We’ve followed the development of the new Ariel motorcycle closely, not least because the factory is a pleasant short ride over the hills from Bg HQ in West Dorset – plus Ariel retain their enthusiasm for talking about engineering ideas and solutions, and don’t go in for filtered corporate speak. Watch this space for the first test ride.
click on an image… full story HERE
Much of what has transpired was predicted on here or exclusively revealed by Ariel MD Simon Saunders. Modularity? Check. VFR 1200 and running gear? Check. A trellis element? Check. Although in fact the Ariel Ace employs what is effectively a split beam frame design, separated by a solid trellis like section. If you imagine a conventional sportsbike beam frame designed to combine minimal weight and sufficient rigidity, you might well come up with something similar to the Ace. Top pic is from an RSV4, lower is from the Ace.
We’re not talking an early Hinckley style jack of all trades approach to modularity. This modularity is relatively expensive (£20k to get in the game) and expansive: there is a lot of adjustability available, including different head angles – via interchangeable eccentric bearing holders – which tune the rake angle for different uses, from 21.8 degrees to 28.4 degrees, with a standard mid-point of 25.1 degrees for ‘neutral handling’. Wheelbase can be altered according to preference and (presumably) front end arrangements in situ. Seat height can be altered equally generously, and peg positions moved. In other words ergonomics are a movable feast. It will be interesting to see how these variables work out in practice: as most of us are aware, a very small amount of ride geometry difference can go a very long way…
We’ll go into more depth when we ride the bike, but meanwhile the most striking aspect to our eye is the employment of girder forks. The girder design is conceptually closer to Hossack / Duolever than Telelever (BMW R1200 GS etc) – in other words the rider has an awareness of braking forces coming into play without the forks themselves doing all the work. And in theory, the girder design maximises torsional rigidity while saving weight vs USDs. The jury has to remain out on that aspect pending further information (and a comprehensive test ride), but as funny front end fans we’re pleased to see them, and they have a striking aesthetic impact. One big problem with a modular concept, a bike for everyman on a decent budget, is that you can end up with an expensive looking dog’s breakfast, a conceptual mish mash: pragmatism can be elegant or brutal. Inevitably, some components appeal more than others – from some angles that radiator challenges a purist aesthetic – but judgement must be suspended pending a date with the real deal: beware of making a call on the basis of photos alone.
The following information came with the press pack. At this early stage, it obviously raises a number of questions, not least among them kerb weight – that VFR lump, drive and swinger is one heavy assembly – and it is too soon for independent dyno data. Also, being a modular design, a number of key parameters are going to be flexible: in other words we have one spec for a variety of possibilities… We’ll have more answers along with that test ride. The official press release follows the figures.
ARIEL ACE FACTORY SPEC
Engine 76 degree 1237cc Unicam Honda V4
Bore 81mm x 60mm
Throttle by wire
Power 173 BHP @ 10,000 rpm Torque 131Nm @ 8750 rpm
Gearbox A 6 speed manual sequential
B DCT switchable auto with sport and manual push button control
Switchable traction control
Fuel A 14.1 litres
B 18.6 litres
C 21.3 litres
Exhaust Stainless steel exhaust, option of silencers
Chassis Anodised machined and welded aluminium frame
Adjustable rake angle 21.8 degrees – 28.4 degrees
A Front Ariel Girder with TTX damper
Adjustable compression, rebound and spring preload
B Front Telescopic forks
Adjustable compression, rebound and spring preload
Rear Pro link single sided swing arm
Adjustable compression rebound and spring preload
Braking Front: Twin 320mm floating discs with 6 piston radial callipers
Rear: Single 276mm floating disc with 2 piston sliding calliper
Electronic ABS front and rear
Wheels Front: 17×3.5
Tyres Front: 120/70ZR17
Instruments Digital LCD display with datalogging capability and gear indicator
Lighting LED headlamp, LED brake/stop lamp, LED indicators
Bodywork Composite and carbon fibre
Seat Height A 745mm
Wheelbase A 1541mm
Performance 0 -60 mph 3.4 seconds (0-100kph)
Top speed 165mph (265kph)
Price Starting at £20,000 including VAT @ 20%
Ariel launch the all new Ace motorcycle
Ariel Motor Company announce the launch of the latest addition to the Ariel family – the Ariel Ace motorcycle. The Ace represents the first new motorcycle from Ariel for over 50 years and builds on a history that began in 1870 making revolutionary bicycles and patenting the spoked wheel. More recently known for the iconic Atom, Ariel were famous throughout the last century for innovative motorcycles such as the 4 cylinder Ariel Square 4 and the 2 stroke, pressed steel frame Ariel Arrow. The new Ace reinforces Ariel’s tradition, both old and new, of all that’s best in British innovation, performance, quality and craftsmanship.
The new bike will be made in low volume by Ariel at their factory near Crewkerne, Somerset in quantities of between 100 – 150 motorcycles per annum alongside the Atom sports car. Orders are now being taking for the Ace with production beginning at the start of 2015. The Ace builds on the long standing relationship between Ariel and Honda, that began with the Ariel Atom. The new motorcycle features a Honda 1237cc V4 engine and drive system combining the best high and low volume engineering, materials and production values together with a bespoke build system that has never been seen before on a production motorcycle.
The unique way that Ariel builds vehicles allows each motorcycle to be tailored and fitted to individual customer choice to give them exactly the bike they want and to personalise it to their own use and taste. From low riding cruiser, through street and naked machines, to super sport bikes the Ace will be built to owners’ specific requirements and desires. Adjustable footrests, brake and gear lever plus different seat heights and handlebar configurations allow the Ace to be personally fitted for each rider, whatever their size, to give the perfect riding position. Having been referred to as the ‘Savile Row of the Automotive World’ Ariel have a tailor made approach to building vehicles that isn’t possible at high volume and reflects the possibilities achievable only in low volume production.
This unique approach builds on motorcyclists’ great interest in individualising their machines and making them unique. With the Ace a great number of options will be available on ordering the bike to allow each one to be built giving a personal, but carefully designed and coherent outcome. Variants of front and rear suspension, low and high seats with pillion options, different sizes of tank, handlebars, wheels, exhausts, bodywork and more, as well as colours, finishes and materials, will form an extensive option list to ensure that each Ace motorcycle is completely unique to its owner.
Said Simon Saunders, Director of Ariel, “Motorcyclists have a real passion for their machines. They like them to be individual and they want them to be their bike, not just another bike identical to hundreds or thousands of others. The usual route is to buy a standard bike and then add various aftermarket components to change the bike into what they want. However with the Ace the uniqueness is built in as the bike is produced and each one will be as individual as its owner.”
“The first photos show just two different possibilities of specification for the bike, but the combinations are nearly endless and we plan to continue to add further options in the future. At Ariel once we understand what a customer wants, whatever it is, we can build the bike they need.”
Each Ace motorcycle will be handbuilt by one Ariel technician in an individual build bay, as with the Atom sports car, giving customers an even greater degree of personal relationship with the build of their motorcycle and the person building it, to the point of being able to visit their bike in build. Only when an Ariel technician is satisfied will the motorcycle gain his personal build plate and move on to final testing and inspection. Said James ‘Reg’ Feiven, chief technician at Ariel and part of the Ace design team, “Nearly every Ariel employee holds a full motorcycle licence and we’re passionate about motorcycles in all their forms as well as quality. The only pressure we have when building any Ariel, whether it’s a motorcycle or a car, is to make sure that it’s absolutely right. And one of the best rewards we have is seeing the smile on a customers’ face when they come to collect.”
The Ace is also upgradeable over a period of time. Owners of Ariel Aces can return their bikes to the factory where upgrades, modifications and new options can be fitted to change a customer’s bike for different uses or to modify the specification at any time. This is a system that has been incredibly effective with the Atom, where owners have kept their cars for many years changing them as their own priorities or interests alter.
Designed by the in house Ariel team the Ace respects Ariel’s past while looking forward with innovative ideas and design. The unique exterior perimeter space frame is identifiably Ariel and reflects the visible chassis of the Atom but is particular to the Ace both in material and design philosophy. Styling of the bike picks up on both traditional values and future trends in world superbike design. Using CAD and traditional clay modelling techniques the Ace was designed virtually and also in full size in Ariel’s own studio facility. Said Simon Saunders, “The many combinations of components made the design phase particularly difficult as we had to ensure that any Ace works as a coherent whole. Motorcyclists have a deep understanding of their machines and will appreciate the design, engineering and particular manufacturing techniques that have gone into the Ace. To us a machined from billet component or a piece of carbon fibre is a beautiful thing and I know that bikers feel the same way.”
Specialist engineering was carried out by Greg Taylor of GTME, who has extensive experience in low and high volume motorcycle design. Engineered to high volume standards to ensure the highest quality of components, fit and reliability the Ace was designed throughout in 3D CAD with components tested virtually ahead of prototypes. Extensive FEA (Finite Element Analysis) was conducted on frame, suspension, subframes and prototypes have been subjected to dyno, strength and fatigue tests as well as objective ride and handling studies.
Performance from the Ace has been aimed at the average rider being able to extract comfortable and consistently attainable performance from the bike, with a top speed of 165mph and 0-60mph figure of 3.4 seconds. Mapping and fuelling is carried out to Ariel specification although overall power output remains similar to the Honda VFR at over 170bhp. Said Simon Saunders, “We looked at an out and out, super lightweight race bike but they are already out there and are so far beyond the abilities of most riders that we took the decision to produce a really fast bike that was easy to ride and within the capabilities of most riders. Our motto is Serious Fun and those two words absolutely encapsulate what the Ace is all about.”
Prices for the Ace aim to start at £20,000, including tax in the UK, with a comprehensive option list to allow each bike to be tailored to order.
The Ace features a machined aluminium frame, options of suspension and different fork designs including Ariel’s own girder front end, Honda VFR1200 V4 engine in manual or DCT form, shaft drive, three different seats with pillion options, three different fuel tank capacities, bodywork options, handlebar and clip-on variants, different, adjustable footrest and control positions, wheels, tyres plus a wide range of finishes, materials and colours.
Heart of the Ace is an aluminium frame machined from solid billet with welded construction which is common to all variants of the Ace providing mounting points for various subframe, fuel tank, body and suspension options. Never before seen on a production motorbike the detailed engineering and beauty of functional form apparent in the frame follows a tradition established by Ariel with the Atom.
The load bearing frame, which exceeds industry rigidity standards, carries the engine, various seat packages, front and rear suspension as well as providing a safety cell for the fuel tank. Made from 6 individual billet aluminium sections each frame takes over 70 hours to machine before being welded together. Every frame is then anodised for protection and different colour finishes are available to increase customer choice and individualise the frame to each bike. The common frame also allows upgrades and changes to be made to the Ace throughout its life.
Different head angles, via interchangeable eccentric bearing holders, are achievable to tune the rake angle for different uses from 21.8 degrees to 28.4 degrees, with a standard mid-point of 25.1 degrees for neutral handling. Head angle is set by Ariel during build or can be altered when the bike is serviced.
Engine and transmission
The Ace uses the Honda V4 VFR1200 Unicam engine building on the relationship first seen in the Ariel Atom which uses a Honda Type R engine. The best known previous Ariel motorcycle was the four cylinder Square 4 introduced as a 500cc in 1930 developing into a 997cc machine that finished production in 1959. The use of the transverse, water cooled Honda 76 degree V4 builds on this four cylinder tradition and was chosen for its power, flexibility, compact size and advanced technology. At 1237cc and with 173bhp and 129Nm of torque the V4 gives enormous performance but remains within the ability of the average rider. Throttle by wire technology has been combined with Ariel’s fuel mapping and intake system to give progressive and responsive power delivery throughout the rev range. An important addition is the singular V4 exhaust note released by Ariel’s various exhaust systems making the Ace an aural as well as visible delight.
The Honda VFR engine also gives Ariel the ability to offer the Ace in manual and Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) form adding yet further to customer choice. The 6 speed sequential manual offers standard motorcycle transmission whilst the DCT version can be used in fully ‘Auto’, ‘Sport’ or push button ‘Manual’ mode. This combined with the Honda shaft drive system mean absolute choice plus total peace of mind for Ace riders and the total reliability that Ariel customers have come to expect. From a 6 speed sports bike to a fully automatic long distance cruiser the Ace can deliver.
The Ace features front suspension options of telescopic forks and the unique Ariel girder front end. Made from machined aluminium the Ariel girder forks give an option to standard telescopic forks which result in better handling, feel and sensitivity but at the same time feel familiar to any motorcycle rider. Due to the multi bearing top and bottom suspension arms, compliance is greatly improved and stiction reduced over conventional telescopic forks providing better response over different road surfaces and undulations as well as under braking to corners.
As an all new suspension system the challenge for Ariel was designing the girder fork suspension system to feel familiar to motorcycle riders. To achieve this kinematics (movement of the wheel through its suspension travel) and wheel rate (spring rate measured at wheel contact patch) had to closely match that of a telescopic fork suspension system. Although it is an entirely new and unconventional system it therefore feels reassuringly familiar to a rider used to telescopic forks. Featuring the latest Ohlins TTX dampers and springs which offer separate rebound and compression damping, together with spring preload, the Ariel girder system can be set up by owners to provide the exact level of response for their own particular needs and riding style.
To give further choice to Ariel customers the option of Ohlins Road & Track telescopic forks are available, tailored specifically for the Ace. Offering optimised weight and ultimate telescopic fork performance the Ohlins units come with rebound, compression and spring adjustment, tuneable for the use of the bike. As with the girder forks the head angle is adjustable in build or at service to provide different levels of steering response according to use and customer wishes.
Rear suspension is by Pro Link single sided cast aluminium swing arm, containing the shaft drive, with options of different gas damper. Again an Ohlins option with compression, rebound and spring adjustment is available tuned specifically to the Ace. Both front and rear suspension are further tuneable by Ariel to provide different heights, spring rates and special use requests.
Wheels, brakes and tyres
Front brakes are Nissin 320mm dual floating hydraulic discs with 6 piston callipers while the rear are Nissin 276mm disc with 2 piston calliper (plus park brake with DCT transmission). All versions of the Ace have electronic ABS brakes together with switchable traction control. Options of Brembo brakes will be available when the Ace goes into production and once final testing has been signed off. Goodridge hose and fittings are used throughout the Ace for all brake and clutch lines with an option of Goodridge Kevlar hose and lightweight fittings.
Wheels are five and seven spoke alloy with the option of BST full carbon fibre and aluminium lightweight wheels made specifically for the Ace. The carbon wheels show a 50% weight saving over the alloy wheels and centralise weight due to the lighter rim, resulting in improved performance and handling.
All Aces will come with a choice of Dunlop tyres. With an association stretching back to 1895 when Dunlop and Ariel effectively shared Trademarks and made bicycles it is particularly fitting that the relationship should be rekindled with the Ace. Whilst Dunlop went on to concentrate on the production of tyres Ariel concentrated on cycles before moving on to powered vehicles a couple of years later, then cars and motorbikes. Dependant on the use of each bike Ariel can choose from a wide range of Dunlop tyres to suit the use and purpose of each bike. The bikes pictured are fitted with Qualifier ll and GP Racer GPD211 tyres, used to enormous success in this year’s TT Races.
Bodywork, seats and controls
At the centre of the Ace modularity is the interchangeable bodywork and seating. Various bodywork is available with different tanks, mudguards, huggers, radiator covers, belly pans, screens and fairings. All are available in standard composite or carbon fibre. A selection of standard Ariel colours will be available plus the option of paint to any colour required or special paintwork and colour schemes. The fuel tanks are available in three different capacities from 14.1 to 21.3 Litres. Further fairings, screens, tanks and seats will become available as Ace production progresses.
Three versions of seats are available – low single seat, with additional and removable pillion passenger seat, a dual seat and a solo sports seat. The low seat features a seat height of 745mm allowing all riders to have both feet firmly on the ground and has the option of a quickly added or removed matching pillion seat. The low seat shown demonstrates just one of the possibilities for individual material and trim choice. Created by a Master Saddler, who holds a Royal Warrant, the seat uses three different kind of leather and contrasting stitching. The nearly unlimited possibilities of colour, material and trim plus the use of master craftsmen to tailor each bike to exacting standards demonstrates the care and attention to detail possible with Ariel’s unique production ability.
A slightly higher dual seat is a second option, again with trim, material and stitch options and features stowable/foldable pillion foot pegs. This feature also comes on the low pillion seat and allows the rider to simply fold up the footrests when not in use, creating a clean line but making pillion footrests available when required. The footrests lock in position when up or down released by a pull knob on the back of the footrest support.
The higher solo seat allows for a more sports riding position and again is available with a variety of trim options and different seat padding as well as a full carbon fibre option.
Three levels of footrests will be available – low, mid and high – to complement the various seats and achieve the desired seating position for each customer and their use. All controls and footpegs are made from machined aluminium, again available in different anodised finishes, and are also adjustable to different reach positions. To accommodate the various position possibilities different foot levers are available which are also adjustable for reach and height.
Handlebars are available in different heights, as well as finishes, in addition to clip-ons for telescopic forks. Hand controls have standard motorcycle controls including hazard and headlamp flashers and the DCT option features mode selection, push button gearchange control as well as a parking brake. The DCT version has no clutch or brake lever, all systems being controlled by electronics automatically or by manual buttons on the hand controls.
Instruments and electronics
Instrumentation is via a Race Technologies LCD dash, also found on the Atom. The instruments feature programmable gearshift lights plus multi screen information that can be set up and scrolled through by the rider. Control buttons are on the left hand side of the Ace behind the headstock. Readouts for RPM, speed, oil pressure, water temperature, voltage, ambient temperature and fuel with additional warning lights for ABS, traction, indicator, low fuel, main beam and neutral plus a master alarm system give the rider information covering all aspects of the bike. A further option is the addition of a data logger that can show real time performance as well as log to an in built SD card.
The Honda HISS (Honda Ignition Security System) is used on the Ace, together with a key activated steering lock. Further Tracker systems are available as options on the bike. Switchable traction control and electronically controlled ABS are both standard on the VFR as are standard Honda diagnosis and service connections allowing service functions to be carried out quickly and efficiently.
All lighting on the Ace is LED, with a 140mm headlight featuring cutting edge optics, which mimic natural sunlight, housed in a lightweight, die cast aluminium housing. Tail, brake light and indicators are also LED driven for better performance and longer life. Battery and electronic components are housed under the seat and tank units.
Further components, bodywork, tuning parts and accessories will be developed as part of a continuing Ace design and engineering programme to further expand customer choice. As with the Ariel Atom new parts will be retro-fit compliant allowing Ace motorcycles to be upgraded over a period of time or as further developments are made.
Ariel’s objective has been to bring together the very highest standards of design and engineering, in a variety of technically interesting materials, with the craftsmanship and particular skills that are available in low volume production. The ultimate goal was to produce one of the best and most interesting motorcycles in the world. The Ace is the result of this and puts the Ariel name back on two wheels as well as four.