Author Topic: On buying a Dragonfly  (Read 2087 times)

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Offline patrickwhitty

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On buying a Dragonfly
« on: 22 Apr 2020 at 07:01 »
A ‘Fly in the Ointment.
If you really needed a bike you probably wouldn’t buy a Douglas Dragonfly. I really didn’t need a bike. I hadn’t ridden a bike for years and eventually sold my disused MZ 125. But while teaching in Vietnam, surrounded by tiny Hondas and their unfeasible loads, I couldn’t help scanning the swarms for a bike that looked like a bike. By sitting on the fuel tank you free up a huge amount of space for children or sacks of vegetables while the rear seat is ideal for carrying a bed or a fridge freezer. Motor scooters are ideal for transporting anything and everything, but a bike with the fuel tank in front of the rider looks better. Just as well I didn’t find one, I might have bought it and just think of the inconvenience of getting it home. What had I in mind? Something like a Triumph Cub? A bit small, though after not riding even a 125 for years I wouldn’t want anything too big. What about a Triumph 350. Beautifully designed twin cylinder symmetry; but expensive. An AJS or Matchless 350 thumper would be more affordable. The later machines, those benefiting from an alternator and fewer oil leaks, lack the organic appeal of the magneto covers and the engine space, designed for a much larger engine, ends up looking rather vacant. I looked, internetically speaking, at many bikes for sale, mainly AJS and Matchless. Not to buy of course, just to see what was available. I did think seriously about a very shiny black AJS 350 quite close to my home in Scotland which had failed to sell on E-bay. Then I noticed the name ‘Douglas’ on one of the websites I visited. What sort of bike did Douglas make? Click click; and there it was. A grubby old Dragonfly. Weird front suspension, strange styling, bizarre, different, interesting. Expensive. I wouldn’t be returning to the UK for several months but if it was still for sale when I got home...
Then, one morning, it had vanished from the dealer’s website.
Only to re-appear on E-bay.
Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of the UK; I got up at 2.30 and put in a final, winning, catastrophic bid on TYR105, not only sight unseen but 8000 miles away. Unable to collect it, it was delivered to my brother who stored it in his shed, in the company of his Austin 7.
It was four months later on a cold dark Friday evening in February when I finally set eyes on this vast, formidable, shabby monster. And I didn’t even need a bike. I could have had a nice shiny black AJS, with great spares availability; for a good deal less money.
It was no smaller in the morning, though it was certainly shabbier. No, not shabby; it has patina. After considerable effort I got it started and trundled up and down the track a few times before plucking up enough courage to venture out onto the Big B Road and drive through the local village and back along the main road. If it wasn’t exactly fast it certainly trotted along quite nicely and I might very well have set off for home, 160 miles away, but the weather deteriorated. In fact it snowed most of the way home and wasn’t pleasant on four wheels, let alone two.
A second visit to collect the machine failed when it developed a carburettor problem and it could only struggle along on one cylinder. So all I came home with was an offending carburettor to dismantle, clean and puzzle over on the kitchen table. Zen, and all that.
Before we could make a third attempt my brother turned up with the beast in the back of his camper van and we ran it down a ramp and into its garage. Almost six months after I bought it my Dragonfly was home at last; but still there was a fly in the ointment.
Clean carburettor on and still it would only run on the right hand cylinder.
‘Nine out of ten carburettor problems are ignition.’ After fiddling with the distributor and with sparks at both plugs there was still no sign of life from the left hand cylinder. I had new plugs, so I fitted them. There was a deafening full throttle roar; I re-adjusted the left hand throttle control. 
In this covid era unnecessary runs are discouraged but I use the Dragonfly to travel four days a week to my essential work in a local supermarket, getting used to it, gaining confidence in it, turning heads. Not, necessarily, coming home by the shortest route. 
While it is still a great heavy monster of a bike I am getting used to hauling it onto its centre stand and it doesn’t feel big on the move. Solid, yes, but a very comfortable ride. Good for touring which, with its vast fuel tank, is what it was designed for. I find the strange styling grows on me. It has some lovely lines and I like the way the engine crouches low in the frame, head down and elbows stuck out as though it means business.
Speed, however, is not its business. Among the papers which came with it is a letter from a former officer of the London Douglas MCC to a previous owner. ‘A lovely bike to ride albeit a bit short of power. What I would call a bike for the man who has grown out of speed!’
I think that sums up the Dragonfly to perfection. It is delightful to ride and maybe I never really grew into speed, otherwise I wouldn’t have been content to ride an MZ 125 for so many years.
It isn’t shiny but it looks like a bike to be used. That is what it was designed for; that is what I bought it for. And I wouldn’t dream of exchanging it for a shiny black AJS. 

Offline Roys rider

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Re: On buying a Dragonfly
« Reply #1 on: 22 Apr 2020 at 20:18 »
Thank you. Think I will go and polish ROY.

Offline graeme

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Re: On buying a Dragonfly
« Reply #2 on: 02 May 2020 at 04:27 »
Marvelous - I'm sure the editor of the LDMCC magazine would love a copy of this to put in the mag