Tailored Two-Wheeler: 1960 Ariel Leader

It takes a special person to ride a motorcycle like this 1960 Ariel Leader, and by special I mean in a good way. They have to be able to let certain comments roll off of their back like the wind rushing over the aerodynamic body cladding on this bike. This tailored two-wheeler is listed on eBay in Indianapolis, Indiana.

You know almost instantly that this is either a British or a German motorcycle. Ariel is a British company but DKW also made some fantastic streamlined creations. I love the clean look of these bikes, it’s the exact opposite of most motorcycles where you see everything mechanical that makes it go or makes it stop. The seller says that this “is believed to be a 1960’s Ariel Leader”, I think they’re right. In decoding the VIN it appears to be a 1960 Leader, with its pre-17,441 number. The company also made a smaller, less expensive 200cc model without the cladding called the Arrow and in 1963 there was a sport model called the Arrow Super Sport or the Golden Arrow.

The Ariel Leader was made between 1958 and 1965 when the company went out of business. The designers wanted to combine the best features of both a scooter and a motorcycle and they succeeded, at least at first. As often happens when trying to combine things to make a one-size-fits-all product, it often doesn’t work for either side, in this case scooter riders or motorcycle riders. But, they had a top speed of 70 mph and got 70 mpg and they were the first British bike to have optional turn signals.

Look at that dash layout! For 1960 that’s pretty amazing and some examples even had a dash light of sorts and an eight-day clock. The leg shields were made of pressed steel as was the frame and a lot of the other cladding. It was a cost-saving measure and it made for a cleaner ride, as in oil and dirt wasn’t being thrown back on the rider. The seller says that this one has a new windscreen which was supposed to be wide enough to give the rider’s hands a break from wind and bugs. This bike looks like it’s in great shape.

I love the tailored look of these pressed-steel-clad bikes. This one isn’t going to appeal to those who have to have a giant, thumping V-twin with chrome and skulls-a-plenty. This is for those of us who like their vehicles on the unusual side. Speaking of unusual, this one is powered by a 250 cc two-stroke engine with around 17 hp. The 2.5-gallon gas tank is actually under the flip-up seat and the faux gas tank is a storage bin that was made to house a small helmet. The seller says that the “inside of the tank is good and the carbs have been cleaned.” There is no title but hopefully that isn’t a deal-killer – it isn’t for those who have bid this bike up to over $3,600 so far. Have any of you seen an Ariel Leader?


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  1. Beatnik Bedouin

    These are cool bikes and an interesting footnote in motorcycle history. By the time the Leader and Arrow (pictured) models came out, the Japanese had already started making inroads into the Ariel’s home market.

    A few were sold in New Zealand and I’ve seen restored examples, from time-to-time.

    I’d have one in my collection when space permits…


      it looks like a modified honda dream 305

      Like 1
    • Peter

      Cool Daddy Cool….

      Like 1
  2. Adam T45 Staff

    When I was a young bloke my father had a 1949 Ariel Red Hunter 500. He spent years getting it mechanically absolutely perfect. Then as so often happens the project stalled. I was 19 years old at the time and one day I spotted a guy from down the road wheeling the Ariel out of our shed. I asked dad what was going on and he informed me that he had sold it….for $1000! If I’d known that he was selling it I would’ve bought it. I loved that bike.

    Like 1
  3. Neil

    I had one many years ago in the other colour combination of blue and white. Rebuilt it from a crate of parts – it was a lovely bike to ride. a 1962 model if I recall correctly.
    At the same time my dad had its much bigger brother – the Square Four 1000cc machine. He had that quite a few years and an abiding memory is, when I was only 6 or 7 years old, seeing his mate go to start it and getting thrown over the handle bars when it kicked back This guy was over 6′ tall and weighed in around 18 stone….

    Like 1
  4. Brakeservo

    Could this possibily come from the same people who built the famous Ariel Square Four??

    Like 2
  5. Metoo

    Now we know what kind of motorcycle George Jetson would have.

    • Patrick S newport pagnell Staff

      Or Pee Wee Herman

      • SAM61

        Or Austin Powers… Yeah baby!

  6. chad

    yes, as a young gipper – the local club had 1 “4 Sq”, all chopped w/those 4 pipes (2 per side) runnin back, very cool. All ways thought it wuz ‘Cherman’ due to the shatstickah, skull’n cross bones, sound of the name, etc on the bike. Many of the models have that weird protrusion @ the forkhub. Tool box?
    The listed Leader has many current copies, seems like their getting back to it? (C the largest step thrus).
    Thanks, Scotto!

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Chad, the Leader and Arrow had leading link forks like a Honda Cub.

      Like 1
  7. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Super cool Scotty! And that’s coming from a guy with a giant, thumping V-twin with chrome and skulls-a-plenty. Snowing here this evening so it’s great to see this. I have seen Ariels, but nothing like this. With all the cladding, is this water cooled? The other bikes you attached are sweet also. Even Pee Wee Hermans. Thanks for the photo Beatnik Bedouin, looks like the Dude has Beatle boots on. Great find, thanks Scotty. Gotta blaze, Svengoolie is coming on soon, thanks, Mike.

    Like 1
    • On and On On and On Member

      Cuban heels for sure as we used to call them Mike.

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Still out in the warmth Buddy?

      • Beatnik Bedouin

        Or to the Brits, winkle pickers, as they look like just the thing for prying off that species of shellfish… ;-)

        leiniedude, the engine is air-cooled; any water cooling was courtesy of British weather.

        Obviously, an Arrow with ape hangers and saddle bags was just the thing to pick up hot chicks (‘birds’) like Rita Tushingham.

        Like 1
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Ha, no offence, Mike! It’s great to hear that you’re also a Svengoolie fan!

  8. On and On On and On Member

    Back in Cheeseland, call you this week.

  9. Joe Howell

    I love old Brit bikes (had this Bonneville for 20 years) and am drawn like a moth to a light. This Ariel however leaves me in the dark. A Square 4 would be another matter :)

    • Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

      Hi Joe. I owned an Ariel Square Four, (Squariel) 1951 model with only one exhaust pipe each side back in the late eighties and it was a magnificent bike. Everybody who had never owned one would tell anybody that cared to listen, that the rear cylinders had a tendency to seize up through lack of cooling. Mine never did and only many years later I discovered a write up that said that if the front cylinders were given 4 thousandths of an inch clearance, and the rear pots 6 thousandths of an inch, then it would never seize. I guess mine was one of those that had already been modified that way. In later years I owned a 1925 Harley (J25 I think it was) and sidecar that also seized up after I did a complete rebuild so I stripped it, had the rear piston Cam Ground to give it 2 thou more than the front, and never had a further problem.

      Like 1
      • Joe Howell

        Love the “pedestrian slicer” on the front fender :) I worked with a dapper old gentleman years ago who spoke glowingly of the Square 4 he had owned when a young man. Sadly I have only seen a couple in my lifetime. I had heard the “second hand” seizing story too but always took such stories with a grain of salt. I’ll never forget one such “expert” telling one guy he would “burn his valves” if he removed the baffles from the mufflers on his two stroke :)

  10. Rube Goldberg Member

    It’s kind of funny how motorcycles went full circle. This seemed to be the style, all covered up, then, the motor became part of the design, and bikes were open, and now, they are back to streamlining again. I love all motorcycles. It’s one of the few things left, where your personal style still shines through. Refreshing in this “we all drive silver jellybeans” world today. My favorites are the “Limey’s” ( love the Bonne, Joe, complete with drip pan) but “settled” for a GoldWing ( my 3rd) for 1/5th the cost of a Trident. Cool bike. I’d be proud to ride this, around town, that is. I still like my GW for the road. They don’t call it “Interstate” for nothing.

    • Joe Howell

      Thanks for the compliment, I figured the drip pan would get a comment or too :) I had a Trident too, and when wound out it had it’s own unique sweet song.

  11. Metoo

    It looks pretty powerful. Good thing it has all of that important streamlining to keep it from bursting into flames at high speed. (Sarcasm, off)

  12. Doug

    Somewhat reminiscent of the Vincent Black Prince model….also a marketing failure, even with that glorious 1000cc V twin.

  13. Robert W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    I understand it wears the Ariel badge, but was it made by Ariel or did they do the same thing BSA did?

    BSA imported a two stroke and slapped their name upon it, it was one of their best sellers but a re-badge.

  14. Jim Johnson

    I’m not sure I could find a tutu in my size..my wife wouldn’t ride this on a bet!

  15. wes

    Batgirl was heartbroken to part with this.

  16. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great photo Rube. I forgot Batgirl was a Ginger. Not sure on the sale price as I have never seen one. One cool ride. Hopefully I will see the new owner tucked behind the fairing going 70 this Summer! Ended: Feb 04, 2018 , 8:00PM
    Winning bid:US $4,676.00
    [ 3 bids ]

  17. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    Hagerty gives an average of $4800 for a 1960 Ariel Leader so the buyer did O.K. on this one.

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