And now for something wheely different. Frank Westworth discovers that you should never think you know everything about Ariels…
This is not the instalment I’d expected to write. I had intended to offer you a learned treatise on the vexed subject of Wiring For Idiots, and will hopefully have a bash at that next month (don’t hold your breath), but events conspired to fool me again. I never did believe that old Who number.
As the Toastmaster neared completion – and it is actually very near completion, you’ll be delighted to read – I found myself increasingly concerned about a wheel. A back wheel. The front wheel is in great shape, is round, boasts a shiny rim which is decently be-chromed and sports a new, if strangely muddy, front tyre. It is the wheel which came with the toasted Huntmaster, and it survived the fire well, losing only its tyre and brake cable. Even the grease in the hub is … well … greasy.
Things were a teeny tiny bit less excellent at the rear. The back wheel was an utter disaster. As you’d expect by now, I’d failed to spot exactly how disastrous it was when I handed over several hundred charming pictures of Her Majesty. Sigh.
The back wheel was a mess. It had borne the brunt of the fire’s attentions, and was in fact entirely destroyed. The alloy hub had actually caught fire and burned; silly me for not spotting this. When I did spot it, I was unworried, as I’ve seen loads of Ariel wheels at jumbles. Like the Cheltenham one I sniffed and sneered at because it was £75, which I decided was far too much, because despite its shiny rim, nice spokes and new-ish tyre, it didn’t have a spindle, sprocket or gubbins.
Then I started to strip the Toastmaster down … and disasters arrived at once. I couldn’t get the rear wheel out of the swinging arm! It had been welded in by the blaze. The wheel didn’t turn upon the bearings, and I had to hammer free the spindle so I could move the bike. Not that I could move it much because the tyre had been reduced to a lot of wires (and I mean a LOT of wires) and a peculiarly unpleasant charred substance which had once been rubber. Hmm.
Excellent Ariel OC Editor John came to the rescue here, and supplied not only a decent frame and swinging arm, but a replacement rear wheel. Problem solved.
John’s rear wheel was complete, but the spokes were MoT-failingly rusty, and preliminary quotes for rebuilding a wheel stretched into the stratosphere, so the hunt for another wheel was on again. This was going to be easy; have I not already said that I’d seen lots of Ariel wheels at the jumbles? Either I lied or someone had bought them all. Somewhere there was a person with an Ariel wheel mountain. Maybe someone was trying to establish a monopoly of Ariel wheels? I found a couple of fronts, one at a chilling £100, but no rears. A Fine Ariel Clubman whose name I have of course lost sent me a rimless hub when I bought the front end of a new FERC from him, and so… I decided to bite the bullet and get that hub built into a complete wheel. I looked at the various quotes for wheelbuilding. Mysteriously, as I am no longer editor of a pan-galactic old bike rag, the prices have mysteriously inflated. This is depressing. I was depressed. But then…
…there I was at the Netley Marsh Eurojumble, ambling about in my customary cheery way, when there before me I saw The Wheel. It had a sticker on it, demanding that I pay £45, which of course was the right price, even though The Wheel was from a BSA. This was obvious to an expert like me, because of the weedy feeble timing side spacer (which suits the weedy feeble BSA swinging arm) and the pathetically small and strangely dished sprocket (to suit the … you can probably guess the rest). Bought it at once, with cash and with a vigour that impresses me even now.
Wheeled it out of the jumble, bumping into John Budgen (organiser of the event and stout Ariel chap) by the gate.
‘That’s a BSA wheel,’ he offered, encouragingly. I nodded in a smug fashion, entirely sure that it was.
‘They don’t fit Ariels,’ John continued in a subduing kind of way. I was unsubdued. I knew all about spindles and sprockets, and I had all the right bits on Editor John’s wheel, so I just did not care. I was smug. I beamed. It was a good day. A wheel with an original shiny rim and original butted spokes; what more could a chap ask for?
Back at The Shed, I stripped out all the dull and boring BSA bits and whizzed The Wheel over to my local bike shop, where they obligingly fitted a smart new Avon tyre to it. I was still smiling, although I did wince a touch at the cost of the tyre, which had also inflated in price since I ceased to be editor of a pan-galactic old bike rag. Odd, isn’t it?
But with a spring in my step, I bounced into The Shed to fit The Wheel, the last big bit of the bike needed to complete it. Apart from the wiring. And a battery. And a mudguard tailpiece. And … but you get the picture.
I selected the best, most shiny and handsomely shoed brake plate from my extensive collection of Ariel rear brake plates, and checked that it did what it was supposed to do (stop the wheel turning, in case you’d forgotten). It did. Cheery smiles were turning into cheery grins. I was anticipating the next project bike, because this one was plainly just about done. Just a couple of bobs and bits…
And then I offered up The Wheel to the swinging arm, eased the sprocket mounting studs up to the sprocket itself (this being a QD wheel, the sprocket and dummy axle stay on the bike when the wheel is removed), and endured the contortions which the seriously unfit undergo when hefting wheels about while I lined up sprocket and studs.
This is odd, I thought when I realised that there was a gap, and not a small gap either, between sprocket and hub. I was worried. I was right to be worried.
Suddenly it was plain that the dummy axle did not penetrate the hub in a sufficiently manly manner to mount the wheel onto the bike! This was obviously another disaster. Where would it all end? Chaos was close.
In these circumstances there is only one thing to do. And after I’d finished screaming, attempting to kick the cat (our cat, Gimlet, although being heavily challenged in the smarts department, has learned to anticipate these things, and can vanish quite convincingly at these moments), dashing tears of frustration from my beard, and so forth, I mailed the Ariel club’s e-list with my tale of woe. I could hear their laughter echoing through the ethers, their digital chuckling no doubt entertaining the eavesdroppers at GCHQ. But the answer filtered down; ’twas the distance piece wot dunnit.
In fact, one kind Ariel Club type sent me an utterly wearying list of all the ways in which the BSA Ariel hub differs from the Ariel Ariel hub. I was appropriately daunted. Among this long list was a comment on the different length of the retaining studs. I mentioned this to John Budgen, who looked at me in a mysterious way and wondered whether he had some back home, before rapidly changing the subject. A Jiffy bag arrived in the post two days later. It contained four new studs. No invoice. That’s what I call Service with a capital THANKS!
OK. Gentle reader; the biggest and most relevant difference at this point was indeed the distance piece. This is a strangely-shaped tubular something which lives inside both BSA and Ariel versions of the hub, butting up against the dummy axle on the drive side and the circlip which retains the timing side wheel bearing.
And so, it’s onto the email to Draganfly. Do they have one? I explained my predicament. Once more etheric laughter clogged the airwaves, but they did indeed have the right part and the new wheel bearing I’d need once I’d destroyed the original one while getting it out. I blustered; they insisted. They were right; I needed to hit the wheel bearing very very vigorously with Thor, King of Hammers, to remove it. And yes, I tried pullers (have the scars) and gentle heat (the foul smells have faded) before renewing my long and enduring acquaintance with Thor, King of Hammers.
Out with the old, in with the new. The BSA wheel is now an Ariel wheel and sits cheerily in the Toastmaster’s swinging arm. The bike runs. It has two good tyres on two good rims. It needs only wiring and final bits, bats and turning into a motorcycle.
Does anyone have the rubbery-thing which fits around the single central fuel tank retaining bolt? Because that – I think – is the last lost bit…
PS. You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned sending the spare bare hub off to be fitted with a new rim and spokes? You’re right; that would be too stupid for words. But I did it anyway, and the rebuilt spare wheel is indeed a thing of beauty and wonder. And it sits, accusingly lonely but uniquely shiny, in The Shed. Perhaps now I need a one-wheeled Huntmaster to go with it?Enjoy more RealClassic reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.