Signs of the times

Mem­o­ries of an Ariel test rider

Old Bike Australasia - - BLOW YOUR OWN -

I have just read your is­sue 43 with the Ariel Ar­row story. A great pity the bikes were a white ele­phant but prob­a­bly in to­day’s world would have been ac­cepted, es­pe­cially if the Leader had an elec­tric start four-stroke twin mo­tor, like the Tri­umph Ti­gress made by the same group. I started work at Ariel Mo­tor­cy­cles, Selly Oak, Birm­ing­ham as a mo­tor­cy­cle mileage test rider on 16th De­cem­ber, 1957, mainly de­vel­op­ing the new Leader and Ar­row. The en­gine was de­vel­oped from a Ger­man 250cc Adler, I think, so it was a 250cc twin cylin­der two stroke, and to­tally un­suit­able for the type of bike it was fit­ted to – a to­tally en­closed, scooter/mo­tor­cy­cle, rare in those days of ‘real’ mo­tor­cy­cles. The Ar­row ‘sport’ ver­sion of this model range was a fun thing to ride – quite fast, turned well, and ex­cep­tion­ally good on black ice, of which there was plenty dur­ing the ‘Brummy’ win­ters. When it was too wet, ice or smog to take the Lead­ers or Ar­rows out for the 300 mile daily ride, the ex­per­i­men­tal depart­ment would send me out on Ariel Square Fours, with hopes that I wouldn’t re­turn! Tim Gibbes Palmer­ston North NZ Those who will break road laws will do so re­gard­less of how many signs, plac­ards and other silli­ness you plonk along the road. Those that will obey the road rules do not need to be told ev­ery five feet what is ut­terly ob­vi­ous. Fur­ther­more, those that need nav­i­ga­tional help, like me, now tend to have a GPS in the car, and mo­tor­bike ones are just as avail­able. It wor­ries me that we seem to be in­creas­ingly fol­low­ing UK road nam­ing, so we seem to be head­ing for a fu­ture with ever more road­side stu­pid­ity. My re­cent point of dis­gust are the il­lu­mi­nated signs. The idea is great – tell the driver what is com­ing, par­tic­u­larly if there has been some in­ci­dent ahead. In use they are some­where be­tween id­i­otic and a haz­ard. Al­though the idea of post­ing aver­age tran­sit times on them is not too bad, I am yet to be con­vinced that the times are based on the cur­rent traf­fic con­di­tions. I have yet to en­counter one of the traf­fic in­ci­dents that the signs have warned me of, so there are some very se­ri­ous lags in the in­for­ma­tion dis­play sys­tem. But worse, it seems that if you give a bu­reau­crat a vari­able sign, he/she will feel it nec­es­sary to write some­thing on it at all times, even the stu­pid­est of stuff. But the most dire thing about them is that they do not seem to use vari­able in­ten­sity – what is nec­es­sary in the day is blind­ing at night. The same is true for the tem­po­rary signs the RTA uses. The large re­flec­tive signs can be just as blind­ing. So the bu­reau­crats do not even seem to have kept up with the steadily im­prov­ing car head­light sys­tems. There are places on the F3/M1 where I can­not use high beam with­out night-blind­ing my­self. Maybe one

ABOVE The Ariel test team with the pre-pro­duc­tion Lead­ers they tested through the Welsh coun­try­side. Seated on WOH 363 is Ken Whit­stance, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Ariel, and far right is Clive Ben­nett, man­ager of the Ex­per­i­men­tal Depart­ment.

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