Author Topic: Riding the Dragonfly  (Read 3212 times)

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Offline patrickwhitty

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Riding the Dragonfly
« on: 20 Oct 2020 at 14:56 »
Riding the Dragonfly.
Buying a classic bike on the internet, unseen and 6000 miles away is probably not the most strongly recommended procedure.
In October 2019, while working in Vietnam, I bought a Douglas Dragonfly on E-Bay. Why? I liked its peculiar design, and its slightly scruffy (useable) appearance.
‘Runs and rides.’ Well, sort of. After a fair amount of fiddling. But once it was running commuting to my work at a local supermarket provided me with a legitimate opportunity to use the Dragonfly during the covid era.
I have friends living in Austria who found themselves marooned in Edinburgh with all flights home cancelled. But the ferries were still running and while I used the Dragonfly my car was sitting, unused. The car was offered; the offer was accepted; the car went to Innsbruck.
The Dragonfly became my only transport and has become a regular feature at the supermarket. I park it where I can keep an eye on it via the warehouse security camera and where, when queuing was in fashion, the covid queue could consider the interesting styling and bizarre front suspension geometry and so go home with both toilet roll and mental resources equally refreshed.
Initially I used the motorcycle solely for commuting (though not always taking the shortest route). With the easing of lockdown I have used it for longer runs. The longest run has been a recent, very cold, 111 mile run up the formidable Cairn O Mount, past one of the 21 surviving AA phone boxes and on to Banchory, returning by way of The Slug Road and Stonehaven.
A commuter bike needs to be reliable; and start-able. When I first acquired the bike it was an absolute beast to start; when it finally fired I was too knackered to ride it. With the points adjusted, new plugs and a re-built carburettor it starts at the first kick (or maybe the third on a cold day). The ignition system, still 6v, uses a twin spark coil but the condenser remains cosily located on the distributor. As for reliability, I rarely bother to put a mobile phone in my pocket. Well, maybe on longer runs.
In September, with flights available, I finally collected my car from Austria; and had to quarantine for 14 days when I got home. After a whole month without using the Dragonfly I turned on the fuel and ignition and gave the starter a preparatory kick. She started.
The 1300 miles I have ridden the Dragonfly have not been quite without incident. Once the ignition key escaped; I found it on top of the gearbox. The second time it vanished completely and, having made a replacement, I now have it tethered to the throttle cable.  One of the exhaust pipes came loose at the exhaust port. Not much holding them on, is there? The MZ125 I used to ride had a substantial screwed ring to hold the pipe in place. No doubt the Douglas design is easier when it comes to dismantling the thing.
The bike runs on twin 375 Amal carburettors, one of which lost the threaded cover from the pilot jet and dribbled petrol all the way home. I ordered one immediately but, needing the bike to go to work a couple of days later I raked through my Father’s biscuit tin of ‘scratch’. ‘You can make anything from scratch if you need to.’ I found a piece of hex brass scratch and turned myself a replacement. Just as well, the ordered part took well over a week to arrive.
The same carburettor once stuck with the throttle open. No, not carb-ice. My warehouse safety boots have laces, one of which had come undone and had been swallowed by the bell mouth. I yanked it out before the inlet valve could chew the end off it. 
The speedometer glass seal has become hopelessly crispy and attempts to seal it were never really successful. However, the clear plastic cover from a 300 ml cream pot fits snugly on top. Unfortunately I put the cover somewhere while I looked for the silicon sealant and I remain temporarily unsure of its location. The 300ml cover seems to have been discontinued and although the lid from a larger pot is too big it can be re-modelled using a hot air gun. Now, no matter how long I leave it parked in the rain, no moisture ever gets into the instrument.
On a couple of occasions the bike has died on the way home. This fault is remedied by switching on the fuel.
I got a suitably scruffy older style top box on E-bay to fit the original rack. The replacement locks I bought are simply awful. The only good point is they are very hard to lock; because they are virtually impossible to unlock. Having destroyed one I modified its remains and fitted a padlock. It may not be neat but, with my helmet in the top-box, seize really matters. 
I bought headlamp visor; cheap enough and very period and maybe it helps to concentrate the feeble 6v beam. I also bought a beautiful second hand Halcyon bar end mirror; essential even with the covidly low levels of traffic.
The bike has a comfortable cruising speed of around 50 mph, creeping up to 55 on long straights. I doubt whether it would get anywhere near the original top speed of 70mph, even if I dared push it that far; and it really runs out of puff on long climbs. Fuel consumption is working out at about 63 mpg. It would be interesting to put it back to single carburettor configuration and see how that affects the performance and fuel consumption.
For the last seven months the Dragonfly has provided comfortable, reliable and interesting commuter transport and, with relaxing covid control, I have used it increasingly to putter off into the Angus hills and glens on sunny afternoons,

and less sunny afternoons. 

« Last Edit: 29 Oct 2020 at 07:17 by patrickwhitty »

Offline Roys rider

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Re: Riding the Dragonfly
« Reply #1 on: 23 Oct 2020 at 21:24 »
Thank you for that. I wish you many more happy miles.