Road Trials & Off-Roading

by Dave Richmond

Team photo - Douglas off-road competition
Team photo – Douglas off-road competition

The era of the Club’s founding in 1928 was the ‘golden age’ of Douglas’ participation and success in off-road trials. The Douglas team mainly used the 350cc side-valve models such as the EW and its derivatives, in the hands of some of the top riders of the day, winning many awards and team prizes. In road trials, where the Douglas daughters were accomplished competitors, many events resulted in outright wins and other awards.

Rosie Douglas and Z1 Powerflow, c.1934
Rosie Douglas and Z1 Powerflow, c.1934

By the mid-1930s, Douglas’ factory-sponsored machines no longer featured in trials; possibly due to the financial problems facing the business but also because changes in the style of sporting trials were taking place. Off-road events were becoming more specialised, with other manufacturers producing dedicated trials models aimed at the clubman who wanted a machine that would be competitive in these more demanding events.

At the 1948 Earls Court Show, Douglas displayed a rigid-framed Competition model based on the Mark series. This machine offered good ground clearance and the specification included a lower compression ratio and a wide ratio gearbox. Deliveries began in 1949 and some top class riders were engaged to ride works-entered machines. While initial results were good, these successes only lasted for a couple of seasons and, with the migration of their top riders to other marques, Douglas no longer featured in the results. Three special machines were prepared for the 1950 ISDT, based on the torsion bar spring frame and at least one of these has survived. For the 1951 season, Douglas offered the option of aluminium cylinder heads and barrels to save weight, and one example of this version is also known to the Club. The Competition model was dropped from the range for the 1952 season.

Today, with the growth in popularity of pre-65 trials, several Club members campaign their Competition models in off-road trials events, though, it has to be said, gaining more in enjoyment than prizes!