Thursday, May 21, 2009

The BSA Ariel 3


Perhaps not the oddest moped I've ever come across- but then, how many other three-wheeled mopeds can you name? I found this one at a Norwegian motorcycle fan site. The Ariel name is curious; the 'ped bears little resemblance to the original Ariel, other than that both are odd machines dreamed up by a company management that was often said to be completely out of touch with the motorcycle riders of Great Britain!

There's an excellent history of the bike at this web site, from which I quote:

With a conventional (rigid) tricycle, steering, as for a sidecar outfit, is by turning the handlebars either left or right. However, the Ariel-3 is meant to be ridden by leaning on bends, as for a conventional moped and for this type of riding, turning the bars as well is an unnatural act. Yet, because the Ariel-3 is a tricycle, albeit with the rear part hinged, leaning over on its own is not enough to initiate cornering by itself and it has to be steered as well, and this is done by steering the rear wheels to push the vehicle into a turn. The two torsion rods are adjusted up so that as the front leans further over, the rear wheels steer a tighter turn and provided that the adjustment is correct this all happens smoothly and gives the same results as would be expected with a normal bike. However, with the rods out of adjustment what happens is that when the rider first starts to lean nothing seems to happen and they continue straight on. Panic then sets in and the rider leans further, at which point the slack in the rods gets taken up and the Ariel-3, seemingly with a mind of its own, shoots into the bend far sharper than the rider intended.

Perhaps this is why the bike was not a resounding success. Then again, the typical European moped buye of that era was a 14 or 15 year old male who can't wait to own his first motorcycle, and the Ariel 3 didn't exactly conjure up images of racing Triumphs and BSAs. It remains an oddity in the history of mopeds, but like all oddities, that's a big part of its charm.

8 comments:

My Scooter Obsession… said...

Just wanted to add a note to your post...
The three wheel design was developed and patented by George Wallis in 1966. It was then marketed by BSA with the failed 1970 Ariel-3. The license was then sold to Honda. Honda has built seven vehicles with this configuration. The first, the Stream was introduced in 1981, followed closely by three other personal transport versions, the Joy, Just, and Road Fox (my bike). All were short-lived, but the cargo-oriented Gyro line that begun in 1982 found a ready market, with all three variants still in production to this day in Japan…

JD said...

I have a BSA Ariel 3 motor for sale. It is nos (new old stock). It has never been run. Must call 856-426-2029 JD

arrivisto said...

I would like to use the photo on the Wikipedia page. If you have its copyright, may I have your permission to use the photo, please?

michael edelman said...

Sorry, I don't own that photo.

Eric Grimmer said...

Have just started to restore an Ariel 3 but cant find frame numbers can anyone let me know where they are please

Innes Muir said...

Hello, I had trouble finding it aswell
It is on a plastic sticker on the left side of the top of the frame below the handle bars.

Nick Payne said...

I have photos of my own machine you can use,

Nick Payne said...

There us now a facebook page for these machines, search for uk bsa ariel 3 page on facebook we would love to see you there (hey Innes how are you)