While many custom workshops are tripping over each other to inject a bit of 70s retro chic into their designs, Fabio Cardoni, of The Black Douglas Motorcycle Company, has taken the words ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’ about as far back you can go. This is the Sterling Mk 5 and it’s not a one-off custom build: it’s a fully-fledged production bike.
The original Sterling has been around for a while now but recently, it’s had a slight makeover. Sure, it keeps many of the original styling points but the Mk 5 version has been updated and developed for a far superior task: to pass the rigorous homologation tests in a multitude of countries . Black Douglas have already got showrooms across Europe marketing the Sterling range but here in the US, only the Kit version is available from the Douglas Motorcycles website.
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The mission statement behind Black Douglas Motorcycle Company is very straightforward: ‘Steel is more beautiful than plastic, and simplicity is more appealing than complexity,’ says Cardoni and every one of their models conforms to the companies ideals. Vintage stylings and incredibly high levels of craftsmanship are the core ingredients for each of their builds. These are bespoke machines for the refined rider. Douglas Motorcycles are about taking motorcycling back to the bare essentials.
Mass producing a bespoke motorcycle is no easy task; what separates a custom build from a production bike is a sh*t load of paper work, quality testing, box ticking and cost management, so Cardoni called in some help from a few industry friends to get the ball rolling. This is the industrialized result…
Handmade forks from 7075 aluminum lead the way at the front, a little shorter than those from the original Sterling and with a little less rake too. There’s also a small, adjustable shock absorber tucked away to keep everything a little more comfortable and controllable too. The overall build quality has seen major improvements too and rider comfort and experience has particularly been given a closer look at. The tires are bigger, the seat is more comfortable and the electrics have been re-evaluated. On top of all that, the exhaust is now catalyzed, for all those box tickers out there. The rest of the upgrades are more or less aesthetic but all in all, the bike weighs around 100 kg and comes with a two year warranty. Which is very handy.
The crowning feature is the tank; there’s nothing quite like a vintage tank. I’ve already run outside to see if any of my old rusting frames can accommodate something similar –they can’t…for now. The tank is shaped and welded out of Peraluman, an aluminum and magnesium alloy, which is a nice touch.
So far, the kits come with a 125cc or 230cc engine but there’s talk of a 400cc on the way (the Sterling Imperial) and a wicker wood side car too, which would be insanely fun to rip around on. The kits currently cost around $5000, which is a small price to pay for anything that comes with a two wheeled warrants, plus the cost of the kit is almost as much as some maniacs spend on a few choice aftermarket parts! It’s a shame that their order list are full at the moment…but as soon as they’re producing a few more, expect to hear a lot more about them!