Road Impression Of An Ariel 3
A trike with a difference - and what a difference. For those who have ridden a full scale tricycle, then a ride on the Ariel 3 would know exactly what is meant.
As will have been gathered from the press, this machine is intended as commuter transport, reasonably short distances, presumably housewives out shopping and ladies who are finding the car such a drag in the local melee of tin boxes and the attendant problems of parking, etc. and who would not contemplate a two-wheeler.
The concept is quite simple. Remember the first bike we all had? It was probably a trike. It stood up on its own and looked after any weight added to it. But, remember the problem of cornering - or rather the thrills it used to give? Well this trike takes things much further, allowing the person on it, together with the whole of the front end to lean, thus cornering can be speeded up and, taken to the limit, causes the front wheel to break away.
On the handle bars are a twist grip - which acts as a decompressor and throttle, two brake levers, one operating the front wheel brake and the other the nearside rear driver wheel. There is also a small choke lever.
For the technically minded the 50cc, 2-stroke engine drives through an automatic clutch which runs at engine speed and in turn drives, through a toothed belt, a counter shaft, which finally drives the nearside wheel via a chain. The toothed belt primary drive can be seen at the rear together with a spring loaded "dog clutch" on the countershaft, which can be disengaged with the fingers by bending lower at the rear of the machine. Although it does not sport a magneto, these last two items will undoubtedly ensure a steady following from our elder citizens who seem to go into ecstasy at the mention of such things let alone a 1970 model with these very things to be seen functioning in all their glory!
To start the animal one has to stop giggling for a minute, decompress the engine, pedal a few feet and - as they say in the trials world - give it a "gob full" by winding the throttle open. The lever would need to be operated to choke the motor if it was cold.
The fun now begins as one's balance is established with the three wheels firmly on the ground and handle bars and seat free to swing from side to side. Rough surfaces only accentuate the feeling of riding a conventional two-wheeler with an under inflated rear wheel.
More fun as the first bend is taken, when it is realised that a centripetal force can be exerted by leaning into the bend. The worst the back end seems to want to do is hop out on rough surfaces but these are at speeds the average owner is not likely to be achieving. The handling is so impressive that a close study of the geometry would be needed to appreciate what is going on. One thing did come to light though, as the machine is leaned into a bend, the rear wheels, although they haven't got any acumen, do turn slightly into the bend thus assisting steering to some extent.
Peddling was only done to start the engine and that was minimal. Thereafter the engine and clutch looked after everything.
The steering lock and manoeuvrability was such that figure of eight turns can quite easily be achieved in a 10ft by 20ft area with plenty of room to spare and of course no pedal assistance. Jane had a brief encounter with it and learnt to ride it in thirty seconds - but she wasn't hurtling down the Close and leaning it hard into the bends.
Just as with a trike when a child you can step off and walk away at journey's end. If on a slope it will settle against something, only ensure if you leave it ticking over the engine speed is not too high, otherwise you are apt to find it roaming about the neighbourhood as happened to me. For parking on a slope there is a catch on the rear brake handle bar lever for latching it on.
I know nothing like it for attracting attention - an open exhaust couldn't match it - and an exaggerated lean up the High Road causes mouths to drop a mile.
Giggles and occasionally scorn turn to amazement and inquisitiveness by those who have the intelligence and interest to realise how well it performs the duty the designer intended it for.
Oh, and I nearly forgot the speed - a bit over 30mph if getting down to it and for the ladies, all wheels are interchangeable and a spare wheel can be carried at the rear. Wheels are removed by three nuts, a luggage rack can be fitted to the rear into which shopping or even a two-wheeled shopping basket can be dumped - all weight carried entirely by the machine.