Ariel Leader

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Ariel Leader
Ariel Leader left side.JPG
ManufacturerAriel Motorcycles
SuccessorAriel Arrow
Engine249 cc (15.2 cu in), two-stroke twin, alloy head[1]
Bore / stroke54 mm × 54 mm (2.1 in × 2.1 in)[1]
Top speed68 mph (109 km/h)[2]
Power16 bhp (12 kW) at 6,400 rpm[1]
TransmissionFour-speed, unit construction, fully enclosed half-inch pitch chain final drive
Suspension(front) trailing link oil-damped (rear) swinging arm
Brakes6-inch (150 mm) front and rear drums[1]
TiresFront and rear tyre 3.25 x 16 in
Wheelbase51 inches (1,300 mm)
Seat height30 inches (760 mm)
Weight330 pounds (150 kg)[note 1] (dry)
Fuel capacity2 imperial gallons (9.1 L; 2.4 US gal)
Fuel consumption80 miles per imperial gallon (3.5 L/100 km; 67 mpg‑US) maximum[citation needed]
Turning radius8 feet (2.4 m)

The Ariel Leader was a British motorcycle produced by Ariel Motorcycles between 1958 and 1965. A radical design, the Leader was fully enclosed with an integral windscreen and was the first British motorcycle to have optional[2] flashing indicators.[3] Ariel could not compete against Japanese imports and the last Ariel Leader was produced when the company closed in 1965.[4]


Leader with optional panniers and indicators

Designed by Val Page and Bernard Knight, The Ariel Leader featured a 250 cc two-stroke engine suspended from a monocoque 'backbone' fabricated from 20-gauge pressed steel panels. The fuel tank was hidden inside this structure and accessed by lifting the hinged dual seat. A dummy petrol tank was used for storage and was large enough to fit a spare crash helmet.[5] It was the fully enclosed bodywork (first developed by Phil Vincent for the innovative Vincent Black Prince) that was most prominent, as none of the working parts of the motorcycle were visible.

Leader dash showing parking light behind screen with headlamp trimmer knob near to speedometer

As well as a full body, the standard Leader features included a headlight trimmer, an extendable lifting handle for easy centrestand use, and a permanent windscreen mounting.[3] Factory listed options included: integrated-design hard-luggage 'panniers', the first flashing indicators on a British motorcycle, a dash-mounted parking light, windscreen top-extension (adjustable on the move), a rear rack and a clock aperture built into a 'dashboard' (closed-off by an Ariel badge when not fitted).[2]


Launched in mid-1958, the Leader claimed to offer the comfort of a scooter with the performance of a motorcycle. At first it sold well, and it won the Motor Cycle News Motorcycle of the Year award in 1959.[3] Ariel backed up the launch with a long list of options (unusual at the time), therefore few of the 22,000 Ariel Leaders produced were the same. Colour schemes were also a break with tradition, and included Oriental Blue or Cherry Red with Admiral Gray accents.[4]

Ariel Arrow[edit]

Ariel Golden Arrow showing 'roll-feet' centrestand[6]

This was a cheaper, stripped Leader produced from 1959 and was developed into the Golden Arrow 'sport' version in 1961.[4]

A sister-machine designated Ariel Arrow 200 – with a smaller capacity of 200 cc, achieved by reducing the bore to 48.5  mm from 54 mm whilst retaining the same stroke[6] – was available from 1964 to bring it into a lower tax band and benefit from lower UK rider insurance premiums.[7]

In his 1964 Motor Cycle road test, Bob Currie reported good performance, with an absolute top speed – with "rider lying flat, of course" – of 74 mph and a cruising speed which could be held at 60 mph.

The bike had the usual Arrow ivory background colour, but with the tank and chaincase finished in either 'aircraft' blue or British Racing Green, and tank badges denoting 'Arrow 200'.[6]

After the Ariel factory closure, in 1967 Ariel marketed its last motorcycle, the Arrow 200[7] produced for a time by BSA.[8]

In 1960, a prototype Arrow with a four-stroke 349 cc twin-cylinder engine was made to sell alongside the Ariel Leader. The budget engine, designed by Val Page to do 75 mph (121 km/h), was canted to fit the Arrow frame. Although it was thought the initial 18 bhp (13 kW) power output could have been increased to 24 bhp (18 kW), development money ran out and the project was dropped.[9]


Ariel could not compete against Japanese imports. The Ariel factory closed in 1965,[4] although the name remained under BSA to produce Ariel Arrows until 1967 and a commercially unsuccessful 49 cc banking trike named Ariel 3 in 1970.


  1. ^ weight varies according to optional equipment fitted


  1. ^ a b c d Motor Cycle Data Book. London, UK: George Newnes. 1960. p. 58.
  2. ^ a b c "Look at the Leader! Used road-test". Motorcycle Mechanics. August 1966. p. 50.
  3. ^ a b c Currie, Bob (1993). Classic British Motorcycles. Chancellor Press. ISBN 978-1-85152-250-7.
  4. ^ a b c d "1959 Ariel Leader". Retrieved 24 November 2008.
  5. ^ "1963 Ariel Leader". Archived from the original on 15 January 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
  6. ^ a b c Currie, Bob (15 October 1964). "Road tests of new models". Motor Cycle.
  7. ^ a b "Earls Court Show Guide: Ariel Models for 1965 Season". Motor Cycle. 19 November 1964. p. 850. ... the relatively new Arrow 200 ... Reduced insurance premiums, for only slightly less performance; that's the Arrow 200 claim
  8. ^ "Ariel Arrow review". RealClassic. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  9. ^ "An Everyday Story Of Ariel Folk". Classic Bike. November 1981.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]