Monday, January 4, 2010


By Bill Snelling:

When I was first took residence here on the Isle of Man, I was loaned one of Bob Thomas' fore-and-aft Douglases [Douglii?], to compete in a V.M.C.C. Trial. A 'Light 500' model (or 'Bulldog', see photo of the standard model below), Bob used 19" tyres - the rear so old it stood up with no air in. To increase the ground clearance from barely nil to just over nil, the engine was raised in the frame by an alloy plate.
Trials held early in the year posed a problem not normally associated with a finely-honed competition mount, as the single carburetor fed both cylinders via a very long manifold. You could start it easy enough, but five minutes later it died: the whole manifold was covered in ice. After a few minutes, the ice dispersed and it would start again...sometimes you had to repeat this ritual half a dozen times before the all-cast-iron engine warmed enough to keep running!

A not uncommon occurrence when riding this machine was to unwittingly shed the oil feed pipe. I once charged at a section, when the engine seized solid and rapidly deposited me in the mud. Thank heavens for cast-iron pistons; we relocated the pipe, took the plugs out and pushed the Dougie around a bit, refitted the plugs and she ran like a bird the rest of the day.
Riding through water posed a unique problem (or two) - you could not slip the clutch. Two things would happen; first, it hydrauliced and forward motion ceased. And as the petrol tank was very narrow, the big external flywheel scooped up water (and/or mud) and flung it upwards; you suddenly lost sight in your left eye and developed an uncomfortable feeling in an area of the body which sounds like an amalgam of the words testament and icicle!

Not the ideal Trials machine, but it gave me many years of fun; Thanks Bob.

[And thanks Bill!
Bill Snelling is a powerhouse of Isle of Man motorcycle racing history, and his publishing imprint Amulree Publications has produced such titles as 'Aurora to Ariel', 'The History of the Isle of Man Clubman's T.T. Races, 1947-56', etc. He also owns the rights to the extensive S.R. Keig collection of photographs, and runs the FoTTofinders photographic service for anyone looking for particular riders/motorcycles which have raced at the Island, and many I.S.D.Ts; his database includes around 250,000 images!]