Has there ever been a finer looking sidecar than the one on this 1958 Ariel Square Four? No. No, I don’t think so.
It doesn’t say so on the placard but I’m pretty sure that when you open the door on the sidecar, you are greeted by a snow white unicorn galloping down a glittering rainbow of Skittles. It leaves an eddy of whirling diamonds with every pillow-soft touch of it’s magical feet. It’s just that good.
Ariel Square Four
4G Mk II
“The Ariel square cylinder layout was unique in an era when 90% of motorcycles were of single cylinder or v-twin design. Originally conceived in the 1930’s, it was developed into the final version you see here. While not particularly powerful, it was incredibly smooth and had a distinctive exhaust note that was unique. Square Four’s command the same respect as a Vincent, with a lot of myths regarding the performance. One of the boasts was that they would accelerate from 30 to 100 miles per hour in high gear.”
In early May, my better half Kenny spent 2 days at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama doing the Kevin Schwantz 2-Day Track School. Astride a school-provided Honda 600RR and Suzuki GSX-R 600, he had an absolutely great time riding and learning from the talented riders and instructors.
The 2 day school was a mixture of classroom instruction and on-track sessions. Under the tutelage of the instructor riders Brad Coleman, Reuben Frankenfield and Lee Acree, the class clustered together in groups of 3 or 4 riders and put what they learned in the classroom into action on the 2.38 mile track.
“We had driven the track in the truck once, so we already knew what the track looked like. The usual nervousness about the track was already gone. The first session was reasonably slow as people were learning the track, so it was different from a normal track day where 3 laps in you are already going balls out. It was a nice pace. I was immediately excited by all of the elevation changes and how dynamic the track was.”
-Kenny describes his first session on the track.
“During the last session of the first day – it was 3 of us, running faster than we did the entire time before. We were in a rhythm, every corner felt right. We were working well as a group and I was hitting all my turn points in the right way. I had solidified where and what my gear changes were going to be – it just all fell right into place. When I got off the bike I said to Reuben If the day ended right now, that made it all worth it right there – that was great“. I found myself chasing that moment the whole second day.
I used to have a big, gray G-shock wristwatch. The band on it was made of a stretchy, elasticized material. Every day after work I would ride my bicycle while wearing that watch. All summer long I would pedal, pedal, pedal – keeping time with my G-Shock watch.
The more I would pedal, pedal, pedal under the summer sun the more sweat would build up in my watchband. I had to be diligent about washing it if I knew what was good for me.
Over time the watch would grow rather…ripe. In the course of doing something as natural and mundane as putting my hair up in a ponytail, my hand would sweep past my face and I would catch a whiff of my pungent watchband. It had a cheesy and slightly rancid smell; the smell of weeks of sweat trapped in its fibers.
Out of some sick, perverse human inclination I would willfully take a whiff of the band every now and then. I knew it stunk and still, I would periodically smell it. On purpose.
The end result was always the same, “Man, that stinks!”
The Buell Battlewtin reminds me of my smelly watchband. It’s hideous and yet, I was unable to tear my eyes away from looking at it while we visited the Barber Museum. I repeatedly found myself drawn to it’s absurdly bulbous Beluga whale-ness.
It looks like something they built 50 years ago as a representation of what motorcycles would look like in the year 2000 when we lived on the moon.
The 80’s were an interesting time. They gave rise to being gagged with a spoon, Flock of Seagulls haircuts and the Battletwin. Erik Buell‘s strange creation was first birthed in his workshop in 1985.
While the Italians at Ducati were busy creating the beautiful 851, America’s forward thinkers were busy with this. Is there ever really an excuse for a Caldor rainbow on a motorcycle?
And yet, for all it’s strangeness – I just can’t quit it! I can’t stop looking at it. Am I alone here?
The first time that I saw the fabled Britten V1000 was in 1998 on the top floor of the Guggenheim Museum at the Art of the Motorcycle exhibit in New York City. As we wound our way up the museum’s ramp to the top floor, it sat there like a jewel.
I remember feeling exited to see this thing that I’d read about and looked at grainy pictures of on the web at that time. It was unlike anything else I’d ever seen. With only 10 ever produced, the chances of seeing another were fairly slim. Fast forward 12 years later…
The Britten V1000 was the brainchild of an industrious dreamer named John Britten. Combining passion with engineering, Britten created one of the most fabled sport motorcycles of the last 50 years. He did so, not in a high tech factory but in his home workshop. The concept of the V1000 started as a model made from some wires hot-glued together.
With their collection of over 1,000 motorcycles, the Barber Museum chose the V1000 as one of their advertising images. It’s candy colored blue paint and likeness are splashed across billboards and on their admission ticket stubs. Given the museum’s beautiful and interesting collection, that says a lot about the emotional response that this machine evokes in people.
Last week my honey Kenny flew to Birmingham, Alabama to attend the Kevin Schwantz 2-Day Motorcycle School where he attended classes on Thursday and Friday. On Friday evening I hopped on a plane and flew down to meet up with him and tour the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.
For a motorcycle lover, the Barber Museum could be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It houses an incredibly beautiful and diverse array of over 1200 motorcycles on it’s 4 stories, a research library and just happens to have a racetrack in it’s backyard. The vision of George Barber, the museum opened it’s doors at it’s current location in 2003.
He wanted to preserve motorcycle history in the United States in a way that represents an international aspect and to supply an example of motorcycles that until then could only have been seen in books and magazines. This was the theme used in the mission and development of the Barber collection.
The moment you step through the darkly tinted doors of the museum the first word that escapes your lips is “Wow.”
Wow, indeed. The feeling of the space is almost like you are in a sacred place, a church of motorcycling. The initial view of the towering column of motorcycles at the core of the building is a sight to behold.
I took hundreds of photographs throughout our visit. Rest assured there will be many posts featuring some of my favorite bikes.
The Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum is definitely worth a spot on your bucket list.