Every now and then you find a really cool ‘antique’ motorcycle that you can actually start up and ride that hasn’t been totally restored to museum quality…which means you might be able to buy it without having to take out a second mortgage on your house or cash in the kids college fund. They are few and far between but they do exist.
Last January, while visiting the in-laws in New York, I came across an ad in the local newspaper for a motorcycle museum in a town about thirty minutes away. In order to escape the family stuff for one day I told everybody that visiting the museum was a business thing I had to do, you know, our website www.themotoworld.com. Mom and dad instantly handed me the car keys and hoped we would have a great day…the more I think about it, they probably needed a vacation from me!?
Motorcyclepedia in Newburgh, New York http://motorcyclepediamuseum.org/ is without a doubt the most interesting motorcycle museum I have been to for so many reasons. There is a full story over at our other blog on the www.themotoworld.com. What was most interesting to me was the number of great motorcycles in their ‘found’ condition, so finding a bike like the one I found today is quite exciting.
I have never really thought much about Douglas motorcycles, I know the name and have seen a couple of them but never really learned anything about them, until today…
Douglas has a very cool story. Starting as blacksmiths in England in 1882 the Douglas brothers bought out Light Motors Ltd to get WJ Barters motorcycle designs, the single cylinder and the 200cc flat twin. During WW1 Douglas motorcycles sold somewhere around 70,000 units for military use. Douglas motorcycles had a couple of great innovations way ahead of their time. In the early 1920’s Douglas developed the first disc brake system for motorcycles and, the hemispherical head design. Douglas was very successful in flat track and road racing in that era with their 500cc model.
One great book every motorcyclist should read is ‘One Man Caravan’ by Robert Fulton Jr. It’s the story of a young man fresh out of Harvard University at dinner one evening (and I would imagine a few glasses of wine) boasting that he is going to ride a motorbike around the world. This is 1932. The president of Douglas motorcycles was there and offered him a bike…basically calling his bluff, Fulton took the offer and the rest of the story….read the book.
Along comes World War 2 and, as with many other motorcycle manufacturers, financial problems. By 1955 Douglas was only building the 350cc Dragonfly and in 1957 that model went away as well.
Back to the bike I found on ebay. This is a 1924 Douglas Single that sat in a shed in England for 88 years. 88 YEARS!!!. The motorcycle was brought to the US in 2011. What I really love about this bike is that there has really no restoration work done to it, it has the original gas headlamp, generator, seat and…paper work!! This is way too cool. And you want to know what is even cooler than all of that…it was running just one week ago!!! This is a bike that someone who is interested in an ‘antique’ versus a ‘vintage’ motorbike, a bike with a pedigree and one you can ride instead of put in a museum, this is a great buy. Click on the pics below for a bit more information and pictures.