1955 Ariel VH HS 500

When people see the four letters, I, S, D, T together, they have no idea what they mean. Some will know that Steve McQueen rode some Triumphs for the United States in something called ISDT. Very few will know that they stand for International Six Day Trials, and understand that these six days of off road competitions are the beginning of motocross that we know today. But just like email compared to snail mail, people use to take a lot longer to figure out who was the best rider on the best machine. This 1955 Ariel VH HS ISDT would be a very good bike if you wanted to spend 6 days in the woods of Europe.

From the seller

This is a unique opportunity to acquire a very special Ariel.  First registered in 1955 as a Ariel VH 500 with a sidecar, it was reportedly fitted with an all alloy HS Mk1 engine by UK ISDT and trials rider James Sandiford (later to become the UK Montesa importer) and ridden in competition.  Later in its life it was owned by 2 time European MX champion Dave Bickers (Mr. Bickers has confirmed this to be true) and he has signed the gas tank, as has arch rival and good friend Jeff Smith (see youtube video of a classic battle between these two at the grandstand scramble).  The bike was then rebuilt in the UK before coming to the USA.  The bike is presented in full International Six Days Trials trim, and has many special features including front fender nail catcher, air bottle for puncture repair, spare cables in place for quick change, easy roll on center stand, tank tool bag, BSA seat fitted to allow for easier footing (lower than stock Ariel seat), competition mag/dyno, high level tucked in exhaust, large air cleaner assembly and wide ratio transmission.  The bike runs well and all electrics work including horn and brake light.  The bike is very nice but not mint, it may be seen and ridden prior to auction end with appointment.

Motorcycles were first developed before there were real roads, so every rider had to be able to negotiate the craters in the road, gravel, and mud during the rainy days. The ISDT was a competition in which riders spend 6 days looking for the worst of the roads, in every country in Europe. As the seller points out, the bikes were close to stock, with additions of power because it was a race, but also special equipment to deal with road hazards.

In today’s motor cross competitions its all about the big jumps, 100 feet into the air, and 10 minutes of hang time. During simpler times, a National team of riders would set off and follow the map which took them over hill and dale. You would need to repair punctures, so an air bottle was needed. Knobby tires, and maybe and inch or two more travel in the suspension appear to be the only concessions given to stock road bikes. Today, these might be considered a flat tracker, but the coarse they raced on was anything but flat.

Flipping through the channels late at night I saw a race sponsored by an Austrian energy drink that might be as close to compare to the ISDT that this 1955 Areil raced in. But the cliff faces, and drop offs that today’s riders are able to do would destroy a bike from the ISDT days. There are still vintage race series that you could compete in. Of you could just take it out for coffee, or to work every day. BB

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