By: IOL Motoring Anorak
Crewkerne, Somerset - While the Ariel motorcycles you see on this page have nothing to do with the fabled English brand - which goes back to James Starley's invention of the wire-spoked wheel in 1870 (he also invented the differential gear, seven years later, but that's another story) - we reckon the craftsmen who created the iconic Ariel Square Four in 1930 would have approved.
The Ariel Ace is the first motorcycle from Ariel motors, which was founded in 1999 to build the Atom, a minimalist, barely street-legal sports-car that wears all its engineering (including its Honda engine) on the outside.
And it's not so much a production machine as a catalogue of mix-and-match components from which the chaps at Crewkerne will build you any motorcycle your heart desires and your bank manager will stand for.
Building on the well-established link with Honda, the Ace has a 1237cc VFR1200 V4 engine, with fuel-injection and ignition mapping revised by Ariel to deliver 129kW and 129Nm to its shaft final drive via either a six-speed manual (VFR1200D) or dual-clutch (VFR1200FD) transmission.
Performance should be about the same, with 0-100km/h in about 3.4 seconds and a top speed of around 275km/h.
All of which is off-the-shelf Honda componentry, but that's where the similarity to any other motorcycle on the planet ends.
The one thing that's common to every Ace is the frame, which is welded up from six sections, each individually machined from a solid block of aluminium alloy - a process that takes more than 70 hours - to create what Ariel claims is the world's first billet motorcycle frame; every frame is then anodised in the customer's choice of colour.
And because the frame of every Ace is identical, upgrades and changes can be made throughout the bike's life.
The head angle is adjustable, using interchangeable eccentric bearing holders from a fairly neutral 25.1 degrees to a hair-trigger 21.8 degrees a for flat-track style steering response, and out to a rangy 28.4 degrees for a lazy-steering cruiser.
Here you have a choice of Ohlins Road & Track inverted forks, adjustable for preload, rebound and compression damping, or Ariel's own girder front end, machined from billet aluminium, with multi-bearing top and bottom suspension arms for improved compliance and reduced stiction, modulated by Ohlins TTX dampers, also adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear suspension is by the original Honda Pro Link single sided cast aluminium swing-arm (that's unavoidable because of the shaft drive) with your choice of rear spring and damper set-up, including a specially-made Ohlins strut adjust for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Both front and rear suspension are further tuneable at the factory to provide different heights and spring rates.
Braking is by dual 320mm floating front discs with six-pot Nissin callipers and a 276mm rear disc with dual-piston calliper, also by Nissin, with ABS and traction control as standard.
Goodridge stainless-steel hose and fittings are used throughout with an option of Goodridge Kevlar hose and lightweight fittings.
Wheels are five and seven-spoked alloy with the option of BST carbon-fibre wheels made specifically for the Ace.
Start with your choice of three different fuel tanks, ranging from 14.1 to 21.3 litres, then add your choice of three seats - low single seat with additional and removable pillion passenger seat, dual seat or solo sports seat, each created by Master Saddler, who holds a Royal Warrant, using three different kind of leather and contrasting stitching.
Three levels of footrests are available - low, mid and high - all machined from solid, with a choice of reach-adjustable foot levers, and anodised to customer requirements. Handlebars are available in different heights and finishes; you can also specify clip-ons, but only with telescopic forks.
Then you finish the look with different mudguards, huggers, radiator covers, belly pans, fairings and screens - all available in standard composite or carbon fibre, finished in any colour you want.
The switchgear is standard Honda issue (unavoidable, especially with the dual-clutch transmission) but the instrument panel is a bespoke Race Technologies liquid-crystal display, also found on the Atom, with multi-screen information that can be set up and scrolled through by the rider plus programmable gearshift lights.
There's also an optional data logger that can show real time performance as well as recording on an SD card for later download to a tablet or PC for corner-by-corner analysis.
Ariel director Simon Saunders explained: “Bikers have a real passion for their machines. They like them to be individual, not just another bike identical to hundreds or thousands of others.
“The usual route is to buy a standard bike and then modify it with various aftermarket components into what they want - but with the Ace the uniqueness is built in as the bike is produced and each one will be as individual as its owner.”