SPORTING MACHINES ON TEST.
350 c.c. E. W. DOUGLAS.
By ” L. A.
SHOWN to the public for the first time at the Olympia Exhibition of 1925, the E. W. Douglas was at once hailed by many as “the machine of the year..” Even the most hardened and prejudiced opponents of the multi-cylinder engine and of the fiat twin in particular were compelled to admit that it seemed to be a sound proposition. The chief factors contributing towards this enthusiastic reception were first, it was the first real break and definite change in the design of the popular model Douglas machine since its inception ; this may seem a bold statement, but on comparing a 1912 Douglas with
INSTANTLY ADJUSTABLE BRAKE AND CLUTCH CONTROLS ARE A DOUGLAS FEATURE.
a 1925 model it will be seen that the only alterations take the form of detail refinements and elaboration of specification to cope with modern demands. The fundamental des’gn had remained unchanged for fifteen years, and if any finer tribute than this can be paid to the brains responsible for the original machine, it would be hard to find. Secondly, the E.W. specification and performance claimed were enough to rouse the keenest interest, while its appearance was generally admitted to be second to none.
The third point of interest was the price ; Messrs.
Douglas Motors with one other firm were the pioneers of the movement towards producing large numbers of “real motor-cycles” at rock bottom prices.
Bearing in mind the above, and also that the writer has always felt a distinct partiality for the flat twin, it will be appreciated that we looked forward with eagerness to a trial of the new Douglas. Whatever one’s final impression of a machine may be, and in these days they are mainly good, it is very often that some peculiar idiosyncracy of the bicycle may temporarily disappoint and damp that feeling of pleasurable anticipation with which one throws a leg across
the saddle of a new machine ; with the E. W. Douglas, to a greater degree than with any machine ridden during the last twelve months, our first impressions were unreservedly good.
Before even a gentle depression of the kickstarter had produced a low burble from the exhaust we felt that everything was just right, the machine was easily manhandled, looked well, and all the controls fell naturally to hand in a way that precluded any possibility of doing the wrong thing, even though we had recently been riding a motor-cycle with utterly different controls.
As suggested above, when warm, a single gentle kick is sufficient to start the engine, without recourse to the exhaust valve lifter ; when cold, a flooded carburettor and, at the most, three dabs at the starter pedal inevitably stirred the engine into life.
In the natural sequence of events the next feature noticed was one whereof we had expected to be disappointed, namely, slow running in neutral. Contrary to our expectations, however, the pilot jet Amac carburettor provides a tick-over of the most dignified and car-like sobriety. This virtue must have been inherited from the now obsolete 4-h.p. Douglas, since it was never a strong point of the old 2 t h.p. type.
On the Road.
As is frequently the case on our test runs, the first few miles lay through London traffic, and provided an excellent demonstration of the machine’s acceleration and liveliness on stepping off the mark, besides its easy manceuvrability in confined spaces when worming a way to the head of each traffic jamb.
We refuse to emphasise that the machine proved remarkably stable on wet tramlines ; everyone will say the same about any machine on test, for the simple reason that no-one but a lunatic or one completely lacking in imagination will treat such horrors with anything but respect. However, the Douglas showed signs of being a machine on which the timid need have less fear of being precipitated beneath a lorry, than on other 1927 models. Under normal driving conditions the E. W. Douglas is remarkably quiet, what noise there is being of a rather
attractive (to the motor-cyclist) nature. So often a machine that is well silenced, according to the man in the street, is anathema to the rider on account of its amemic sneezing exhaust ; the Douglas exhaust note is at all times low and suggestive of power.
Mechanically, in spite of the extra moving parts essential to two cylinders the Douglas is very quiet, the valve stems, springs and tappets, notorious clatterers, are neatly enclosed behind cast aluminium covers, which latter are easily removed by undoing one large milled nut. In connection with valve gear, the only adjustment needed or carried out on the whole machine during the first three hundred miles of strenuous riding was to the exhaust tappet of the front cylinder. Apart from this, no tool has been applied to any part of the machine, nor is there any sign of any attention being required in the near future. There is nothing remarkable in this, on the face of it, but the performance will appear somewhat more creditable when it is mentioned that about half the above mileage consisted of the course of the Colmore Cup Trial. The writer was a competitor in this event, and the behaviour of the Douglas during the trial is worthy of a fairly detailed description.
Leaving home at 1.30 a.m. on the night before the trial, we covered the 80 odd miles to Stratford-on-Avon in quite good running time, three hours to be exact, in spite of thick fog for the last twenty miles. The whole distance, including an hour’s wait in Banbury, was accomplished on one fill of carbide. The P. & H. headlamp provided perfectly adequate illumination for driving at this speed. Arrived at Stratford, we were permitted to doze on a
sofa for an hour, and then disposed of a much-needed breakfast. The first few miles of the trial were, as usual, comparatively uneventful, and schedule speed was easily maintained ; in our own estimation we appeared to perform satisfactorily in the acceleration test, though on actual time we were doubtless outclassed by several high efficiency o.h.v. machines with closer gear ratios. The stop and restart test on a gradient of 1 in 6 was child’s play, and from thence the going became more difficult. Stanton Hill was climbed feet up on a very small throttle opening, it being found that the standard Hutchinson semi-balloon tyres would not permit of much ” gas ” on low gear on account of wheelspin. To the tyres, to our own inexperience and to the advice of a marshal, who advocated a slow climb, we attribute the somewhat excessive use of the feet, which became necessary on Gypsy Lane, Langley Hill and New Colmore Hill. Had we rushed these hills, using 2nd gear as much as possible, we might have done better, though it was consoling to hear that about 90% of the solo riders performed similar antics with their feet.
On none of these hills did the Douglas need propulsive assistance, equilibrium being the only commodity lacking. Interspersed between these hills were some miles of unpleasantly greasy and grassy colonial sections, over which we managed to keep our feet on the rests most of the time.
Thus to lunch, which we will pass over, and the starting from cold test, in which the E. W. responded to the very first kick.
In a Hurry.
A lunch-time survey of the route card seemed to indicate that after a few miles of good roads, there would be much unpleasantness, terminating in a time check at Stanton. It appeared expedient, therefore, that the good roads should be covered speedily to guard against delays and cautious riding later. This then was the first occasion on which we began to give the Douglas its head. On the so-called” good roads,” which proved to be bumpy and very twisty lanes, the Douglas was a delight to handle, cornering and road holding under all
conditions was excellent, while the steering, without any damper was really steady and yet withal as light as a feather. We cannot imagine a more pleasant motorcycle for” fast “driving under conditions which preclude any speed above 50 .p.h.
However, this part of the run brought home to us the only two criticisms which can be applied to the Douglas, namely, the gear change and the front brake. In the ordinary way one always throttles down when changing from 2nd to top gear, but when, as at the time in question, one is in a hurry, it is convenient to be able to slip the clutch and snick into top straight away. It is possible to do this on the I.O.M. Douglas, and it seems a pity that the operation is not possible on the E.W. model, although a silent “touring” change is easy, provided a slight pause is made in neutral. Changing in and out of the other gears does not require so much delicacy and care as the one change mentioned. With regard to the front brake, this does not appear to work at all, even when wheeling the machine slowly. If wheeled backwards it is quite powerful, so that something seems to be wrong with the design of the ” semiservo ” machinery ! The back brake is very good, and no-one will question that it would be advantageous to have an equally effective device on the front wheel. As a result of this fast travelling we arrived at Stanton with time to spare, after making fast climbs of Bushcombe and Old Stanway, for the most part on 2nd gear, except when baulked by more cautious competitors. The nasty sections were negotiated with only one spill, which failed to damage rider or machine, and some 25 miles of easy going led back to the finish at Stratford.
So ended the Colmore Cup Trial, but not the DouglasAuthor Trial, there remained another 80 miles of lamplight riding before we finished. We were thus in the saddle almost continuously for 280 miles and about fifteen hours ; in addition to this we must add a complete lack of sleep on the Friday night, so that to speak of the comfort of the Douglas is really superfluous. Naturally we were tired, but we must emphasise that we definitely did not experience a trace of soreness, stiffness or ache as a result of our strenuous undertaking.
It is impossible to say too much of the comfort of the machine, and we would hate the prospect of a similar trip on many present-day motor-cycles. With regard to the general performance of the machine we can only say that the manufacturers’ claims are well upheld ; 60 m.p.h. was certainly possible under the right conditions, and the petrol consumption was at the rate of about 90 m.p.g.
To sum up, the Douglas is a light, sturdy and thoroughly reliable motor-cycle, capable of a useful speed ; is easily handled, superlatively comfortable, and is produced at a price which brings it well within the reach of the masses.
Finally, the Douglas trade team are steadily building tip an imposing series of awards and successes in all the important reliability trials throughout the country, thus showing that a ” popular” model can well hold its own with its more expensive rivals.