Black Ariels, 1926-1930, by Dave Barkshire


This high quality, limited edition book about the Ariel motorcycles of the late 1920s will only be available for a short while. Grab it while you can…


The trouble with enthusiasm is that enthusiasm is infectious. Beware enthusiasts, lest you come away from sharing their world with a bad attack of sharing their enthusiasm. Sometimes enthusiasts are unsporting about their addictions and produce incentives which blatantly invite you to share in their divine madness.

Dave Barkshire has long been an enthusiast of old Ariels. I am too, so that is OK. However, Dave is a fan of a particular and peculiar sub-species of Ariel. Dave is an slightly eccentric follower of black Ariels built by the Selly Oak factory between 1926 and 1930. is that a sufficiently rarefied enthusiasm for you?

And he has written and designed and published his very own book all about these black Ariels. It’s not a manual. It’s not even a history, although there’s plenty of tech stuff and plenty of historical facts inside its shiny covers. Dave describes this weighty hardback as ‘an owner’s companion for the 21st century’. Inside these covers, we discover the wonderful lost world of the mid- to late-1920s. It was a time of rapid change and development in the motorcycling world, and some truly unusual bikes were built. Like the black Ariels, you will be unsurprised to learn. Everything you ever wanted to know about black Ariels – and much more besides – is laid out here for your amusement and edification.


Dave takes us through their roots, their entire production, their social, mechanical and industrial contexts, and he provides glorious illustration after glorious illustration. Which are the best bits. We share a delightful gaze back into the days of the black Ariel, from the bikes themselves, which look just as good in full modern colour as they do in atmospheric monochrome, to shots of flappers watching at the Raise Hill section of the 1927 Travers Trial. Everything you could ever want to know about those far-off days is paraded before you in these 176 high-quality pages, all of it bearing some relationship to the bikes which are the excuse for the book. Some of the full page, colour reproductions of factory adverts are so gorgeous you could lose half a lifetime just gazing at them.

Black Ariels, 1926-1930, by Dave Barkshire

There are plenty of words to accompany the illustrations. Dave explains the Ariel company’s production year and numbering system, goes into motorcycle archaeology and production figures, gives a year-by-year account of the Black Ariel era, looks at the descendants of the breed (VB and Red Hunter), considers traffic accidents in 1926, the Burman Q gearbox, acetylene lamps, ignition timing plus a host of other interesting topics, and finally packs in a pile of handy information for current day owners (or those considering a purchase) in the appendices.


The information is enhanced by the author’s love of the marque and the period, and his entertaining sense of humour. Look out for the symbol of the anorak which appears in the text to indicate a particular detail which will appeal to the rivet-counters among us.

If you share even the faintest glimmer of enthusiasm for anything to do with really classic motorcycling – not just late-20s Ariels – then you should hurry and grab yourself a copy of this truly excellent book. It will set you back £28 plus P&P; a RealBargain.

But be warned; enthusiasm like this is worryingly infectious, and you may discover a hitherto unsuspected need to acquire a black Ariel of your very own.

Ariels on

Reviewed by Frank Westworth


‘Black Ariels’ by Dave Barkshire is a limited edition of only 100 copies, published by Goat Maison Publishing and available on through the Ariel Owners’ Club. Each copy is individually numbered and authenticated by the author.

To purchase, email John Mitchell, with details of your name and full address and how you’d like to pay (cheque or paypal, or cash in person).

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