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Ariel Ace: The massively configurable motorcycle platform

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June 27, 2014

Ariel's Ace platform, here shown as a black bobber-style cruiser with girder-style front s...

Ariel's Ace platform, here shown as a black bobber-style cruiser with girder-style front suspension, and as a more conventional naked streetfighter

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Ariel, maker of the wild Atom sportscar, has just announced the Ace, a fully configurable motorcycle system based around a gorgeous billet frame and the Honda VFR1200 engine. It looks absolutely stunning, and it can be specified as anything from a cruiser, to a nakedbike, to a fully faired supersports machine – and altered endlessly after purchase. A fascinating concept, and the execution looks peerless.

If ever there was a car company that was really born to make motorcycles, you'd have to nominate Ariel. After all, before it was acquired and slapped on the Atom race car, the British brand was best known for its bikes, particularly the Square Four that was produced between the early 1930s and the late 1950s.

The Atom, pictured below, is basically a motorcycle at heart – and a bloody fast one at that. There's no roof, no windscreen, no heater or radio or beverage holders; it's designed to go around racetracks at a zillion miles an hour, and has mirrors and indicators tacked on so that you can drive it to the track. When you get there, it lays waste to just about anything else, blitzing most supercars thanks to its ridiculously light weight and Lotus-tuned handling, despite having the price tag of a family sedan.

Ariel Atom – a street-legal race machine

Now, Ariel has launched a motorcycle division, creating bespoke bikes based around a common frame and using a lightly worked Honda VFR1200 engine, with just about everything else chosen from a mile-long list of options at purchase. And they look absolutely stunning.

Ariel Ace as a naked streetfighter

The billet aluminum frame is the centerpiece of the Ariel Ace platform. Visually, it mimics the gorgeous exoskeleton of the Atom, a futuristic interpretation of the Ducati Monster trellis frame. One can only imagine what a challenge it would be to design a frame that works dynamically in a platform that could be anything from a girder-forked cruiser to a naked street bike to a supersport machine, with mounting options for all the bits that might need to be bolted on, and that can still serve as the visual heart of the piece. I think it looks sensational.

And here's where the options start for the customer. Do you want your 1200cc v-4 engine with a clutch and six-speed sequential foot shift, or would you prefer Honda's dual-clutch automatic, with thumb-shift "manual" mode but no clutch lever?

What sort of bike do you want it to be? A lazy cruiser, a fun street bike or a laser-focused sports bike? That's going to inform your choice of front end suspension, be it traditional Ohlins telescopic forks, or Ariel's own single-shock girder fork system, which should offer superior handling and suspension action. You'll also need to decide what steering head angle you'd like, balancing quick turning against high speed stability. Steering head angle can be changed at any time using interchangeable eccentric bearing holder inserts.

Ariel Ace, this time as a stubby-tailed cruiser reminiscent of the Confederate bikes

Then there's the question of the seat. Are you looking for something high and racy? A twin seat for pillions? A stubby bobber saddle for one? Take your pick. There's even three different fuel tank options, although I'm not sure why you'd go for the tiny 14 liter (3.7 US gal) tank when a 21.3 liter (5.6 US gal) one is available – perhaps it doesn't look as good.

The bars can be clip-ons if you're using telescopic forks, or high, medium or low handlebars. There's three types of foot controls, to match your leg length and work with the seat you've chosen. You can choose between different Nissin brake options at the front and rear, and between alloy, carbon fiber and aluminum wheels.

Ariel Ace carbon wheel option

Bodywork? You guessed it. Every piece from the mudguard to the hugger to the optional screen and fairings (which we haven't seen yet) will have a range of options to choose from – and the modular nature of the bike means you'll be able to switch bits without too much difficulty. I'm not sure there's ever been another dedicated cruiser that could be optioned up into supersport mode for a track day. Mind you, it'd be a pain in the butt, and if you can afford one of these masterpieces, you can certainly afford to keep an old R6 in the shed for that sort of business!

The dash is nearly standard across the range and there's an optional data logging system you can stick in if you're feeling funky. But otherwise it's the LCD dash from the Atom. You even choose the tires it rolls out with, although you're limited to the Dunlop range.

Ariel Ace as a girder-forked cruiser - featuring the Atom's LCD dash unit

The Ariel Ace, in its streetfighter guise, has got to be one of the best looking motorcycles I've ever seen. But I'm glad I'll never be able to afford the UK£20,000 (US$34,000) and upwards this thing will cost buyers. I have trouble choosing which coffee pod to stick in the Nespresso machine. Buying a new phone or computer sends me into fits of anxious googling. I don't think I'd be able to handle the blinding array of options available when specifying an Ariel Ace for myself.

We're also unlikely ever to sling a leg over one for a test as these tailor-made machines will only be made at a rate of 100 to 150 a year. Pity, it's a great concept and a magnificent looking machine. I say we start a petition to get them to mass-produce a standard naked version juuuuust like the red one in the photos!

Source: Ariel Motor Company

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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11 Comments

If it ain't electric, I don't give a damn about it. Sorry. ;)

Dan Lewis
27th June, 2014 @ 08:33 am PDT

What bike do you ride now, Dan? :)

Back to the Ace, this is a very interesting idea, though I'm curious how well each of the different configurations will perform given the variety of suspension setups, rake/trail, and so forth.

Suman M Subramanian
27th June, 2014 @ 10:17 am PDT

Well the whole world won't turn all electric all of a sudden, but then again, these guys *could* offer this bike as a glider kit (no motor) for people who want to do their own thing. Who knows, maybe they will.

I do love the looks of this. And it does look like its really well made, good quality.

BeWalt
27th June, 2014 @ 10:49 am PDT

I like the idea but chose a smaller motor. a 250 rather than a 1200cc gas hog.

tigerprincess
27th June, 2014 @ 01:09 pm PDT

This is a lot like what Honda is now doing with it's 500cc. I'd like to see pictures of the Ariel other than the street fighter.

Jack Lowry
27th June, 2014 @ 02:46 pm PDT

I find it hard to see how the frame is 'billet' ie, machined out of solid. That would be extremely wasteful even if recycling the excess. Looks cast to me. Otherwise the concept and execution is brilliant, though the 'Bobber' is just plain ugly...... All these options just add to the unit cost, so it will never be a cheap machine, but full marks for trying !

Martin Hone
27th June, 2014 @ 02:55 pm PDT

Does this Ariel have anything to do with Ariel of 50 years ago ? I do remember Ariel, AJS, Matchless, BSA, Triumph, Norton from my college days.

pmshah
27th June, 2014 @ 06:40 pm PDT

I think it's really quite ugly. And, I don't see how it could be the basis for every type of motorcycle. Front forks alone do not make a bike. Looks like a lot of hype to me.

Fred V.
29th June, 2014 @ 01:56 pm PDT

An exciting idea! Carry one design of frame, and let the customer decide the rest of the bike,

If for no other reason I can see the simplicity of the sales point having a cruiser and a street naked bike on the floor and a couple of shelves with the other pieces.

"Pick your style from the catalogue, watch the build streamed to your laptop, or just come back in 2 days and there it will be"

Genius!

The Skud
29th June, 2014 @ 08:05 pm PDT

To Suman M Subramanian

To your question - I'm currently bike-less.

My last was a Yamaha 4 cylinder, shaft drive.

The Harley LiveWire is on my wish list.

I like the Zero electric bikes too.

Dan Lewis
30th June, 2014 @ 05:20 pm PDT

Great idea from Ariel. Probably most appealing to Atom owners who want a two-wheeler but might have varying tastes in bikes. Can't see why the frame wouldn't lend itself to different configurations, if the engineering is sound.

As for replacing the 1200 with a 250 tigerprincess, I doubt there'd be a worthwhile difference in fuel economy, given the size of the bike. I've had bikes from a 250 cc single to a 900 cc four and all of them returned in the range of 5 - 5.5 litres/100km.

johanschaller
10th July, 2014 @ 10:14 pm PDT
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