We’re so used to seeing pioneer motor cycles as cherished relics of a bygone age that it makes a nice change to see one judged on its merits as a brand new workhorse. And it seems there wasn’t much wrong with the lightweight Duggie.
A Week-end on a Two-speed Douglas
HOW WELL WE can recall, in the winter of 1905, a Mr Barter calling at our office with an ordinary pedal bicycle strengthened in various parts, mounted into which was a wonderfully clever twin-cylinder horizontally opposed engine of his own design. That machine was the forerunner of the present-day Douglas. In its earliest form it was christened the Fee, and it was left with the staff of this journal for trial. Weighing altogether about 75lbs, it attracted a good deal of attention, and earned the plaudits of many engineers who examined it. Our trials, however, were not altogether free from trouble, for the current distributor with which the engine was fitted was not without
blemish, neither was the round belt drive with jockey pulley ideal, and the horizontal valves in the cylinder were found to make the engine somewhat erratic in the power given off. Later it was re-designed and named the Fairy, and a number were sold, but what was wanted to make the machine a success–and we openly expressed this opinion at the time—were vertically placed inlet valves, a magneto, and direct V-belt drive.
How Mr Douglas came to meet Mr Barter we know not, but the next we heard of this wonderful little Fee-cum-Fairy was a letter from Douglas Bros, general engineers and ironfounders, of Bristol, informing us that they had taken up the manufacture of the machine under their own name, and, most important of all, had adopted all the improvements outlined above. We need go no further with this brief history, for we all know the success the Douglas has attained in the comparatively short period of four years, but will pass on to the latest creation of the company-—the two-speed and free engine Douglas and its performances on the road.
Douglas Bros have earned a name for thoroughness, and in every way it is deserved. We had an example of this right from the commencement of our trial. The little machine was delivered to us for test equipped in every detail, with horn, and lamp, and generator charged. Not a tool, valve, belt fastener, or plug was missing from the spares, and even a knife for shortening the belt and a puncture repair outfit were included. This is not a trivial matter by any means. In the course of a year the staff of The Motor Cycle are favoured with many types of motor cycles for trial purposes, some of them more or less inadequately equipped. The writer of these notes has a list of forty-two different motor cycles he rode during last year, but cannot recall that any of them were sent out so complete and free from worry to the user as the Douglas was.
Our test of what is probably the lightest two-speed twin on the market consisted of a week-end run of 360 miles and what the two-speed Douglas cannot do we were unable to find out in this distance. Hills of the calibre of Netherhall Gardens, Westerham, Crockham, River Hill, Titsey, are all taken in their stride on the low gear of 8 to 1; and all ordinary gradients on top (5 to 1).
We may here throw out a hint in changing down on steep gradients, and that is to engage the low gear before allowing the engine to slow down too much. On two occasions after tackling steep climbs with a hot engine we delayed changing until too late and the engine refused to pick up, but so long as the revolutions were kept high no difficulty was experienced. The capabilities of the 2¾hp Dougtas would surprise many riders of heavyweights. It is some months since we rode a twin lightweight, and the manner in which the horizontal twin tackled single-figure gradients came as a revelation. And so silently and comfortably for the rider too, thanks to the even firing and efficient spring fork.
Starting may be either by a geared up handle permanently attached to the gearbox, or by engaging the low gear and waLking alongside. We personally preferred the latter method, but both are quite simple and easy even for riders of advanced years. Heavy roads were the order of the day during the greater part of the test, and this served further to improve our opinion of this little mount, for side-slip is almost unknown. For high average speeds over winter roads the Douglas would take some beating. As a proof that the large driving pulley is kinder to the belt, we made no adjustment at all. Change of gear is easily effected either by easing the clutch or merely raising the exhaust valve lifter. Fifty miles of London traffic prompt us to suggest to the Douglas designers that the clutch pedal would be much more conveniently placed on the right footboard. There is the pedal brake on the left-hand side which at present it is impossible to use in traffic owing to the foot being on the clutch pedal. In such cases
one has to rely solely on the front rim brake. Another point–why, oh, why is the carburetter jet a fixture? If Mr Douglas had seen us dismantling the carburetter three times in a single run, all because we could not probe the inner recesses of the jet, we venture to suggest that he would have taken compassion and altered his patterns forthwith. Yet we are told by riders that it is very very seldom the jet gets stopped up.
In all other respects the Douglas has left us with a very great respect for its capabilities. Twenty-two mph average on a long run understates its powers, and with such great economy withal. For instance, we averaged 110 miles to the gallon, oil consumed was less than one quart, and the back tyre was hardly scratched.
The nicely fitted parts told their tale in the end, for the crank case and gear box were conspicuously clean at the end of our run, whilst the appearance of the machine as a whole was a striking testimony to the mudguarding arrangements and a proof of the efificacy of long, wide footboards.