Selly Oak Sophisticate: 1960 Ariel Arrow 250

Arrow owner Joe Li wanted a 2-stroke, but he didn’t want something Japanese. Enter the Ariel Arrow.

| September/October 2017

1960 Ariel Arrow 250

Photo by Robert Smith

1960 Ariel Arrow 250
247cc air-cooled 2-stroke parallel twin, 54mm x 54mm bore and stroke, 10:1 compression ratio, 16hp @ 6,400rpm
Top speed:
Single 7/8in Amal 375 Monobloc
4-speed, chain final drive
6v, coil and breaker points ignition
Pressed steel spine frame/ 51.2in (1,300mm)
Trailing link w/twin shocks front, twin shocks rear
6in (152.4mm) SLS drum front and rear
3.25 x 16in front and rear
Weight (dry):
275lb (125kg)
Seat height:
28.5in (724mm)
Fuel capacity:
3.2gal (12ltr)
Price then/now:
£171 ($477, est.)/$2,500-$8,000

Ask pundits why the British motorcycle industry collapsed in the late 1960s and most will point to management’s failure to innovate and modernize in the face of increasing foreign competition. If it had just been that simple.

Innovation is a tough row to hoe. There’s no question the British industry had the talent and the resources to come up with new designs. What held them back in many cases was not their own inertia, but the conservative nature of the motorcycle-buying public and an unwillingness to accept designs that broke the mold.

Edward Turner knew this. His 1937 Triumph Speed Twin was expressly designed to look like a typical twin-port single of the period, easily the most popular type of bike on British roads. The Speed Twin won by looking right while offering better performance and smoother running.

Meanwhile, Valentine Page, perhaps the most prolific of British motorcycle designers, was more focused on engineering fundamentals than flash. Learning his trade at engine supplier J.A. Prestwich, Page was the Yin to Turner’s Yang, and they frequently worked on and improved each other’s designs — though rarely at the same time.

For example, after succeeding Page as chief designer at Triumph in 1936, Turner repackaged the company’s line of overhead valve 4-stroke singles with upswept pipes and show chrome to create the Tiger 70, 80 and 90. And it took the Turner touch to turn Ariel’s plain-Jane sports model VH — another Page design — into the crimson-and-chrome Red Hunter.

bike on highway

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