Ariel Ace: The massively configurable motorcycle platform
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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