Sunday, July 4, 2010

Introducing the Leader - Motor Cycling Magazine July 1958

People often tell me that the Leader was an unpopular motorbike and a failure. These views come with a substantial dose of hindsight and prejudice. For some reason, two-strokes are seen as something second rate amongst British motorcycle aficionados. While it's true that sales of the Leader and Arrow fell away after a couple of years, the Leader, when introduced, was a sensation. Quite rightly called "Tomorrow's design .... today!", the Leader was launched with much fanfare. The British 'Motor Cycling' magazine dedicated 27 pages of editorial, articles and advertising to the Leader, which I've presented in full here.

The single bare sentence "British Factory's Sensational Newcomer" gives no hint of what's to come.

Page one and Alpha Bearings have a full page advertisement linking themselves to the Leader engine.

Five full pages of dealer listings

An editorial lauding the Leader

Castrol oil jumps on the Leader bandwagon

Ariel take out a two page advertisement

Kings of Oxford, as the leading Ariel agent, present a full page advertisement

Motor Cycling's five page article about the Leader

The Leader's design team receive a full page article

Avon Tyres advertisement

Esso Oil also took out a full page advertisement

As does Shell Oil

More dealer advertisements

Assembly line photographs from the Selly Oak factory.

Mobil Oil also took out a full page advertisement

Dunlop Tyres add a full page advertisement for their white wall tyres.


  1. From the editorial
    It was in 1955 that the decision to make something fresh was taken at Selly Oak, being the next step to discover what the motorcycle world really wanted

    When the answers were sorted out, one fact emerged predominantly: what the riding public wanted was a machine with the chracteristics of a motorcycle and the weather-proofing of a scooter

    Except when push came to shove, the people decided they would rather spend their money on a more conventional bike. Ask people what the want and they will say they want the sensible potion. But when it comes to laying down their hard earned cash the heart over-ruled the head!

    And so the Arrow was born to be as close to a conventional bike as you could get with a large beam frame, and trailing link forks

  2. The Leader did sell very well in its first couple of years before the market was undermined by Japanese imports and Ariel was starved of funds by BSA. Sales were so strong initially that Ariel stopped production of its four stroke range. This left an opening for a new, sports bike, which of course was the Arrow. The Arrow was also a success and the was 'Bike of the Year' in 1960.