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Bike Profile - Posted 12th October 2009

1944 Ariel W/NG
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Reg Eyre has decided to part with his military Ariel single, and takes it on a final trial to bid a farewell to arms...

Having bought myself a very expensive motorised bicycle, I needed to part with other residents of the Cotswold Shed to make room and repay the loan from the pension fund. I drew up the list of those that were favoured and those that were only slightly less favoured and contemplated what they might fetch in today's market. Someone then emailed to interrupt the thoughts and offer money for my 1944 W/NG Ariel. (This model was featured back in RC29). I explained that I had not really wanted to part with it but if it meant I could then keep another favoured Ariel then so be it.

However, there was an impending problem, I was already entered to use it in the Levis Cup Trial, organised by the North Birmingham section of the VMCC, to defend the Sergeant Colley Trophy I won previously. I then managed to negotiate a ride on my own machine and delay collection for a week.

'Put that light out!' 1944 Ariel W/NG

The Levis Cup Trial was devised in 1912 as a time trial test of man and machine over hills and through fords from Worcestershire to Ludlow and back. The test hills have interesting names such as Farlow and Whitbach and have been used most years that the trial has run. Even the original expensive gold cup is still awarded.

There are many awards that are set for veteran machine riders to win, such as best single gear, best clutchless, etc. But riding a veteran on such a course is mighty hard work and the riders deserve all the bonus marks they are entitled to. In my opinion, the best machine to use is a post-vintage machine with a lively engine. To achieve a 24mph average on narrow, mud-strewn, leaf-covered roads requires keeping a good 30mph average when one can and riding within one's limits on the nadgery bits.

'Put that light back on again; it's too dark!' 1944 Ariel W/NG

The Ariel W/NG is essentially a development of the 1938 NG that Hugh Povey rode in the ISDT of that year and was offered to the army for war service with one or two changes. The country began to run short of materials such as rubber and aluminium during the conflict and by April 1944, when this machine was ordered by the navy, the timing case cover and outer primary chain-case were replaced with pressed steel items, no rubbers were fitted to the handlebar grips, footrests or kick-start. Many War Department fitments were standardised such as webbing handle-bar grips, side-stand and pannier fittings. This machine was delivered to the Navy in August but they must have decided that the war was about to end and gave(?) them to the Civil Defence people. I have since found out that they were then used by the Army Education Corps in Kenya before being repatriated to the UK.

The machine has a 4 speed foot change Burman gear-box with ratios suited to convoy work which is almost ideal for the Levis competitive run. The army bikes on this run were a 1939 Ariel W/NG, a 1942 BSA M20, a 1943 Matchless and my 1944 W/NG. The riding can get quite spirited and some riders prefer to not read their own route cards but sit with their front wheels in line with my rear wheel. Hence several near collisions occurred when trying to avoid walkers, horse-riders or braking late having read the signpost buried in the hedge and then trying to execute a right turn!

Air filter? We don't need no steenking air filter... 1944 Ariel W/NG engine detail
Ariels on :

I really enjoyed hearing the sounds of other post-vintage machines when all our engines seemed to be running at the same revs. One could hear the Doppler Effect chiming in and out. The lunch stop is in the Market Square by Ludlow Castle which means one can find an eatery or wander around the antiques market in the Square. How do the organisers arrange sunny weather for the lunch stop?

The afternoon run starts with the slow/fast flexibility test on Whitbach Hill followed by negotiating a long and a short ford with an opt-out for riders of belt-drive machines. I nearly always feel tired by the end of the return run and have been known to not ride well around some of the unexpected bends, which I think kept matey off my tail.

We all get to yarn at the finish over a coffee at the Lenchford Hotel who kindly provided the venue and parking. The organisers, Mr and Mrs Paul Harris and Ian Harris the Clerk of the Course, were at the finish where they displayed the range of trophies. If you win a trophy, you get a digital image print-out with a congratulations letter but the trophy is held by the Section. There were only 65 riders in total this year but the event comes with a strong recommendation. If you want a demanding ride where you will feel tired at the end knowing you have ridden hard, then enter next year.

As for me and the Ariel, we part as good friends, and if the owner will let me, I may ask to borrow her again so that we can both have a good work-out, riding tough hills and in great company.

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The Levis Cup Trial is organised by the North Birmingham section of the VMCC: www.vmcc-nbs.co.uk


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