If you were looking to build a bespoke superbike, Honda’s huge, heavy, shaft-drive VFR1200 motor probably wouldn’t be at the top of your list. And you might not suspect that a small-scale car firm would be the best outfit to build it either. Add in the complication of a wacky Hossack-type girder front end, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a proper piece of nonsense.
So it’s to Ariel’s credit that their Ace superbike, launched a couple of years ago, has turned out as well as it did. That VFR motor is grunty and pleasing to ride, and the bespoke chassis layout works well – albeit with only the best of the best componentry, including a slew of Öhlins suspension gizmoids. It’s a hugely distinctive, critically-acclaimed machine.
And now we have this – the Ariel Ace R. A tweaked, beefed-up beastie, with a newly-tuned 200bhp+ version of the VFR1200 V-four thanks to higher compression, new heads, fightier cams and better breathing. Top race tuning man Mark Woodage is behind the engine work, so we’re happy to pre-approve it on that basis.
And it’s another independent UK outfit which is behind the suspension setup on the R. Russ Walton of Mick Gardner Racing supplied the specially-developed Öhlins suspension for the Ace, and he told us about what went into the process. “First, we find out what lengths /strokes/clearance issues/fittings and budget is. Then design and build the suspension for the required vehicle. We have programs for spring rates and setting banks for valving to start with.”
Did the Ace’s ‘funny’ front end cause any headaches development-wise? “When I first saw it I really liked it, it was different from a standard fork setup and looked like something out of the film Tron. We designed a special Ohlins TTX36 to fit in and give optimum performance. The springing is actually similar to a rear shock.”
And Russ was full of praise for Ariel’s approach to the project. “The good thing about Ariel is they’re willing to try things that people have not done before, which makes them unique.”
So: a hand-made 200bhp bike, custom-designed and produced in the UK to the highest standards, using local skills, knowledge and talent. Where’s the catch? Well… the new Ace ‘R’ weighs in at a hefty £60k for the base specification – and you can go to town with the options list for even fancier running gear, a DCT gearbox, different front end, wheels, brakes, you name it. So not for everyone. But if you’re looking to cash in your pension fund for something totally unique, with stonking performance, this has to be worth a look…