Today was a day of great expectations. The Ariel was finally ready so I took a day off work and popped around to the Vespa Shop to pick her up. She looked great with the new whitewall tyres and the side panels and fender repainted. She started up easily and ran smoothly.
I was very nervous riding her. Firstly, as the polarity of the Leader's electrics is reversed from almost every other bike, the standard 6 volt flasher unit I'd bought wouldn't work so we removed the indicators at the last minute. I'll try and find a replacement and install them later. When you suddenly find yourself riding without indicators you realise how 'out there' you are on the road. I also struggled with the right hand gear change and almost constantly knocked myself out of gear every time I tried to brake. I felt very unsafe.
That said, the bike is surprising pleasant to ride. Despite her weighty appearance she is light and sprightly and can manouver tightly. I can fully understand why the Leader was voted Best New Motorcycle in 1959. All of the contemporary reviews I've read have expressed surprise and delight at her handling. I'm just going to have to acclimatise to the controls and that'll come with time.
So once again I queued at the inspection centre. There was a lot of interest in the bike - almost everyone came over for look and chat. Several old guys recognised her and we all had a long conversation about Ariel Square Fours. Then the inspection got underway and I had to remove the side panels, which was time consuming but not a difficult. The bike had been sitting almost an hour when we tested the electrics and there was immediately a problem. The headlight, so bright earlier in the morning, faded out. I suggested we run her and get the charge back up, but she just wouldn't start. It was the Troll fiasco all over again! After two hours exhausting myself trying to get her started I called Ivo and he and Roberto drove around to the centre (I did get her running eventually and rode her around the yard for half an hour to warm up, but she died again as soon as I stopped). We fiddled around with it for another half an hour but the spark was gone. We thought it was a problem with a coil as one cylinder would spark but not the other, so then it was back to the shop. As soon as a new battery went in the Ariel jumped back to life so I rode it back to the inspection centre. Things then got very frustrating.
I'd bought the bike from a dealer, who picked it up from a deceased estate, where it had been sitting for decades in a shed. It had not been licensed since the 1970's. But we were now told that unless there is record in the national database, they could not register the bike. The national database goes back to... ugh, 1990 something. Unless of course I could get the original registration. But, even if I could get the original registration it still wouldn't be in the database so... we went around a merry circle. I even got Barry from the Vintage Motorcycle Swapshop on the phone who offered to do a stat dec on the circumstances of where he got the bike, but that was 'unacceptable.' It was extemely frustrating. This all just bureaucracy. There will be a way around this. Hell, basket cases and barn finds are restored and put back on the road all the time!
Finally, at 4pm, after another hours wait, during which time the inspectors had decided they wouldn't test ride the bike after all, but neglected to tell me, I left. I'd spent the whole day at the licensing centre - not the best day I've had.
On the ride home things didn't get better. I took the backstreets as I didn't want to ride in peak hour traffic but as I reached the main roads near my house the engine started backfiring and smoking like a steam train. Damn it - more problems - serious problems. I managed to nurse it home but I think it's time for new rings and probably electronic ignition too. Maybe that will solve the electrical problems once and for all.
In the meantime I have more investigation to do to overcome the registration 'challenge.' It makes me wonder what will happen to all the old bikes that get sold on ebay without papers - there are lots! How are their new owners going to go when the front up for inspection?
Okay, so she's not quite running but boy she is a handsome bike.