A sneak peak behind the scenes at Ariel
How a great British biking name is being revived with a performance machine like no other
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