Dean takes ‘Ariel’ view on epic bike trip

It dates from 1928 and last left the isles over 70 years ago, but that has not stopped Whiteness man Dean Mitchell from taking this fine specimen of motorcycling engineering on an epic Scotland-wide trip.

He embarked on the mission onboard the classic Black Ariel once owned by well-known biking enthusiast Jimmy Abernethy, of Browster, Bridge of Walls, who died on Christmas Eve, 1988.

The bike, built during the heyday of the British motorcycling industry, is now owned by the Shetland Classic Motorcycle Club. Mr Mitchell had a hand in fettling the bike and bringing her back up to scratch in recent years.

He said her reliability on the 900-plus mile tour proved impeccable, for the most part at least.

“It’s a bike that belonged to the late Jimmy Abernethy from the Bridge of Walls.

“He left the motorcycle to the classic club. I did the motorcycle up over a period of two years.

“She was made usable again in 2012 so that club members and guests could have use of an old motorcycle.

Jimmy left it to the club when he passed away.”

Mr Mitchell said chairman of the classic motorcycle club, Joe Gray, had a vision for a classic bike to be made usable for club members.

“I liked Ariels so I said I would take it on.”

But then a friend and member of the Ariel owners’ club in Edinburgh highlighted plans to complete a round-Scotland trip.

“He wanted to do a Black Ariel run out to the Hebrides. He organised what’s called the Black Ariel’s Trip. There were five of us went out altogether to end up with.”

That resulted in Mr Mitchell covering the miles at steady speeds of between 30-35 mph.

And the places they got to are enough to make any seasoned traveller green with envy.

After heading from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, the classic bikes cut across the country to Ardrossan, and on to Arran. From there it was a case of heading to Mull of Kintyre, and up to Oban, before landing in Barra.

The trip also allowed the crew of seasoned bikers the chance to take in Uist, Harris and Stornoway, before heading back to the mainland at Ullapool and on to Applecross.

From there they went down to Lochcarron and headed for Granton on Spey, when Mr Mitchell’s bike encountered its first and only bout of unreliability.

“The bike seized, and we had to sit at the side of the road for a while and let it cool down,” he said.

But, with the bike going again, they on the challenge of heading over the Lecht and back to Aberdeen in time to catch the ferry home at the weekend. “Even for a modern bike it would have been quite a run. The scenery was stunning. We went up what they call the Golden Road at Harris. That is a stunning road – it’s an absolutely beautiful road.

“The weather wasn’t bad. It was just a pleasure to be able to ride at 35 mph, and on such an old bike from Shetland.”

You might expect such a journey to take its toil, but Mr Mitchell said the bike was “very comfortable” – particularly once he had placed a sheepskin over the seat to take away all the vibrations.

“I feel no aches and pains at all,” he said, while adding – somewhat reassuringly – that there were no problems with the brakes.

“To do it on a bike that age. It gives you a bit of a buzz.”

To do it on a bike that age. It gives you a bit of a buzz – DEAN MICHELL

Mr Mitchell said he planned to take the bike apart to see how she had fared. He said he had put in some two-stroke oil following her seizure, which he thought may have clogged up one of the jets in the carburettor. That led to a few misfiring incidents.

“But it’s no disgrace to her. That’s the only time she really ran badly. She made it home. I didn’t have to get any rescue.

“In the longer term it’s back to club members to use if they wish to use it.”


Add Your Comment
  • Peter Kemp

    • July 10th, 2016 19:38

    The other motorcyclist attending where:
    Peter Barclay on a 1928 OHV Ariel
    Gary Barker 1930 OHV Ariel
    Peter Kemp 1927 OHV Ariel
    Lester Grant 1955 Ariel
    All the motorcycle made the whole trip with no problems.


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.