Black Douglas Sterling Autocycle: What’s in a name?

Date 15.5.2013

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  • Motorcycle Trader


No, this vintage bike wasn’t conceived in the malty cellars of its namesake whisky. Nor does it have any ties with the defunct British motorcycle brand that shares part of its name. For Braveheart fans, historians of the Scottish Wars of Independence and proud Scots, sorry, the people behind this bike have no family ties with Sir James Douglas, aka, The Black Douglas. In fact, the bike isn’t even Scottish.

The Black Douglas Sterling Autocycle was launched at last year’s Motor Bike Expo in Verona, Italy. And while it’s name has strong lineage with the land of bagpipes and kilts, it’s actually a British-designed tribute to bikes of the pioneer era. Now, these hand-built sweethearts are on sale in Europe from a lofty €7900 ($A10,300) plus taxes.

The young Italian company believes steel is more beautiful than plastic and simplicity is more appealing than complexity. In other words, it’s aiming at the hearts and imaginations of Europe’s scooter commuters who are looking to stand out – and willing to pay a premium to do so.

In keeping with its vintage demeanour, the Sterling is powered by a 200cc single-cylinder, four-stroke engine that produces a modest 12.5kW (17bhp), making for very relaxed cruising and probably on par with original ‘flat tankers’.

The company says the 100kg Sterling complies with Euro 3 emissions and also plans to produce an even-smaller, 125cc, learner-legal version for its native, European markets.

Two models are available: the “Basic” or “Countryman Deluxe” and buyers are encouraged to personalise their bikes from the huge parts catalogue that includes just about everything such as handlebars, headlights, tanks, exhausts, saddles, storage boxes, leather parts and colour combinations to name a few.

A “Racer” model and a sidecar version of the Sterling are also planned.

As far as the everyday use, the Sterling can be equipped with a rear luggage rack where leather or canvas sidebags can be fitted, and on top of the rack, a wicker basket in perfect vintage style. It can also hold two more metal boxes with locks, one on the tank and the other in front of the rear wheel.

“This model was developed to meet the needs of a market that wants the uniqueness, elegance and style of a vintage motorcycle and the reliability of a modern vehicle with low running costs and little maintenance,” the company says.

“The absolute purity of the forms that faithfully reproduce the first ‘sottocanna’, or flat tank motorcycles; the reliable modern engine and electrical system; the unmatched elegance of a deliberately retro design; the rediscovery of little luxuries that are no longer present among modern production motorcycles.”