas made were opposed twins.  Before WWII, most Douglas's had the cylinders fore/aft.  In 1934, they made their first transverse opposed twin; after the war, they were all transverse, like a BMW.  But, unlike a BMW, they used chain, rather than shaft, final drive.  And, the bike has unusual suspension with torsion bar springing for the rear swing arm and short leading link front suspension.  Will's bike seems quite straight and original, if not concours.  The Mk IV was followed by the Mk.V, then the Dragonfly, a similarly configured 350 opposed twin, but with more conventional suspension of telescopic forks and coil sprung rear shocks.
The torsion bars for the rear swing arm are in the lower frame tube you see above the exhaust pipe.  Will Paley photo
I helped him change the ancient front tire (3.25 X 19")for a good NOS IRC.  It's quite impressive how many parts the Brits can pack into an assembly.  Changing the tire required removing the front mudguard and one of the two stays.  When Will withdrew the axle, loose parts showered down on the floor.  We found that there was no rim band over the spoke nipples, so we substituted duct tape.  After we got the tire mounted, wheel balanced, and brake de-glazed, we slapped it back together, then discovered another spacer washer stuck to the magnetic parts tray.  But, did it come from the Douglas and, if so, where?  Fortunately, Will had a manual and parts book and, after one false start, we figured out that it did indeed belong to the Dougie and where.
Short leading link front suspension and a modest, but very effective front brake.  Phyllis Aschenbrenner photo
Will offer me a ride on the bike which I readily accepted despite the fact that it was just stopping raining and the bike wasn't registered.  I just took it to the end of his dead end road (known as a 'cove' in those parts) and back, but that was perhaps 2.5 miles each way of very curvy road.  Will had a little trouble starting the bike, which he put down to still learning how to recognize what the engined wanted as far as spark retard, tickling, choke, and throttle.  And, perhaps the jetting wasn't spot on as there was a bit of hesitation at part throttle under load, but otherwise it seemed reasonably lively for a 350 of substantial weight.  It shifted and steered very well and I was quite impressed with the single leading shoe brakes.  Of course, it wasn't a long enough ride to form a definitive opinion, but the initial impression was good.  And, in any case, it's worth having and riding just for the 'odd ball' factor.
I love the cast aluminium tool boxes.  Phyllis Aschenbrenner photo
A Gentleman's touring bike.  Will Paley photo

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