Signs of the times
Memories of an Ariel test rider
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.