The Black Douglas Motorcycle Company is positioning itself as a bike coachbuilder with a penchant for vintage technology from almost a century ago, when some of the earliest motorcycles were being conceived. The first factory version of the Sterling MK5, called the Autocycle Countryman Deluxe, is all-metal and mostly old school with modernity found only in the electronics and drivetrain. Otherwise, it hopes to evoke art deco design from the roaring ‘20s via hand-built construction and nostalgic details.
Black Douglas has been making custom flat tankers since 2011. In 2012, their Sterling Autocycle made it onto bike build blogs around the world. With the help of prototype engineers who have previously worked with Ducati and Yamaha, Black Douglas owner Fabio Cardoni set on to develop a factory Autocycle for production. The finished product is the Sterling MK5; it comes in 36 color choices and an array of accessories for customization including luggage racks, saddlebags, and even wicker baskets. Coming soon are optional extras like sidecars, handlebars, fuel caps, and headlights.
Black Douglas offers the Sterling in 125cc or 230cc — air-cooled with a 5-speed transmission — mostly for the European market but customers abroad can order the bikes as DIY kits. The 4-stroke, carbureted OHV pushrod power plants are sourced from Zhongshan and are Taiwanese replicas of Honda CG engines for which they have rights.
The Sterling Autocycle MK5 has a fuel capacity of 9 liters, an overall length of 2180 mm, and a seat height of 830 mm. Curb weight is claimed at 95 kg. Brakes are old school mechanical drums. Front suspension is taken care of an adjustable shock integrated into the classic girder axle, which is “updated with modern tight-tolerance needle bearings and are taken apart and reassembled by hand to ensure prefect bearing loads and a precise fit for the seals to ensure a long life,” according to the Black Douglas website. The rear looks to be a hardtail with a spring type saddle.
Frames are hand-built out of pure steel, wires are hidden, and cables are wrapped in canvas. To push the period look even further, Black Douglas went with nickel plating instead of chrome — a subtle detail that makes a difference in sheen appearance. Other vintage touches include the U-shaped handlebars, Klaxon replica horn, and a “herring can” headlight.