Ride – For Those Astride – The Ariel Leader
The Ariel Leader was designed by Val Page and Bernard Knight.
It featured a 250 cc two-stroke engine hung atop a monocoque ‘backbone’ made of 20-gauge pressed steel panels. The gasoline tank was concealed within this structure and could be accessed by lowering the hinged dual seat.
For storage, a fake petrol tank large enough to hold a spare crash helmet was employed. The entirely enclosed bodywork (originally designed by Phil Vincent for the revolutionary Vincent Black Prince) was the most noticeable feature since none of the motorcycle’s operating parts were visible.
The leader dash displays a parking light behind the screen, as well as a headlight trimmer knob near the speedometer. The standard Leader features featured a headlamp trimmer, an extensible lifting handle for simple center stand usage, and a permanent windshield attachment, in addition to a complete body. The following factory extras were available: integrated-design hard-luggage ‘panniers,’ the first flashing indicators on a British motorcycle, a dash-mounted parking light, windscreen top-extension (adjustable on the go), a rear rack, and a clock aperture fitted into a ‘dashboard.’
The Leader, which debuted in mid-1958, claimed to combine the comfort of a scooter with the performance of a motorcycle. It sold well at first, and it was named Motorcycle of the Year by Motor Cycle News in 1959. Because Ariel followed up the launch with a broad list of alternatives (rare at the time), few of the 22,000 Ariel Leaders manufactured were identical. Color choices deviated from the norm as well, with Oriental Blue or Cherry Red highlights and Admiral Gray accents. Arrow, Ariel This was a cheaper, stripped-down Leader that was produced beginning in 1959 and evolved into the Golden Arrow ‘sport’ version in 1961. Ariel Arrow 200, a sibling motorcycle with a lesser capacity of 200cc accomplished by decreasing the bore to 48.5 mm from 54 mm but preserving the same stroke, was offered from 1964 to bring it into a lower tax band and benefit from cheaper UK rider insurance payments.
The motorcycles were capable of high performance, with a peak speed of 74 mph and a cruising speed of 60 mph. The bike featured the standard Arrow ivory background color, but the tank and chaincase were finished in either ‘aviation’ blue or British Racing Green, and tank emblems read ‘Arrow 200.’ Following the closing of the Ariel plant in 1967, Ariel launched their final motorcycle, the Arrow 200, which was built for a time by BSA. In 1960, a prototype Arrow with a 349 cc twin-cylinder four-stroke engine was built to market alongside the Ariel Leader.
Page’s economical engine, rated at 75 mph (121 km/h), was canted to suit the Arrow chassis. Although it was hoped that the original 18 bhp (13 kW) power output might have been boosted to 24 horsepower (18 kW), development funds ran out, and the project was canceled. Ariel was unable to compete with Japanese imports.
The Ariel plant closed in 1965, but the brand was used by BSA to build Ariel Arrows until 1967 and a commercially unsuccessful 49cc tricycle called the Ariel 3 in 1970.