Take the A51 autostrada out of Milan, and half an hour later you’ll arrive in the small town of Brugarolo. It’s home to one of Italy’s more unusual bike manufacturers, the Black Douglas Motorcycle Company.
Black Douglas makes vintage-style motorcycles with a distinctly English appearance, like the Sterling shown here. It doesn’t have electronically controlled suspension or switchable riding modes, but it’s not short of charm.
It’s the brainchild of Fabio Cardoni, who started Black Douglas two years ago. “I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 11,” he says, “but for the past five or six years, I simply didn’t enjoy riding any of my bikes. I came to the conclusion that I don’t like production motorcycles any more.”
The styling is certainly captivating, with angular lines straight out of the early twentieth century. “We wanted motorcycles that are beautiful to look at, and able to draw attention. Yes, at the age of 42 I still like it when people look at what I’m riding!” Fabio laughs. “But most of all, the bike had to be fun to ride—without the hassles of vintage motors.”
The Sterling is powered by a four-stroke 230cc single. It’s a replica of a Honda CG engine, built in China by Zongshen under Honda license. “Even though I was very skeptical at the beginning, after testing it thoroughly, I was absolutely astonished by the quality of this unit,” says Fabio. “It is built to Japanese production quality levels: sturdy, low maintenance, reliable, and offers over 85 mpg.” The bike weighs 100 kilos, so there isn’t too much weight to push around. Top speed is around 70 mph (110 kph).
After over a year of testing frames, hubs and engines, Black Douglas got it right with the fourth Sterling prototype—which Fabio still rides to work every day. The bike shown here is the first full production model, which was sold a few days ago. The customer chose all the extras from the Black Douglas catalog right now, so it’s a ‘Deluxe’ version. That means an uprated 230cc engine, a Bosch replica light, a replica klaxon horn, a rack holder, two different types of handlebar, a wood basket, and more.
Black Douglas will have four more machines ready for sale in a month: three base models and a ‘racer’ which will be called the Sterling Brooklands. The price starts at €7,900 (US$10,200) plus taxes. There may even be a race series for the bikes in Italy soon: the Federazione Motociclista Italiana is toying with the idea of organizing a Sterling mini-championship of three events.
And if you fancy building your own vintage-style motorcycle, Black Douglas will soon be launching a DIY kit. It’ll be available with or without an engine, and the first 20 kits will sell for €4,900—around US$6,300. After that will come a sidecar version, with part of the design made of traditional wicker wood.