Like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, this Ariel ‘Featherweight’ X Frame strides out of the River Ouse to take its rightful place in bicycle history.
George Morris of the Referee Cycle Co patented most permutations of X Frame bicycle. He had an arrangement with Charles Sangster of Components Ltd to make and sell the bicycles either built up or as fittings. Components Ltd controlled some of the most important cycle industry patents, such as the Dunlop pneumatic tyre and the Westwood wheel rim. The Components Ltd marketing strategy was to sell their X frames as the cheapest : they sold them as frames and fittings at wholesale prices through the cycle trade.
The Components Ltd patent covered two X Frame styles, one with the cross tube ending at the seat tube and the other at the rear axle. They also owned Ariel Cycle Co. So as well as selling their X frames as frames and fittings for other companies to add their individual names, they offered them as Ariel models with a variety of fittings.
The market leader for lightweight X frames was Centaur Ltd with their ‘Featherweight’. It was the second most expensive bicycle in the world (the Raleigh X frame was the priciest), and, built of narrow tubing, it was indeed featherweight. But ‘Featherweight’ was the name that Sangster also chose for assembled versions of his X frame. How could he get away with using Centaur’s most important model name for his medium weight roadster?
I assume that he could avoid the threat of litigation by answering that ‘Featherweight’ was a generic term. Components Ltd certainly had a formidable team of lawyers, and Centaur may have been preoccupied with other matters: Edmund Mushing, founder and driving force behind Centaur died in 1910 and the company was wound up and taken over by Humber.
Strangely, this Ariel Featherweight is fitted with the same Williams chainset used by the Centaur Featherweight.
c1908 ARIEL FEATHERWEIGHT X FRAME with 26” Frame, 28” Wheels and Eadie coaster brake.