A sneak peak be­hind the scenes at Ariel

How a great British bik­ing name is be­ing re­vived with a per­for­mance ma­chine like no other

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Contents -

Of all the great British bik­ing names fol­low­ing Tri­umph and Nor­ton that have been re­vived over the last decade or so, none is more vi­brant or per­for­mance-fo­cused as Ariel.

Born out of the cut­ting-edge tech of the Ariel Atom sports car, con­ceived to em­brace both sta­teof-the-art com­po­nents and rad­i­cal fea­tures such as girder forks and an exo-skele­ton frame and, with 160bhp+ from its Honda V4 (200 from the lat­est R ver­sion) mak­ing it among the most po­tent of all Brit bikes, the Ariel Ace is stun­ning.

Which makes it all the more im­pres­sive when you dis­cover that each hand-built bike is formed and as­sem­bled by Ariel’s fairly small, skilled team out of an eas­ily-missed as­sort­ment of be­spoke, con­verted farm-build­ings just out­side of Yeovil in ru­ral Som­er­set.

The Ariel story, of course, is in­ex­tri­ca­bly con­nected to cars. The rad­i­cal, light­weight Ariel Atom, fa­mous for be­ing the clos­est ex­pe­ri­ence to a bike on four wheels and for long-hold­ing the speed record around Top Gear’s test track, was orig­i­nally con­ceived as a stu­dent project at Coven­try Univer­sity in the 1990s. Se­nior lec­turer Si­mon Saun­ders led the project to­wards pro­duc­tion, first as Solocrest, with the Ariel name ac­quired in 1999 and the de­but Atom pro­duced in 2000.

Al­though cars re­main the heart of Ariel’s busi­ness, bik­ing am­bi­tions, partly be­cause of the Ariel name, even­tu­ally led to the launch of the Ace, pow­ered by a Honda VFR1200 V4, in 2014. Car pro­duc­tion, from Ariel’s 32-strong team, is cur­rently about 100 units a year with about 25 bikes pro­duced as well.

All de­sign and styling is done in-house, com­po­nents and as­sem­blies are bought in or sub­con­tracted (for ex­am­ple the

ex­quis­ite milled alu­minium frame is by Talon and the ex­haust is made by Bir­challs Au­to­mo­tive).

No two bikes are the same as there is an ex­ten­sive op­tions list in­clud­ing three types of fork (al­though the girder is by far the most pop­u­lar), dif­fer­ent seats, tanks, sus­pen­sion, wheels, ex­hausts, bars and more.

“We sell more than we thought but less than we hoped,” Ariel’s Tom Siebert tells MCN. “We could make one a week, al­though we’ve no de­sire to be take on the big boys.” ● See MCN’S test of the new top-spec Ariel Ace R at www. mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com/ariel-ace-r

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